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New whitebaiting season kicks off this week

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

This year’s whitebaiting season starts this week, with the Department of Conservation (DOC) reminding whitebaiters to follow the rules to protect the whitebait fishery. There are no changes to the regulations for the 2019 season.

The whitebaiting season runs from August 15 until November 30 everywhere except the West Coast of the South Island, where it runs from September 1 to November 14. 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 and the restoration of adult habitat. "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," Jane Goodman says. 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.

Pamphlets with the whitebait regulations are at DOC offices, sporting shops and DOC’s website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/whitebaiting. 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 the 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. Information on this process can be found on DOC’s website: https://www.doc.govt.nz/whitebait-management

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