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Sustainable whitebait fishery survey – Expert reaction

Public survey about whitebait fishing finds 90 per cent of respondents support efforts to make the fishery sustainable.

Almost 2,900 people completed the survey put forward by the Department of Conservation, including iwi, recreational and commercial whitebait fishers, and scientists.

The responses will help inform a discussion document coming later in the year that aims to improve whitebait management. This document will then go out for wider public consultation.

The SMC asked experts to comment.
Dr Mike Hickford, Research Biologist, Marine Ecology Research Group, University of Canterbury, comments:

"I am very pleased to see that DOC is progressing to public consultation on future whitebait management in New Zealand. It has been over 20 years since the whitebait regulations were last reviewed, and in that time the pressures on whitebait populations have changed markedly.

"The influence of intensive agriculture, reduced water quality, land-use changes and introduced predators has changed, even in New Zealand’s most pristine areas, and these factors, together with the whitebait fishery, need to be considered for the conservation of New Zealand’s whitebait species.

"Fishing methods and the reasons for whitebaiting have also changed in many areas and there is some doubt as to whether the current regulations have kept up with these changes.

"The whitebait regulations are not consistent throughout New Zealand and the underlying reasons for these differences are not clear. This has caused feelings of inequity. I anticipate that the consultation will generate much debate because people are passionate about the species that support the whitebait fishery and passionate about the fishery itself. Passion and debate is good; disinterest and inertia is not."

No conflict of interest.

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