MPs discuss fisheries future with whitebait on menu
MPs hearing submissions on the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill dined on whitebait fritters at Parliament on Thursday.
A post on Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie’s Facebook page said members of the Environment Select Committee ate whitebait fritters supplied by National Party West Coast List MP Maureen Pugh as they listened to submitters.
‘‘Today at Environment Select Committee we started to hear from submitters on the Indigenous Fish Bill . . . Maureen Pugh MP decided to feed us . . . yum!’’, she posted.
Pugh said she served up the delicacy to highlight the fact her constituents are proud of their fishery and concerned about losing it.
‘‘I do think it was appropriate. My whitebait was simply to say we have respect for the fishery. It’s the whole hunter-gatherer thing and generations of coasters have a history with a whitebait stand or their old beat-up crib or batch – it’s their connection to the coast and the land.’’
She was concerned about the lack of consultation around the Bill.
‘‘On the coast we have the West Coast Whitebaiters Association who are a very well organised group and they weren’t spoken to before the bill came to the house.’’
Only NZ First MP Shane Jones ate the fritters, she said.
The MP in charge of the bill is Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, who declined to comment when asked whether it was appropriate to eat whitebait at a hearing about the future of the species.
At the first reading of the Bill in Parliament on September 4, Sage said ‘‘it’s hard to believe that whitebait were once caught in such quantities that they were used as fertiliser, but over the last century, all of our native freshwater fisheries – eels, whitebait, lamprey – have experienced catastrophic declines.’’
National MP Sarah Dowie has been unable to be reached for comment.
The Department of Conservation’s website says Inanga (Galaxias maculatus) are the most common of the native fish species that make up the ‘whitebait catch’. It is when they are returning to freshwater habitats as juveniles that they are collectively known as whitebait.
The Bill amends the Conservation Act 1987 to provide a muchneeded ‘‘modern toolbox’’ to help indigenous freshwater fish and their fisheries.
It has been criticised by Fish and Game New Zealand, which says the Bill poses a serious threat to trout and angling by allowing trout and salmon to be removed from particular rivers and lakes, it could see trout being part of Treaty of Waitangi settlements with iwi, and opened the possibility of allowing the sale of trout.
Whitebait was served up at an Environment Select Committee hearing where submitters spoke about the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill.