Ho-hum season ends
South Canterbury whitebaiters have cited a relative lack of rain as the reason behind what they say was a slow season.
The season, which locally runs from August 15 to November 30, could be the last under present regulations, as the Department of Conservation hopes to begin consultation soon on proposed solutions for ensuring the sustainability of the whitebait fishery.
While several whitebaiters who spoke to The Timaru Herald said the numbers were not as good as some years, Eve Akurangi has reported a good season, catching up to 100 pound (about 45kg).
‘‘A lot of whitebaiters didn’t do that well at Smithfield this year, but I was quite lucky,’’ Akurangi said.
‘‘I’m a grandmother so I don’t catch it for myself, I tend to give them all away. I like to share it with others.’’
Asked what her secret was, Akurangi said it was down to patience.
‘‘I’m out there every day over the three-month season. Every day depends on the weather, but I treat it as a fulltime sport,’’ Akurangi said.
Neville Watson, of Timaru, said a lack of rain meant there weren’t the large hauls at Smithfield that occurred in some seasons.
‘‘Whitebait follow a big fresh and there just weren’t enough of those this year.
‘‘You could wait all day at Smithfield and not catch much.’’
Watson said there were better hauls at the Waihao Box, particularly once the river mouth opened, but at traditional spots at the Opihi and Orari river mouths, ‘‘you would be lucky if you got a decent catch over a week’’.
Veteran whitebaiter Bill Begg said he missed out on the first few weeks of the season but said there were very few catches at the Orari and Opihi.
‘‘The Orari just didn’t seem to have the catches that most seasons did.’’
DOC Geraldine operations manager Duncan Toogood said no fines had been issued to whitebaiters for using illegal equipment, but on three occasions, DOC rangers came across unattended whitebaiting equipment and seized it.
Whitebaiting is coming under the microscope, as a DOC report on freshwater fish listed four of the six whitebait species categorised as either threatened or at risk of extinction.
This follows public engagement in 2018 and early 2019 on improving the whitebait management.
The engagement included a DOC survey, where 90 per cent of respondents said changes were needed to make New Zealand’s whitebait fishery sustainable.
Eve Akurangi enjoys the last day of the whitebaiting season at Smithfield beach on Saturday. She caught about 100 pound (45 kilograms) for the season.