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Stop unlimited fishing of endangered fish

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To the Department of Conservation:  

Limitless fishing of our whitebait fish must stop. It is shocking that these endangered animals can be fished without basic restrictions like a catch limit. We don’t know who is fishing, where they are fishing, or how much they are catching. This treatment would never be allowed for our endangered birds. 

The Government and Department of Conservation's (DOC) proposed changes to whitebait management should include a licence, catch limit, and data collection programme. These are the basic tenets of managing a fishery, and should be obvious given DOC’s main role is to protect indigenous plants and animals.

Currently, the options provided in the consultation document advocate more for the fishing industry than for the wellbeing of our fish. The proposed management goal should be changed to focus on fish rather than the fishery.

The goal should ensure all six native whitebait fish species: 

  • are classified as not-threatened 

  • have abundant and healthy habitat 

  • have safe passage for migration 

  • are present and thriving in the locations they are expected to be and have historically been found. 

If the fish populations are plentiful then the fishery will be too. 

I support reducing the season to 15 August – 14 October. This is the best option available to protect peak migration of the different species.  

I support a back-peg system to mark upstream locations where fishing cannot go beyond, and I support the tidal limits as a reference. There must be greater clarity about what criteria will be in place to determine fishing locations. 

I support nominating whitebait refuges in each region. I support a rigorous selection of locations based on where is best to support the recovery of locally threatened species. Selection of refuge locations and time periods should be informed by good science. Locations ought to be identified based on an understanding of population genetics, as well as source and sink factors.  

I support restrictions of fishing gear to eliminate the risk of by-catch. However, because our fish are vulnerable to extinction, we should also limit the amount of fish being taken.  

I support the phasing out of whitebait export. However, exports are assumed to be a small portion of the whitebait industry, so it is inconsequential to the bigger picture.  

licence, catch limit, and data collection are the management actions needed to achieve whitebait protection. 

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  • All submissions are subject to the Official Information Act (OIA) and can be released, if requested, under that Act. If you have specific reasons for wanting parts, or all, of your submission withheld, please make this clear in your submission comments. Department of Conservation will maintain individual privacy by withholding personal information that is not allowed for release by the OIA.   

Inanga underwater

Inanga are one of six native fish that make up whitebait. Credit - Rod Morris


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