Environment Southland's science technical adviser Dr Andy
Hicks sent out a question to holders of Southland whitebait
stand, asking them about their whitebaiting experience.
Most wanted to catch more of the fish. Invercargill artist
Cornelis 'Kees' Taal created the whitebait adult version
sculpture, which is in Environment Southland's Invercargill
office foyer. Photo by Yvone O'Hara.
Whitebaiting is quintessential Southland and part of the
culture, like deer hunting, Environment Southland's science
technical adviser Dr Andy Hicks says.
He sent out a questionnaire in August to about 600 registered
holders of whitebait stands in the lower Mataura and upper
Aparima areas, to find out their opinions on their
About half of the respondents (54.5%) of the survey wanted to
see more whitebait and better water quality, while about 23%
thought there was no need for any change. About
three-quarters (73%) of the 100 respondents said they were
happy with their experience. However, 20% said they were not.
Dr Hicks asked whether they enjoyed the whitebaiting as a
recreational activity, what would improve that enjoyment, how
long they spent fishing, how much was caught, if they noticed
any negative environmental impacts and whether they wanted
changes made to improve their experience.
''We tried to get a handle on how important those activities
are for the region,'' Dr Hicks said.
''[And] what sort of environmental factors, river conditions
or weather patterns drive a good year.
''We also wanted to look at how many were being caught, what
years had been good or bad [for catch size] and what was the
explantation for those good and bad years.
He said catch sizes varied from less than 500g to hundreds of
He also wanted to identify consistent trends.
''The feedback has been really good and we had a good
response from people who were happy to share information.''
Most of those who filled out the survey form had been
whitebaiting for more than 10 years, with some more than 30
• Fifty people spent more than 30 days fishing per season
while most spent between three and six hours a day fishing.
• Dr Hicks estimated the average respondent spent 146.9 hours
fishing per season.
Other comments included the need for better access and less
weed, and about 20% said they would like to see fewer people.
Others said they enjoyed the social experience as it was
''nice to have a chat.''
''Nobody said they wanted more people.
''Some said the fishing should be closed for one day a week
but that is something that would have to be put to Doc as
they manage the fishing,'' Dr Hicks said.
Other issues such has having one net per stand and requiring
a licence also attracted comments.
''For many it is the socialising, the lifestyle, and the fish
were just a bonus.
''It is a very important culture,'' he said.