Whitebait monitoring being carried out by a DOC ranger
Image: Neil Hutton | DOC

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


This year’s whitebait season has started with small amounts of whitebait caught in the eastern Bay of Plenty in the first few weeks.

Date:  11 September 2020

While whitebaiters are generally sticking to the rules, DOC is wary the slow fishing could tempt some to breach the regulations designed to protect the whitebait fishery.

Biodiversity ranger Pete Livingstone says rangers have been out and about, visiting key sites around the Eastern Bay to hand out brochures, checking nets and ensuring people are following the rules.

“Generally, the majority of whitebaiters this year have been following the rules, however, there is always a few that try and push the boundaries,” Mr Livingstone says.

Several people have been found to be fishing within 20 metres of flood gates and nets have been confiscated. Regulations are put in place to protect the fisheries as whitebaiters have an unfair advantage over the whitebait.

In addition to the ongoing patrols, DOC has received several anonymous calls to report illegal fishing, which has enabled the Department to plan patrols at specific locations where there is a tip off.

The whitebait season is open between 15 August and 30 November (inclusive) in all areas of New Zealand except the West Coast of the South Island which is 1 September to 14 November.

During the season, whitebaiting is permitted between 5 am and 8 pm or between 6 am and 9 pm when daylight saving starts on 27 September.

This is supported by Ngati Awa Customary Fisheries Authority which advocates for a kaitiakitanga approach to ensure the sustainability of this taonga species for future generations. 

Whitebait are the young of six species of New Zealand native fish: giant kōkopu, banded kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, inanga, kōaro and common smelt.

These fish spend time in both freshwater and saltwater environments, and every year young whitebait travel upstream and become adult fish.

During upstream migrations, these young fish comprise the whitebait fishery.

Four of the six whitebait species are classified as At Risk or Threatened. The decline of these species is not attributable to any single factor, however, following the rules, will definitely help.

How you can help:

  • Follow the whitebait fishing regulations.
  • Keep your catch small and only take what you need.
  • Release species that are not whitebait.
  • Keep streams free from pest plants and fish.
  • Report any dams or overhanging culverts to your local Department of Conservation or regional council office.
  • Get involved to fence and plant your local streams.
  • Ensure culverts, weirs, dams and floodgates on your land are properly installed and maintained to be fish friendly.

DOC encourages anyone who witnesses illegal whitebaiting practices to report it by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468)

People offending against these regulations may be fined up to $5000.


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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