Conservation Services Manager, Dave Carlton, said the operation took place after receiving tip offs from the public. Reports had whitebaiters illegally fishing and selling whitebait before the season starts on 15 August.
Mr Carlton said he was shocked and disappointed by the level of illegal activity. “This puts the fishery at risk of decline or even collapse” he said. “The whitebait fishery is carefully managed to balance breeding success of the fish and harvest by fishers”. Mr Carlton said the department will be following up on the seized nets.
The whitebaiting season runs from 15 August until 30 November everywhere except the West Coast of the South Island which runs from the 1 September to 14 November.
DOC staff will be out patrolling fishing sites and talking to fishers to check they are abiding with the Whitebait Regulations. The public are reminded that fishing is permitted from between 5 am and 8 pm or between 6 am and 9 pm when daylight saving comes into effect.
“Illegal fishers can be fined up to $5,000 for certain offences so the public are urged to make themselves aware of what is permitted under the regulations,” Mr Carlton says.