Pomahaka galaxias, Rankle Burn, Southern South Island
Image: Daniel Jack. | DOC


DOC is working on an indigenous freshwater fish amendment bill to halt the decline of our indigenous freshwater fish species.

Halt the decline

The purpose of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill is to take an important step toward a better management programme that will restore New Zealand’s freshwater fish populations.

Many of our native fish are in trouble, and many fisheries have declined over recent decades.

We want to ensure no fish species go extinct, waterbodies which have lost their fish are re-colonised, and fishers can take home a decent feed of fish without needing to worry about what effect they might be having on a species population.

Find the answers to questions about the Bill.

This will be the first review of our management of freshwater fisheries for over two decades. 

We want to hear your views  and invite you to make a submission on the Bill on the New Zealand Parliament website. Submissions close Thursday 25 October 2018. 

The first step in that review, which we are doing now, is to work out what the main threats are and how to best manage them, and to ensure that the legislation contains enough tools to allow those threats to be managed.

Any significant changes in management of threats and fish would come after further public consultation, in 2019.

Freshwater fishery management

Why is the Minister reforming management of indigenous freshwater fisheries?

Many of our native fish are in trouble, and many fisheries have declined over recent decades. We want to ensure that no fish species go extinct, that waterbodies that have lost their fish are re-colonised, and that fishers can take home a decent feed of fish without needing to worry about what effect they might be having.

There hasn’t been a review of how we manage our freshwater fisheries for over two decades. We need to look at how we manage our fish, and also ensure that the existing regulatory regime is able to support that management approach.

What are the threats to fish and fisheries?

Mostly the decline is due to habitat changes, not because of fishing. Some of the big threats to fisheries are:

  • loss of fish passage
  • loss of places to lay eggs (spawning sites)
  • loss of wetlands
  • loss of connection to floodplains (where fish can get a lot of food during floods)
  • deteriorating waterbodies, and
  • lack of places to hide from predators (including trout). 

What is the Bill all about?

This is a technical bill, which fixes a lot of little problems with the current legislation. It doesn’t make substantial changes to fisheries management – simply produces a toolbox that could be used in the future to improve management.

It makes some minor changes to when people can fish, so fishing in conservation parks and similar areas will now need permission, fishing for a reason other than food will need approval, and taking fish temporarily and returning them unharmed to the water no longer needs permission.

The improved toolbox will allow the Minister to more effectively regulate fish passage barriers, activities affecting spawning sites, activities causing fish kills, and other key threats. It will also allow changes to the controls on which fish can be taken and for what reasons.

Any further changes to controls on freshwater fishing and activities that kill fish will be made after public consultation in 2019.

Is the Bill changing trout management?

No. The Bill makes some minor adjustments to the overlap between sports fishery management and other fisheries management. It also revokes some old regulations which weren’t being used because there are provisions in the Act controlling the same things. 

Sports fisheries such as trout are an important recreational and tourism resource, and the current arrangements are important in safeguarding the fishery. It does not in any way change the ability of Fish & Game to manage sports fish, or remove fundamental controls such as the prohibition on sale of trout and trout farming. What the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage says about the Bill (PDF, 325K).

Some people have been concerned those changes will mean trout farming and the sale of trout will be allowed – they won’t. Nor will fish and game councils control of sport fishing be changed.

How trout and freshwater sports fishing might be impacted by the Bill. 

What is being done about whitebait fishing?

The Minister has asked DOC to look at whitebait management to ensure healthy and restored whitebait populations provides for a sustainable fishery. A Whitebait Working Group has been set up to provide advice to the Minister of Conservation on how the health of the whitebait fishery might be improved.  This will provide an issues and options paper for the Minister to consider by February 2019.

This work is looking at all the issues affecting whitebait, not just fishing. Whether the whitebait fishing regulations would be changed will be decided once the issues and options report has been considered. If the regulations were to be changed, there would be a public consultation process first. In the meantime, DOC will continue to work with partners to address issues such as spawning sites, to improve whitebait runs.

The public also has an opportunity to provide feedback through an online survey

To keep up to date with whitebait conservation, see whitebait. 

What’s happening with the West Coast whitebait fishery?

A programme is underway that aims to improve the productivity of the fishery, and therefore the economic benefit it provides to the West Coast. This will tackle issues such as fish passage barriers created by culverts along the state highway, and damage to inanga spawning sites. 

Will whitebaiting in conservation areas require authorisation?

The Bill means that an authorisation will need to be issued. The Department will propose to the select committee that changes be made to ensure that generic authorisations permissions to whitebait in conservation areas can be issued so individual fishers don't need to apply. The issue will be addressed before the Bill comes into force, so there will be no restrictions on whitebaiting in those areas next season as a result of the Bill

Back to top