Illegal whitebaiting practices concern

Otago whitebaiters are flouting regulations and threatening the fishery's sustainability, the Department of Conservation says.

Doc had been ''inundated'' with reports of bad whitebaiting behaviour in coastal Otago, senior ranger Pete Ravenscroft said.

''We've been hearing about whitebaiters breaking every rule at just about every river in the region.''

In the past month Doc's coastal Otago office had received calls almost every day from concerned whitebaiters who reported other people were leaving nets unattended, whitebaiting at night, using oversize nets, dumping fish on river banks and behaving poorly in general, Mr Ravenscroft said.

The Clutha and Taieri river mouths appeared to be hot spots. There was no excuse for breaching whitebaiting regulations, he said.

''They are simple and have been in place for years. If we don't take care of this fishery now we will destroy it for our grandchildren.''

Of particular concern were reports of whitebaiters dumping glass eels (juvenile longfin eels) on the banks of the Clutha. Whitebaiters were prohibited from discarding fish on shore.

Doc reminded whitebaiters that all fishing gear, including boards and deflectors attached to nets, should not exceed 6m in length.

More people were whitebaiting on Otago's river banks this season than ever before, and some were leaving equipment on public land to reserve favourite spots, Mr Ravenscroft said.

''While not illegal, this kind of behaviour is just not on ... public land is there for everyone to enjoy,'' he said.

Doc thanked those who reported illegal behaviour, and said rangers would visit whitebaiting locations over the next few weeks to ensure all whitebaiters played by the rules.

The season ends on November 30 in all areas other than the South Island's West Coast and the Chatham Islands.

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