Trout Anglers Want Whitebait and Eels “De-commercialised”
15th November 2018
A trout and rivers advocacy group the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers want native fish in whitebait and eels largely de-commercialised. Federation president Graham Carter spoke out in support of the Forest and Bird Society who recently said whitebait should not be for sale.
“I applaud Forest and Bird for raising the matter as its obvious human nature being what it is, that when the quick buck enters into it, ethics and common-sense go out the back door," he said.
Graham Carter said over the last decade trout anglers had several times advocated “de-commercialising" whitebait and eels because of the two species' declining populations. Trout anglers were conservationists at heart as shown by forthright protests against pollution and water extraction from rivers.
“I’m delighted Forest and Bird have taken up the call,” he said. There were numerous cases of city persons taking large quantities of West Coast whitebait and ferrying hundreds of kilograms back to the urban areas where they were sold “under the counter” and for cash thus avoiding tax.
"In some cases a group of urban whitebaiters were making $60,000 to $80,000 for a couple of months plundering".
A daily bag limit of 3-4 kilogram more or less - dependent on the region - should be implemented.
Graham Carter said at times farming representatives and extreme green groups wrongly blamed trout of preying on whitebait showing a lack of understanding of food chains.
“Whitebait was plentiful 40 years ago, a century after the introduction of trout. The decline has been very marked in modern times with habitat loss, a wave of toxic farm and pest chemicals in the ecosystem and de facto commercial fishing. Anglers have also noted declining eel numbers and have publicly expressed concern.
Yet we even had a deluded Federated Farmers councillor dairy farmer in the Manawatu calling trout predatory monsters,” he said. “Trout have been here for over 150 years and Nature established ecological predator-prey relationships. Whitebait was still abundant over a century after trout introductions.”
He said the two key issues causing declines in whitebait and eels were environmental habitat degradation and commercial fishing plus bogus recreational fishing of whitebait.
Dairy farming expansion and large scale forestry had resulted in a combination of lessened river flows, contamination of water with nitrate leaching from large scale corporate dairying plus chemicals used today and heavy silt deposition in streams and rivers after clear felling of pine forests.