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Bay’s whitebait season closed

11 December 2017

Bay’s whitebait season closed

With summer now upon us, the Department of Conservation (DOC) reminds the public that whitebait season has come to an end here in Hawke’s Bay.

Since last August, many hundreds of fishermen have dropped nets at any one of the Bay’s whitebait hotspots from Poraungahau to Waikare, with local DOC Operations Manager Connie Norgate saying for the most part they were all quite well behaved.

“However, we did receive a number of complaints from the public regarding people stretching their nets across the entire width of the river,” she says.

“We would like to remind people that this is illegal. Nets should only stretch out to one third of the river’s width.

“If our rangers catch anyone doing this, there will be an investigation which could result in the culprit paying thousands of dollars in fines.”

DOC is responsible for managing all New Zealand’s whitebait fisheries.

As a part of this, DOC patrols fishing sites and speaks with whitebaiters to make sure they understand and comply with the regulations – one of which is the limited fishing season.

“Whitebait regulations are in place to allow fishing, but to protect the five species whose juveniles contribute to the fisheries,” says Ms Norgate.

“Anecdotally we know that whitebait numbers have declined over the years, but we don’t have specific data.

“Contributing factors for the decline include habitat loss, barriers to migration, water quality and pressure from introduced species.”

Ms Norgate says the so called ‘bumper catches’ talked about this year are part of usual seasonal fluctuations.

“The ongoing threat status still remains with four of the five species of freshwater fish either in decline, or nationally vulnerable,” she says.

“Whitebaiters can help conserve the fishery by keeping their catch small and calling their local DOC office or Hawke’s Bay Regional Council office if they see overhanging culverts that stop whitebait migrating upriver.”

Illegal fishers can be fined up to $5,000 – or have their fishing gear confiscated for certain offences -- if they breach the regulations.

–Ends–

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