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Save the Whitebait (fritter)

14 August 2008

Save the Whitebait (fritter)

On the eve of the whitebait season, the Green Party is calling on farmers, councils and the Government to protect whitebait habitat from the impacts of livestock and industry.

Research from the University of Canterbury, released today, found that whitebait spawning habitat is under increasing pressure - particularly from farming and industrial activities.

"The whitebait tradition is dear to most New Zealanders, as is the delicious whitebait fritter. But this tradition is increasingly more difficult to secure, as we experienced during last year's meagre season," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman says.

"The Department of Conservation said today they are deeply concerned at not finding any adult galaxiids (whitebait) in streams with historical records of having them. Some of these species have now been listed as threatened.

"This evidence confirms what the Green Party has long been saying - that local authorities, farmers and the Government must start protecting waterways. Planting along streams and keeping cattle out of them is vital to the survival of the species that make up the whitebait catch.

"The West Coast, famous for Whitebait, has seen massive dairying conversions in the last few years. Too frequently, this has been to the detriment of the local environment, as some farmers choose to put profit ahead of all else.

"This research also shows that smaller streams are vital for the whitebait species. Yet smaller streams are not included in the Clean Streams Accord. Even those farmers who are doing their best by the accord may be contributing to smaller streams becoming unsuitable for whitebait.

"On the West Coast, it is not uncommon to see cattle wandering through streams and on the banks of rivers - the very places that native whitebait spawn in. The main diary cooperative - Westland Milk Products - has not even joined the Clean Streams Accord," Dr Norman says.

"For New Zealanders to continue enjoying whitebait, and for the survival of the species, it is time for the few irresponsible farmers to start considering more than just their bottom line.

"We all use waterways - for fishing, swimming and drinking. Having them full of animal effluent doesn't do any one - least of all the humble whitebait - any favours."


ENDS

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