The whitebaiting season has started in New Zealand, but it has been reduced to two months due to the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) new fishery regulations. These regulations aim to address the declining population health of whitebait species, four of which are still threatened with or at risk of extinction.
The new rules include changes to gear and additional whitebait refuges, with additional changes affecting fishing from stands on the West Coast of Southland this season. DOC hopes that these regulations will reduce fishing pressure on whitebait populations, which face various threats, including habitat degradation, poor water quality, and impeded fish passage within river systems.
While DOC do not have current data on the whitebait population health, it is expected that it will take some time before the impact of the new season dates on whitebait populations can be observed. DOC compliance staff will monitor local whitebaiting sites during the season to ensure that fishers adhere to the regulations.
The whitebait regulations are designed to contribute to the equitable distribution of fishing opportunities and increase the consistency of regulations across New Zealand. Efforts are ongoing to improve waterways to aid whitebait populations, and it is crucial that people follow fishing regulations to support these restoration efforts.