Fish & Game is praising fishing company Sanford for voluntarily withdrawing from trawling close in around Banks Peninsula to avoid catching salmon, after it legally netted almost 400 last week.

Sanford's decision was made after one of its vessels caught nearly 400 salmon as by-catch last weekend, of which 372 were escaped farm salmon and 22 were wild fish.

The seven nautical mile-wide exclusion zone runs clockwise from Okains Bay in the northeast of the peninsula down to the entrance of Akaroa harbour in the south.

Central South Island Fish & Game scientist Mark Webb welcomed Sanford's voluntary removal of its vessels from the area, even though they were legally entitled to fish there.

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The vessel was targeting red cod and barracouta within the salmon conservation area and legally landed the salmon as by-catch.

''Sanford has done this because of the company's desire to improve the recreational salmon fishery for anglers, and it hopes its action gives people a better chance of catching a fish this summer,'' Mr Webb said.

He said it was ''highly unusual'' for one trawler to catch so many salmon in one trip, given that in recent years salmon by-catch had been very low and generally only about 300kg of salmon was caught by the whole fleet across the entire year.

Last weekend's catch of 22 wild salmon was notable in that, in past years, when reported salmon by-catch had been relatively high, so was the return of salmon to rivers to spawn, which could be good news for anglers in coming months, Mr Webb said.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz