Balanced regulations please whitebaiters

Whitebaiters breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after the Government backed away from controversial recommendations advanced last year.

Southland Recreational Whitebaiters Association president Roger McNaughton said his only disappointment about new regulations for whitebaiters was that the commercial take had not been addressed.

There were still some details in the new rules that needed clarification.

However, the changes for the coming year appeared to be balanced, simply bringing the rest of the country in line with the West Coast.

"I’m glad common good, common ground, and common sense seem to have got through,’’ he said.

"We shouldn’t have too much to fear I don’t think.’’

There were few unexpected changes this year, and from next year the main difference will be a shorter season.

Talk of closing up to 15 more West Coast rivers as whitebait refuges appears to have been dropped.

Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall said the majority of whitebaiters would still be using the same gear and fishing in the same places when this season opened, with changes to be phased in over three years.

Dr Verrall said the Department of Conservation had been asked to gather more evidence about the state of the whitebait fishery, including further monitoring, scientific assessment and economic analysis.

Better information was essential to ensure the whitebait management programme was effective, she said.

Work would continue on improving spawning sites, she said.

West Coast Whitebaiters Association president Rob Roney said now the rest of the country would have to implement upstream limits to where fishing could occur, non-fishable refuges and shorter screen lengths, and whitebaiters faced a much shorter season.

People should be prepared to work with Doc to provide data to ensure sustainability of the resource for the future, he said.

Meanwhile, Forest & Bird called the announcement "fluff around the edges’’.

The new regulations would not bring native species back from the "breaking point’’, freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen said.

The most basic controls were a fishing licence, establishing a catch limit and having better data collection, she said.

"Introduced species, like trout, have a more regulated fishery than our threatened native species,’’ she said.

Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage, the former conservation minister who ordered the review, said she was pleased to see new measures.

"Whitebait are taonga to iwi, and for some New Zealanders, fishing for whitebait is an annual tradition,’’ she said.

However, the Greens were disappointed the Government had progressed so few of the original Doc proposals for a range of whitebait refuges, Ms Sage said.



Disappointing. A great opportunity to boost some of our native species lost.






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