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Public calls for changes to ensure sustainable whitebait

Media release

16 May 2019

Public calls for changes to ensure a sustainable whitebait fishery

Changes are needed to make New Zealand’s whitebait fishery sustainable, according to 90% of respondents to a Department of Conservation (DOC) survey.

Whitebaiting regulations will remain unchanged for the 2019 whitebait season, which starts on the West Coast on 1 September and elsewhere in New Zealand on 15 August.

The survey to find out people’s views on whitebait was completed by 2,870 respondents. DOC also held 12 public drop-in sessions around the country, attended by approximately 400 people, with around 100 people attending the Invercargill session alone.

DOC Biodiversity Deputy Director-General Martin Kessick says the level of engagement reflects the wide public interest in whitebait management.

“Talking to people in their communities and providing an easy online opportunity to engage has made it clear there’s support for better management of whitebait species from fishers and the public.

“We appreciate people taking time to complete the survey and attend the drop-in sessions. The extent of feedback and the views expressed are a good basis for DOC to do further work and prepare a discussion document on how to improve the future of the whitebait fishery and these precious native fish.”

Major issues identified through the engagement process included loss and degradation of whitebait habitat, water pollution, blocked fish passage, a fragmented management regime and that whitebait fishing regulations, and enforcement of regulations and rules to protect habitat were inadequate.

Survey respondents were asked if they supported various options to improve whitebait management including temporary or permanent closure of some rivers, adjusting the timing of the fishing season, introducing catch limits, and restricting fishing gear. Respondents could also provide views on any other management options.

A Whitebait Working Group reflecting the range of interests in whitebait, including commercial and recreational fishing, habitat restoration, ecology, fisheries management, mātauranga Māori, also identified issues facing whitebait and options for management.

DOC has gathered the views from the survey, drop-in sessions, iwi, Māori and the Whitebait Working Group into a summary of feedback.

DOC will now prepare a discussion document with proposals to improve whitebait management for the Minister of Conservation and Government to consider.

The discussion document is planned for release later this year and will be followed by public consultation.

The summary of feedback from public engagement, FAQs and information on the consultation process are available on DOC’s website: www.doc.govt.nz/whitebait-management.

–Ends–


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