Dart Athwart the Mountain Torrents: The Introduction of Brown Trout to New Zealand
From the mid-1860s onwards, British settlers introduced brown trout to New Zealand in an attempt to recreate aspects of Britain, to improve upon New Zealand’s existing resources and to realise their own social aspirations. These introductions were primarily facilitated by organised acclimatisation societies, based upon a British model, located in urban and country centres around New Zealand. Acclimatisation societies received almost unanimous support from the Pākehā populace, particularly with regard to the introduction of British fish, and their every action was reported in detail in local newspapers. Following the first introduction of brown trout, from Tasmania to Canterbury in 1867, societies established breeding facilities and propagated and distributed trout throughout New Zealand. Within ten years brown trout were established in New Zealand sufficiently that settlers were able to fish for trout some 22,000km from their native range. Today they are one of New Zealand’s most popular recreational species and a major source of international tourism. This thesis examines the introduction of brown trout to New Zealand, while situating it in its colonial context and in the environmental ethos of the nineteenth-century. Through constructing an in-depth narrative history of the introduction of trout to the major regions of New Zealand, subtle regional, ethnic, religious and environmental differences come to light. Though some ethno-religious differences are present, environmental conditions between the regions prove by far the most significant cause of difference. This study demonstrates that the introduction of brown trout is inherently linked to the British colonisation of New Zealand, and that trout played the roles of both a product and an agent of colonisation. The colonial connection is affirmed by transnational comparisons with Australia and the United States of America. This thesis further establishes that the introduction of brown trout was a part of the same movement that resulted in the wider environmental transformation of New Zealand in the nineteenth-century to improve the environment and render it more productive for British settlers. In making this argument, the history of the introduction of brown trout provides a greater understanding of New Zealand’s broader environmental history. This thesis further provides historical context to the scientific assessments of the ecological impacts of brown trout, particularly with regard to their displacement of native freshwater species. Many of these species were important food sources for Māori and in this capacity the introduction of brown trout provides insight into the Māori-Pākehā dynamic regarding resource management and fishing. In particular, the imposition of regulatory conditions on trout fishing highlights a fundamental dichotomy between Māori and Pākehā. This thesis establishes an argument for viewing brown trout as a part of the colonial machinery that resulted in Māori alienation from their lands and resources. Finally, this study demonstrates that British settlers prioritised introduced species over native species through legislation, the intentional destruction of native species, and a systematic transformation of the environment that favoured introduced species. This prioritisation is informed by the Eurocentric belief of settlers that their familiar species were inherently superior to New Zealand’s native species. These practices stand in direct contrast to the value modern society attributes to native species, and are testament to the transition in environmental philosophy that has taken place in the past 150 years.
Advisor: Brooking, Tom; Stenhouse, John
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History and Art History
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: trout; history; new zealand; environment
Research Type: Thesis