August 18, 2008

DOC Issues Whitebait Warning

By DYKES, Mervyn

Northern whitebaiters opened the new season yesterday to a reminder that two adult forms of the delicacy have been listed as threatened species by the Department of Conservation.

One, the giant kokupu, has been given a similar threat ranking to brown kiwi. The other listed as threatened is the shortjaw kokupu.

"Whitebait are the young of native fish such as giant kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, banded kokopu, koaro and inanga, collectively known as galaxiids," said DOC freshwater fish specialist, Jane Goodman yesterday.

"Our greatest concern was that we have all been checking streams and rivers with historical records of having adult galaxiids and not been able to find them."

DOC staff would patrol fishing sites to check whitebaiting regulations, to protect the species and the future fisheries, were being met:

* Fishing is permitted only between 5am and 8pm, or 6am to 9pm after daylight saving starts.

* The northern season closes November 30. The South Island's West Coast season opens September 1 and closes November 14.

* Fines of up to $5000 can be imposed for breaching regulations.

* DOC offices and sports shops have pamphlets listing all the rules.

Pollution, wetland drainage, introduced aquatic and weed pests, destruction of habitat and removal of water from steams also threaten long-term survival of whitebait.

Miss Goodman said it was crucial that all freshwater users cleaned their gear between waterways to protect freshwater biodiversity.

Miss Goodman said concern for the future of both the fish and one of New Zealand's best-loved recreational traditions prompted creation of whitebaiting regulations.

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