Introduction

Whitebaiters heading out to rivers soon are reminded that whitebaiting is not permitted in national parks.

The coastal boundary of Fiordland National Park is the mean high water mark: whitebaiting is not permitted on rivers above this point. Similarly, the use of generators and chainsaws within the park is not permitted other than for Department of Conservation (DOC) management purposes.

DOC’s Southland rangers will be stepping up their compliance patrols this whitebaiting season within Fiordland National Park.

DOC’s Conservation Services Manager in Fiordland, Lindsay Wilson, said that the majority of whitebaiters follow the rules because they know they’re in place to protect the fishery.

“Whitebait are iconic and fascinating and many New Zealanders enjoy whitebait fishing as a recreational activity. However, most people agree that whitebait numbers have declined over the years.”

“The fishers who follow the rules are great – but the ones who don’t spoil the fun. Everyone who fishes for whitebait needs to make an effort to check it’s legal on their chosen river – ignorance is no excuse,” Lindsay Wilson said.

DOC has recently engaged a surveyor to define the National Park boundary on the ground at major river mouths along the south coast; this makes the location of the park boundary clear at these sites.

DOC rangers will be out patrolling fishing sites, checking fishers are abiding with National Park regulations. This will include checks on chainsaw and generator use. “Anyone caught committing an offence under the National Parks Act may be fined up to $100,000 or a term of imprisonment up to two years, or both,” Lindsay Wilson said.

DOC administers whitebait regulations regarding fishing methods, timing, location and net size to ensure enough young fish get upstream to mature and subsequently create new whitebait for the future.

Mr Wilson said regulations were put in place to allow fishing but also as a conservation measure to protect the five species whose juveniles contribute to the fishery.

Pamphlets about the regulations can be obtained from DOC offices, sports shops and on the DOC website.

Further information

Whitebait are the young of native fish such as giant kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, banded kokopu, koaro and inanga, collectively known as galaxiids. They are a variety of native fish species that spend six months at sea and then make their way up rivers and streams.

Legislation

Under section 60(1)(h) National Parks Act 1980, it is an offence to carry out whitebait fishing in national parks without authority.

Under section 60(4)(a) National Park Acts 1980, it is an offence for any person to possess a chainsaw in a national park without authority.

Under bylaw 13 of Fiordland National Park Bylaws 1981, no person shall install or operate a portable generator in any part of Fiordland National Park.

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