I’m all for a whitebait fritter, but I wonder how many people realise that they are eating the young of some of our rare native fish as they chow down on this kiwi classic?
Ranger Dave tells me that the fish that hang out at the top of your bucket and try to crawl out are the most rare – the short-jaw and giant kokopu which have a threat classification of gradual decline.
‘Whitebait’ are the juveniles of five native fish species from the galaxid family. Inanga are the most common species, but white-baiters may also capture the young of giant kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, koaro and banded kokopu.
It’s because of their rarity that there’s rules in place about whitebait fishing times, locations and methods aimed at giving the fish a sporting chance at long-term survival.
Our staff have been busy over the last few weeks responding to enquiries and reports of illegal fishing and patrolling popular fishing spots to make sure people are following the rules.
It’s not a fun part of the job, at times they get abused, threatened and caught up in fights between fishermen over the best fishing spots. And then when prosecutions are made, the staff have to sit around in court waiting for cases to be heard.
We’ve had lots of reports of problems on the Rangitaiki & Tarawera Rivers lately, so last week our team from the Gisborne Whakatane Area undertook a patrol along the rivers in conjunction with the Edgecumbe Police. They talked to more than 30 fishermen, whom all appeared to be following the rules which was great news.
Being caught for fritters is not the only challenge that our finned friends contend with – their habitat and spawning grounds are disappearing as wetlands are drained, streamside vegetation removed, stock allowed to graze the river margins, aquatic weeds and pest fish are released or spread and barriers to fish passage are placed in waterways.
So by all means enjoy your whitebait fritters but if you’d like future generations to enjoy them too think about what you could do;
- find out more
- fish according to the regulations
- fence and plant your waterways
- check, clean, dry to stop the spread of aquatic pests
and if you have enough for a fritter, consider letting the fish at the top of your bucket back into the stream.