Species en­dan­gered

Horowhenua Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By SADIE BECKMAN

White­bait­ing sea­son has just opened around the coun­try, which means frit­ters may be back on the menu soon.

How­ever, four of the five na­tive fish species that make up white­bait are en­dan­gered, so con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion For­est & Bird has called for a ban on com­mer­cial white­bait­ing. It also wants bet­ter con­trols on re­gional white­bait catches, say­ing this would take the pres­sure off the se­verely de­clin­ing species.

Last year’s De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion re­port into the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of NZ fresh­wa­ter fish lists three of the white­bait species as “at risk/ de­clin­ing” and one species as threat­ened.

For­est& Bird’s Fresh­wa­ter Ad­vo­cate Anna­beth Co­hen said it made no sense for white­bait to be sold for a profit un­til they and their habi­tats were thriv­ing.

“It’s time for re­gional coun­cils and cen­tral gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion on pro­tect­ing and restor­ing wet­lands and rivers, end­ing com­mer­cial catches, im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity, and putting recre­ational catch lim­its in place,” she said.

Ms Co­hen said reg­u­la­tion cur­rently wasn’t do­ing much to pro­tect white­bait and that na­tive fish are not even pro­tected un­der the Wildlife Act.

“White­bait used to be so plen­ti­ful they were caught by the truck­load and used for fer­tiliser on farms. When we have re­turned white­bait back to th­ese pop­u­la­tion lev­els, we’ll know we’ve done a good job of car­ing for our na­tive fresh­wa­ter fish, and their rivers.”

Ko¯ aro, short­jawed ko¯ kopu, banded ko¯ kopu, gi­ant ko¯ kopu and inanga are the fish that make up white­bait. They are five of the fish species that mi­grate between

fresh wa­ter and sea wa­ter in

New Zealand every year.

Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil fresh­wa­ter and part­ner­ships man­ager Lo­gan Brown said per­mits were not re­quired to catch white­bait in the Hori­zons re­gion, which in­cludes Horowhenua, and that it was im­pos­si­ble to know if there were any com­mer­cial white­baiters in the area be­cause of that fact.

He said DOC was re­spon­si­ble for

leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tion and that the only leg­is­la­tion he was aware of — the Fresh­wa­ter Fish­eries reg­u­la­tions — only pro­vided pro­tec­tion to the nowex­tinct grayling,

No other na­tive fresh­wa­ter fish species have pro­tec­tion, he said. “Al­though Hori­zons is not in­volved in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the white­bait reg­u­la­tions we are very ac­tive in restor­ing the habi­tat of th­ese na­tive fish

species,” Brown said.

This in­cluded spawn­ing site sur­veys and work­ing with landown­ers to en­hance them and solv­ing bar­ri­ers to the fish trav­el­ling.

“One of the main driv­ers of the ri­par­ian plant­ing pro­gramme that the coun­cil over­sees is im­prov­ing and in­creas­ing na­tive fish habi­tat.” Hori­zons re­cently in­vested more fund­ing into its fresh­wa­ter pro­gramme through the Long-term Plan and with two Fresh­wa­ter Im­prove­ment Fund projects for stream fenc­ing and ri­par­ian plant­ing.

“Hori­zons has no abil­ity to con­trol white­bait­ing it­self as the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tors of the reg­u­la­tions are the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion,” he said.

DOC’s web­site in­cludes re­stric­tions for white­bait­ing equip­ment, per­mit­ted lo­ca­tions and sea­son dates, but no re­stric­tions.

DOC rec­om­mends peo­ple help by keep­ing their white­bait catch small, al­though for many, in­clud­ing For­est & Bird, this is not enough.

Ms Co­hen said Ki­wis had to make a de­ci­sion.

“It’s time for us as a coun­try to de­cide if we’re will­ing to see th­ese pre­cious crea­tures go the way of the huia, or if we’re pre­pared to en­sure they’re still around be­yond our own life­times,” she said.

A Horowhenua Chron­i­cle Face­book poll ask­ing if white­bait­ing should be re­stricted to pro­tect the na­tive fish, or left alone as a Kiwi way of life, re­sulted in 80 per cent of re­spon­dents agree­ing with fur­ther re­stric­tions on the ac­tiv­ity.


White­bait species are in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion.

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