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Holy (tagged) mackerel, a bonus for fishers - 05/12/1998

A large-scale fish tagging programme in Peru could see some New Zealanders being introduced to Peru's national drink - pisco sour.

The Peruvian Embassy in Wellington is offering a bottle of pisco sour for every tagged Peruvian jack mackerel handed in to the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited, which this year signed a joint fisheries research agreement with Peru.

Fisheries officials in Peru recently tagged tens of thousands of Peruvian jack mackerel in a bid to find out more about their biology and migrating habits. They want to find out why the Peruvian species has become the dominant species in the New Zealand jack mackerel fishery.

Scientists in both countries are anxious to find out why the species, which for decades was confined to South American waters, has expanded its range across the Pacific.

Fisheries scientist Bob Gauldie, of the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited, said it was important that the metal tags were returned with the whole fish if possible.

" We'll get a much clearer picture of the life history of the fish that migrate from Peru to New Zealand if we have the whole fish," Dr Gauldie said.

The adult Peruvian jack mackerel is 30 percent bigger than its New Zealand and Australian counterparts and scientists fear that the larger Peruvian fish may be having an impact on other commercial fish stocks in New Zealand waters.

The first recorded Peruvian jack mackerel was caught at the Chatham Rise in 1996, but since then the number in New Zealand waters has soared.

One theory is that the Peruvian fish are migrating along a "biological corridor" also used by migrating seabirds. Dr Gauldie said they are a mobile fish that could migrate up to 3000km-a-month. This means they could travel from Peru to New Zealand in about six months.

The reward for returning a tag in Peru is 30 sols, about $NZ10. However, the tagged fish are so important to fisheries scientists in both countries that the Peruvian Embassy has decided to offer a special incentive to New Zealanders, the money plus a bottle of pisco.

Ambassador Carmen Silva, of the Peruvian Embassy, said many New Zealanders had not had the pleasure of drinking pisco sour - the Peruvian equivalent of pena colada. Pisco sour, which is difficult to obtain in New Zealand, is a mix of potent grape brandy made from grapes gown in the Pisco region, lemon juice and egg whites.

Dr Gauldie said people returning a tagged fish would receive the equivalent of 30 sols plus a bottle of pisco.

John Callan
Communications Coordinator
Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited
Ph: 04-570-1444 (reception), 04-570-4732 (direct)