Whitebait season in the Bay of Plenty starts this Saturday 15th August and the Department of Conservation (DOC) is urging fishers to protect the fishery for future generations by complying with the regulations and taking steps to check, clean & dry their fishing gear in order to stop the spread of didymo (Didymosphenia geminata).
“Whitebaiting is a kiwi tradition that we want everyone to be able to enjoy now & in the future” said Dave Wills, Biodiversity Ranger for the Department of Conservation, which manages the whitebait fishery.
DOC administers regulations regarding fishing methods, timing, location and net size to ensure that enough young fish get upstream to mature and subsequently create new whitebait for the future.
“We will be patrolling popular fishing sites such as the Wairere and Kaikokopu canals, Kaituna and Wairoa Rivers to check that people are obeying the rules” says Dave. “We also welcome reports from members of the public if they witness any suspect activity.” Eight such reports were received by DOC’s Tauranga Office last season.
Mr Wills says that some of the common mistakes local people make are fishing within 20metres of a stream confluence, fishing off bridges or structures and forgetting that screens are included in the total net length which must be less than 6 metres or 1/3 of the water channel width in total.
Whitebait are a variety of native fish species that spend six months at sea and then make their way up rivers and streams. Water takes, pollution, wetland drainage, introduced pests and destruction of stream-side vegetation are some of the issues that threaten the long-term survival of whitebait species. Unsustainable fishing is also a threat which prompted creation of the whitebait regulations in 1994.
Inanga are the most common species, but white-baiters may also capture the young of giant kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, koaro and banded kokopu. Shortjaw kokopu and giant kokopu are described as threatened species.
For Bay of Plenty, the whitebait season gets underway on Saturday 15 August and runs until 30 November. Fishing is only permitted between 5am and 8pm OR between 6am and 9pm when New Zealand Daylight Saving is being observed. The taking of whitebait at other times is prohibited.