The Department of Conservation has released a discussion document, Improving whitebait management, and is seeking submissions on proposed changes.
Submissions close at 9am on 2 March 2020.
The document contains proposals on:
- A recommended management goal for the six species of native fish that are fished as whitebait;
- Recommended management outcomes for the whitebait fishery; and,
- Amendments to the whitebait fishing regulations and whitebait export provisions to achieve these outcomes.
The proposals include a series of options (including recommended options) for:
- Amending the timing of the whitebait fishing season;
- Introducing nationwide upstream limits on whitebait fishing;
- Creating refuges for whitebait species in some waterways (where whitebait fishing is excluded);
- Amending whitebait fishing practices;
- Phasing out the export of whitebait.
The discussion document says the Department of Conservation holds most of the management responsibilities relevant to whitebait. These include management of the whitebait fishery. Currently, two sets of regulations apply to the whitebait fishery: one on the West Coast of the South Island, and the other around the rest of New Zealand. This fishery is managed as a recreational fishery, although it is not illegal to sell whitebait and commercial activity occurs.
There are no plans to introduce a licensing system for recreational fishers or to ban the commercial sale of whitebait within New Zealand. The document says none of the proposed changes affect customary fishing rights.
The proposals follow Parliament's passage of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill in October 2019 and nationwide engagement in 2018 where 90% of survey respondents said changes were needed to make New Zealand's whitebait fishery sustainable.