Saturday, April 13, 2024

New whitebait rules to catch on

New whitebait regulations will come into play when this year’s season kicks off on August 15.

The changes include where you can fish, how close you can be to other whitebaiters upstream and downstream of you, how wide your gear can be, and how much of the river or stream width can be fished at the same time.

DOC Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Ranger, Eriora Park said to help whitebaiters understand the new regulations, DOC would be running information evenings across the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The community hui will be held in Matatā, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki.

“Te Papa Atawhai are committed to supporting tangata whenua to preserve this taonga species for future generations, so tamariki and mokopuna can enjoy and appreciate it as current and past generations have done before. He taonga te inanga, heoi kei te pari o te rua o tatou taonga nei – this precious resource of ours is in trouble,” said Mr Park.

Treaty Implementation Ranger, Brad Bluett says the translucent juvenile fish run up rivers from estuaries and river mouths seeking out a place to grow into adults. 

“Countless numbers of them seem to go past our nets each year and harvesting a portion of them through whitebaiting is a fun and fruitful activity here in the Bay of Plenty,” said Mr Bluett.

“Discussions with Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi customary fisheries forum have resulted in collaborative efforts this year to conserve this resource by encouraging whitebaiters to just take enough for a kai.

“Better whitebait management is needed to ensure that we can continue to fish now and in the future. Four of the six whitebait species are in trouble, either classed as a threatened species or declining.”

DOC said many local organisations and landowners had been working to create or enhance whitebait habitat.

Senior Projects Officer with Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) Toi Moana, Mieke Kapa said the council works with landowners and other partners to enhance whitebait spawning sites along the edges of rivers.

“Three publicly accessible sites are being created with the lower area of the Tarawera River, as well as sites on Thornton Hall Road (Ōkorero) and Ferry Road, being great examples of excellent habitat creation and enhancement projects led by BOPRC.”

Mr Bluett said in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, DOC was advocating for improvement and protection of whitebait habitat, ensuring compliance with the new whitebait fishing regulations and working with tangata whenua to support kaitiakitanga practices. 

“Over time, and with further regulation changes phasing in over the next two seasons, we would hope whitebaiters see improvements in the health of the fishery. In the meantime, get up to speed with the rule changes because it’s a big deal,” he said.

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