Whitebaiting, Rangitaikei River, Bay of Plenty
Image: Herb Christophers | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is asking whitebaiters to be responsible and follow the rules ahead of the start of the whitebait season tomorrow.

Date:  14 August 2018

On mainland New Zealand the whitebaiting season runs from 15 August until 30 November except on the West Coast of the South Island, where it runs from 1 September to 14 November. 

DOC freshwater scientist Jane Goodman says the whitebaiting regulations, which cover net type and size and permitted fishing times and locations, were first put in place in 1894 as a conservation measure to prevent overfishing and allow whitebait to move upstream to grow into adults.

Whitebait are the juveniles of five species of native fish that grow into adults ranging from 10–60 cm long. Four of the five species are categorised as either threatened or at risk.

The shortjaw kōkopu is ‘threatened’, while the giant kōkopu, kōaro and inanga are ‘at risk-declining’. The banded kōkopu is not threatened.

“Habitat degradation is one of the key causes of declining whitebait populations,” says Jane Goodman.

”We encourage people to get in behind local initiatives to restore spawning and adult whitebait habitat and to reduce their impact on our freshwater environment.”

This year DOC has worked with NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) to develop and publish national fish passage guidelines for structures in waterways to prevent barriers to freshwater fish migration.

If people see overhanging culverts or other barriers that stop whitebait moving upstream, they are asked to please contact  their local DOC or Regional Council office.”

DOC will be patrolling whitebaiting sites and talking to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with the regulations.

Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.

Read the whitebait regulations or pick up a pamphlet available at DOC offices and sporting shops.

Background information

During the season, whitebaiting is permitted between 5 am and 8 pm or between 6 am and 9 pm when daylight saving starts on 28 September. The taking of whitebait at all other times is prohibited.

In the Chatham Islands the season runs between 1 December to the last day of February (inclusive).

In the past year, DOC has been involved in work to improve the freshwater habitat of whitebait. This included the national fish passage guidelines for structures up to four metres developed and launched by NIWA and DOC, with input from the NZ Fish Passage Advisory Group. 

The guidelines are intended to be a key point of reference for anyone involved in planning, designing, constructing, managing and monitoring structures in waterways.

See National Fish Passage Guidelines

DOC has also released a report that summarises what is known about migratory galaxiids and the whitebait fishery and where the knowledge gaps are.

See Conservation, ecology and management of migratory galaxiids and the whitebait fishery report


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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