Whitebaiters urged to adhere to rules

The Department of Conservation is urging whitebaiters to follow the rules when the whitebait season starts today.

A Dunedin resident said this week he was concerned that a series of whitebait nets had already been set up along the banks of the Taieri River, about 1km south of the former Henley hotel.

The man, who asked not to be named, said this practice was unfair to people who were waiting until the first day of the season to place their nets.

''It's stopping other people from getting a possie.

''I think it stinks,'' he said.

Dunedin Doc biodiversity ranger Ciaran Campbell said ''each year, some people begin setting up several days in advance of the season''.

''As long as their nets remain out of the water they won't breach the whitebait fishing regulations,'' Mr Campbell said.

Another Doc staff member said Doc encouraged people to ''play fair'' and there would be chances for everyone during a long season.

On mainland New Zealand the whitebaiting season runs from 5am today until November 30, except on the South Island West Coast (September 1 to November 14).

Doc freshwater scientist Jane Goodman said the whitebaiting regulations, which covered net type and size and permitted fishing times and locations, were put in place in 1894 to prevent overfishing and allow whitebait to move upstream to grow into adults.

Whitebait are the juveniles of five species of native fish that grow into adults ranging from 10cm to 60cm long.

Four of the five species are classified as either threatened or at risk.

The shortjaw kokopu is ''threatened'', and the giant kokopu, koaro and inanga are ''at risk-declining''.

Doc will be patrolling whitebaiting sites throughout the season.

Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.

The Otago Regional Council website advises that whitebaiting is permitted only between the hours of 5am and 8pm, or 6am and 9pm after daylight savings starts on September 30.

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