MPs dis­cuss fish­eries fu­ture with white­bait on menu

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Rachael Kelly

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.

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