Date: 16 September 2019
Supervisor Biodiversity Ranger Eddie Te Huia says the Whanganui Biodiversity team will be seen out and about doing compliance work this season.
“It’s great getting out and chatting with our local whitebaiters in the community, even if many of them have mentioned being disappointed given the rain and murky water,” Eddie says.
“The Whanganui office and staff have also heard of a number of concerns and wish to remind all whitebaiters, that regulations are the same this season.”
The whitebait season opened on August 15 and will close on November 30.
Whitebait are juveniles of six species of native fish: giant kōkopu, banded kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, inanga, kōaro and common smelt. Those that escape the whitebait net grow into adults ranging from 10 to 60 centimetres long.
DOC freshwater scientist Jane Goodman says whitebait are iconic in New Zealand.
“Unfortunately, four of the six whitebait species are categorised as either threatened or at risk of extinction. We need to ensure we protect their habitat, especially spawning areas and fish for them responsibly and sustainably.
“It’s good to see work being done to protect and restore whitebait habitat, such as planting and fencing off spawning grounds from stock,” Jane says.
People can also help these fish by contacting their local DOC or Regional Council office if they see overhanging culverts or other barriers that stop whitebait migrating.
During the season, whitebaiting is permitted between 5am and 8pm or between 6am and 9pm when daylight saving starts.
DOC administers whitebaiting regulations that cover methods of fishing, location of whitebaiting sites, legal fishing times and net size. Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized. DOC will be patrolling whitebaiting sites and talking to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with the regulations.
Whitebait regulation pamphlets are available at sporting shops and DOC offices.
Later this year, DOC will consult with the public on improving whitebait management including reviewing the whitebait fishing regulations. This follows public engagement in 2018 and early 2019 on improving whitebait management to restore whitebait populations and provide for a sustainable whitebait fishery. The engagement included a DOC survey, where 90% of respondents said changes were needed to make New Zealand’s whitebait fishery sustainable.
Everyone will get the opportunity to have their say during the public consultation.
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