Monday, July 15, 2024

Last new whitebaiting regulation floated for West Coast

The last of the new whitebaiting regulations will roll out for the South Island’s West Coast on 1 September, the first day of this year’s whitebaiting season, the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced today.

The maximum length of whitebaiting gear used on the West Coast will be six metres, bringing it in line with the rest of the country. This change will mainly affect fishing gear used from whitebaiting stands.

Department of Conservation Freshwater Species Manager Emily Funnell says the new regulations, which DOC began rolling out in 2021, were developed to ensure a sustainable whitebait fishery. 

“The new regulations mean whitebaiting will remain an option for recreational fishers, the rules are more nationally consistent, and fishing pressure is reduced,” she said.

“Whitebait are taonga and mahinga kai for Māori and provide a much-loved recreational pastime for New Zealanders. But four of the six whitebait species are classified as threatened or at risk of extinction from a variety of causes including habitat loss and barriers to their migration. We want to ensure the decline is reversed.”

DOC says the new West Coast regulation will also help to address equity issues. Up until this year, West Coast stand-holders could potentially harvest significant amounts of whitebait using extensive net and screen lengths, meaning whitebaiters without stands were disadvantaged.

As well as following the whitebait regulations, Ms Funnell has urged whitebaiters to help reduce the spread of invasive freshwater pests, particularly gold clam this season.

“No matter where you whitebait, be sure to follow Biosecurity New Zealand’s updated Check, Clean, Dry advice. As an extra precautionary measure, if you are fishing in the Waikato, stick to whitebaiting in only one river for the season to reduce the risk of your gear and waders spreading gold clam.”

She also recommends teachers and young whitebaiters and their families check out a new education resource for children that explores the fascinating life cycle of whitebait species.

“The resource includes a boardgame, word-find and lots of fun and interesting facts. It’s now live on our website, right on time for Conservation Week, 14 – 20 August.”

Visit DOC’s website for the whitebaiting regulations including information on West Coast net length changes, and the children’s whitebait education resource and activity brochure: www.doc.govt.nz/whitebaiting

You can also email whitebait@doc.govt.nz for free printed copies of all whitebaiting brochures.

The whitebaiting season runs from 1 September to 30 October.

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