Whitebait stands, Okuru River
Image: DOC


This sustainable fishery project aims to enhance whitebait habitats on the West Coast.

DOC is working with local partners and researchers from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to enhance the wild whitebait fishery on the West Coast. This project is part of the West Coast Economic Development Action Plan 2017.

Aims of project

The project aims to develop a shared understanding of the requirements for a sustainable and resilient wild West Coast whitebait fishery. The project will identify and implement a Coast-wide programme of work and use current funding to:

  • enhance whitebait spawning sites
  • enhance adult whitebait habitat by identifying potential, and fixing priority barriers to fish passage
  • restore whitebait and freshwater habitat in 1-2 catchments using an integrated catchment management approach.

Work carried out

  1. Previously known whitebait spawning sites have been surveyed and priority sites for habitat enhancement have been identified. Three sites will be enhanced to showcase the benefits of focused spawning habitat restoration.
  2. Structures that are barriers to fish passage in coastal streams from Karamea to Haast have been assessed and entered into a database. Priority structures are now being identified for fixing.
  3. Discussed the results of the fish passage barrier assessment with NZ Transport Agency and Fulton Hogan staff who have identified opportunities to fix barriers in their planned maintenance work.
  4. Applied for research funding to quantify the economic, social and cultural value of the whitebait fishery to the West Coast.

More information

The West Coast Whitebait Working Group project team involves representatives from the wide range of people who have an interest in whitebait: DOC, University of Canterbury, West Coast Regional Council, Ngāti Waewae, Te Rūnanga o Maakawhio, West Coast Whitebaiters Association, West Coast Conservation Board and commercial whitebaiters.

The West Coast Working Group’s objective is to provide an open forum for sharing knowledge, technical expertise and finding ways of meeting the project goal of developing a sustainable wild whitebait fishery on the West Coast.

This project is not carrying out an assessment or review of the West Coast Whitebait regulations. However, West Coast Whitebait Working Group members, and knowledge from the project, are contributing to national work on improvingwhitebait management.

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