Whitebaiting policy document date doubt

The whitebait season closes on the West Coast today but discussion of what happens in future has...
The whitebait season closes on the West Coast today but discussion of what happens in future has yet to happen. Photo: Getty Images
The Government's consultation document on the future management of whitebait could be out before the end of the year, as promised.

Then again, it could be next year.

A spokesman for Conservation Minister Eugene Sage yesterday said the document needed sign-off by Cabinet and he could not say "definitively" when it would be made public.

The whitebait season closes on the West Coast today but discussion of what happens in future has yet to happen.

Forest and Bird yesterday made its position on whitebaiting clear.

Freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen said four of the fish species in the whitebait catch - inanga, koaro, giant kokopu and shortjaw kokopu - were "in trouble".

"We need rules that protect whitebait," Ms Cohen said.

"There are at least a dozen management options that would be better than what is currently in place, which is close to nothing.

"It's truly baffling that there is no catch limit, licence, or monitoring for the sale of these endangered animals.

"It is a free-for-all on how much of these endangered fish can be caught."

She suggested a shorter season and more rivers closed to whitebaiters.

"The Government and the Department of Conservation [Doc] need to improve this dismal situation as quickly as possible."

A Doc survey of 2870 people in May showed "overwhelming public support" for better rules and a more sustainable whitebait fishery, she said.

Ms Cohen said she had not heard when the consultation document would be released but suspected it would be delayed until next year.

The Greymouth Star reported earlier this week release of the document would be followed by 20 public meetings around New Zealand and these were to be held "later this year".

West Coast Whitebaiters Association president Cheryl Riley said the association was "in the dark" as to how the review would progress.

Doc has been working with iwi and the minister since May to develop a package of options.

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