10 August 2016
Protecting a local delicacy
Fishers and keen cooks gearing up for whitebaiting season, opening on Monday 15 August, should be aware of the rules or
the rare delicacy could disappear from dinner tables forever.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is responsible for administering the whitebait fishery and ensuring people observe
Whitebait are juveniles of five species of native fish: giant kokopu, banded kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, inanga, and koaro.
Those that escape the whitebait net grow into adult fish which are some of our most endangered native species – some
whitebait species have the same threat status as kiwi and New Zealand falcon.
“The whitebait fitter is an endangered species,” says Kapiti Wellington District biodiversity ranger, Dave Moss. “When
we hear about people flouting the rules, such as fishing at night, using more than one net or oversized or unmanned
nets, this is stealing the whitebait from future generations,” Dave said.
Whitebaiting is permitted between 5am and 8pm or between 6 am and 9pmwhen daylight saving starts on September 28.
DOC will be patrolling sites and talking to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with the
regulations. They will be focussing on all whitebaiting outside the rules, including blocking streams or pipes. Illegal
fishers can be fined up to $5,000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized, so Dave urges fishers to become familiar
with the regulations.
“The reason for the restrictions is to give the fish a chance to get upstream to their spawning grounds and breed,” says
Dave. “That’s why it’s important to only catch what you need.”
“Councils, local iwi, community groups and DOC have all been working to identify spawning sites and protect habitat, so
the fish that do get there can breed successfully.”
The best locations for fishing is anywhere the water is clear. The Waikanae River produces the most whitebait on the
Kapiti Coast but Dave said Otaki and Hutt Rivers were also popular spots.
The whitebaiting season runs from August 15 until November 30 everywhere except the West Coast of the South Island,
where it runs from September 1 to November 14.
Detailed information on the regulations can be obtained from DOC offices and sports shops and on the DOC website