CORANZ objects in general, to the approach of altering fishing regulations and its impact on recreational fishing in the mistaken view to increasing whitebait populations.
CORANZ is not aware of sufficient evidence of whitebait decline as a result of fishing.
To the contrary there is strong evidence that erosion of habitat quality is a major factor. This is two fold:-
- declining spawning habitat due to drainage of wetlands and stream bank degradation.
- declining water flows in rivers and streams due to irrigation demands
- declining water quality due to contaminants such as nitrates from intensive dairying operations
- declining freshwater ecosystem quality due to pine monocultures with heavy siltation of freshwater ecosystems.
CORANZ does have concerns about bogus recreational fishing and associated black markets particularly relative to the West Coast of the South Island where groups or individuals can during heights of whitebait runs catch large quantities, fly the catch to cities where it is sold usually on a black market. Taxation issues are involved.
Consideration should be given to setting a daily catch limit such as 3 kgs or 5 kgs. There will be some difficulty in policing this but it will send a strong educational message to the whitebait fishing public. And it would be relatively easy to target the ‘plunderers’ because of the quantities they can catch.
CORANZ is totally opposed to any licensing of recreational whitebait fishers.
In an ideal world, there should be no commercial value to whitebait.
However there could be a limited number of commercial licences issued with quotas (non tradable) so the general public who do not fish, can purchase whitebait at licence retail outlets.
We do believe that improvements to recreational fishing will result from the removal of the commercial aspects currently being allowed for in the whitebait fishery.
To reiterate, there are some horrific amounts being caught commercially in the South Island which certainly reflect poorly on the recreational whitebaiter through out New Zealand, who rarely would exceed getting more than a cup of whitebait for a days fishing.
CORANZ is perplexed by the complete failure of the Department of Conservation (DoC) to be a strong advocate for habitat. CORANZ believes DoC should be forthright in opposing the unbridled expansion of corporate dairying particularly in low rainfall areas such as Canterbury.
DoC should be forthright in opposing the spread of large exotic pine forests which have a detrimental effect on water ways due to acidification of stream chemistry and siltation from uncontrolled clear felling practices.
On the recreational rivers the whitebait currently have unimpeded travel most of the time, due to fishing being limited to daylight hours and a maximum of 1/3 of the waterway or 6 metres of screen and nets.
The issue impacting whitebait is not access to habit for growing and breeding but rather the loss and degradation of those areas. It is suggested that the pressure from recreational fishing is significantly less than it was when it was used as a major food source by the first nation people.
As to adult fish populations being under pressure, we believe DOC should engage in the community to understand where the adult fish should be and encourage community effort to improve and caretake the habitat . Most recreational whitebaiters would be only to happy to release live whitebait into designated key drop spots for ensuring the whitebait can access the right areas.
This would be a win-win for both the community including recreational whitebaiters and the health of the whitebait fishery and the benefit for its continued inclusion in the NewZealand ecosystem.