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Forest & Bird is heartened that 90% of respondents to a Department of Conservation survey support changes to whitebaiting regulations.

“This level of public support bodes well for finding solutions that will help ensure our unique and threatened native fish have a future,” says Annabeth Cohen, Forest & Bird’s freshwater advocate.

DOC today released the results of a public survey, feedback at public meetings, the Whitebait Working Group and consultation with Māori. The findings will inform a discussion document that will go out for public consultation later in the year.

“The future management of our native fish species is such an important issue, and it’s great all New Zealanders will have an opportunity to have their say,” says Ms Cohen.  

“We know our whitebait species face many threats, including habitat loss, pollution, climate change and physical barriers to their migration. Fishing is yet another pressure, and it’s one we can easily do something about.”

Forest & Bird have participated in the Whitebait Working Group alongside scientists, commercial and  recreational fishers, and other stakeholders.

“As part of the working group, Forest & Bird advocated for a moratorium on commercial whitebait fishing to be included as an option for the public to consider,” says Ms Cohen.

“But we’re open to considering any solution that improves the status quo, which is a largely unregulated industry dealing in threatened native fish.”

“We look forward to seeing the discusssion document with management options.”

Ms Cohen says she hopes new regulations will be in place by the time the 2020 season opens.

“We need to see some changes, and fast, to help these unique fish species survive and thrive.”

Notes for journalists
Whitebait are in fact five different species of migratory galaxiid fish: Giant kōkopu, banded kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, kōaro, and īnanga. Four out of five of these species are in serious trouble.

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