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Fences key for whitebait fritters

Fences key for whitebait fritters

9 September 2014

As whitebait season gets into full swing, Regional Council staff say the fishy fritters will keep coming if people continue to step up and care for their local waterways.

“This year, 58 private landowners have signed up for our help to fence and plant waterways in the Tauranga Harbour catchment,” said Bay of Plenty Regional Council Western Land Manager Robyn Skelton.

“Together we’ve fenced 78 kilometres of river and stream margins and put 100,000 plants in the ground this year. It all helps to improve water quality and create safe-havens for whitebait to live and breed in,” she said.

Whitebait numbers have been in decline for many years, mainly due to land use change that’s caused a loss of breeding habitat and declining water quality.

“It’s great to have had so many local landowners step up and start to turn that around.”

“Some farmers have gone a step further by re-contouring their drains and installing fish friendly flap gates on their culverts, so that whitebait can complete their breeding cycles again. It’s an easy fix for channelised waterways that makes a big difference for the fish,” Miss Skelton said.

Whitebait are the juveniles of five different native fish species. Every autumn, adult fish lay their eggs amongst plants and grasses along estuary and stream edges. They usually lay in tidal zones where salt and fresh water mix. If kept shaded and untrampled, the eggs will survive in situ for several weeks, until they’re swept out to sea as larvae by the next spring tide and flood.

“The larvae turn into fish and fatten up over winter before they ‘run’ back upstream as fritter fodder in spring. The lucky few that escape nets and frying pans continue upstream and grow to become adults that lay eggs in following years,” Miss Skelton said.

“We offer funding and advice to anyone that wants to improve the way they care for waterways on land that they own, lease or manage. It’s not just the whitebait and fishermen that benefit. Clean streams mean healthier livestock, great swimming and a harbour that everyone can enjoy,” she said.

ends

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