Goodbye whitebait?

Whitebait season opened everywhere in New Zealand last week except the West Coast, where people still have a week and a half to wait. But it seems many fishers may also be waiting until they have enough to fill a plate. Because, at the same time, the Department of Conservation expressed concern at not finding any adult galaxiids (whitebait) in streams with historical records of having them. Some of these species have now been listed as threatened.

Russel drew a link between the disappearing whitebait and this:

grazing wetland

That’s some West Coast wetland, somewhere near the Grey River.  I know I’m only an urban frog, but I’ve checked and those brown furry things  standing in the river are not whitebait, and they also not good for water quality.

This evidence confirms what the Green Party has long been saying – that local authorities, farmers and the Government must start protecting waterways. Planting along streams and keeping cattle out of them is vital to the survival of the species that make up the whitebait catch.

The West Coast, famous for whitebait, has seen massive dairying conversions in the last few years. Too frequently, this has been to the detriment of the local environment, as some farmers choose to put profit ahead of all else.

48 Comments Posted

  1. Look here people fishing is a way off life. I ben fishing for many years and over that time whitebait numbers have increased and decreased not so much todo with pollution put cycle off life other thing contribute to decline of b8 such as weather paterns like rain fall,sea conditions,loss of swamp lands. That all contribute to how seasos will turn owt. Over the last five years the fishing on waikato has been gud. If we dont unite together the pen pushers will take it away from us (greenies) if thay had it their way we’ll al be vegaterians. You greenies need to get out in the feild and talk to locals then maybe u mite understand. This is a way off life not about mouney.stop spaying river to your killing everything. Most of use try to plant young willows and native plant life just to have use spary and kill it. Point is most damage is done by people thinking thay fixing problems when in most cases it gets worse.

  2. I am currently looking at research into the declining depleted whitebait stock of the Port Waikato.

    I am particularly interested in habitat and water quality or if you know anyone that is interested in these types of forum where we can discuss better ways to increase all factors to guard the resources of the Waikato Area. I know that they have always been a treasured delicacy from when I was a small child. And I would be interested in others research and where I can source information regarding plans to increase and better the environment.

    I believe there is a scientist “Marshall” in the Kawhia region who is doing wonderous things. I would love to hear from you all regarding the facts and yes other unknown research would be respected too.

    Other regions are acceptable as well but I am focussing more on the Port Waikato area. Particular harvesting and better habitual areas for spawning. “Where do I start”

  3. Shunda barunda said: Do you eat whitebait toad?

    I think I’ve only ever eaten your (ie West Coast) whitebait twice – once when I was in Greymouth and once in Westport.

    But I grew up in Waiuku, so not a big trip at all to get down to Port Waikato, which I have done on many an occasion, even now from Auckland, for whitebaiting.

    Um, did you pick me for a vegan or something?

  4. “Guess sometimes we have to just accept some will never get it and give up on them.”

    For example Toad, Nandor T . Hook, line and sinker !!!

  5. d4j said: How did you know I have been busted for after hours bait poaching? Crime of the Century

    Bugger! How can we Greens argue with that? Guess sometimes we have to just accept some will never get it and give up on them.

  6. “given that a lot of the bait taken in my part of the world, is taken in the dead of night,”

    How did you know I have been busted for after hours bait poaching? Crime of the Century . You certainly pick up info when you fly around the traps.

  7. d4j – sorry I missed your detained post – it was so lively! I do question though, this
    -“greenfly – *****, every whitebaiter is a Conservationist”
    given that a lot of the bait taken in my part of the world, is taken in the dead of night, under lights. Are those whitebaiters “conservationists?”
    Others, perched in their riverside huts have ‘mysterious’ toilet habits too. Same question applies.
    You ask what I do (aside from buzzing around…)
    I have overseen the construction of around a kilometre of waterway and ponding for galaxids to spawn and mature in, planted the banks with grasses, sedges, rushes, flaxes etc. I have also assisted in eel trap and transfer programmes, I operate a native plants nursery for riparian projects plus a number of other similar things. I’m not all talk.

  8. Greenies please!!! come down here and I will show you around some of our rivers, and you will see why West Coast rivers work a little different to other rivers in NZ.
    True sustainability needs to be looked at a local level to develop the correct approach to managing the environment.
    Please stop with all the meaningless rhetoric, and stop trying to make the West Coast your bitch!!!!!!!!!

  9. Agreed Gerrit, that trying to count the left-overs is a poor way to make decisions on managment of fisheries. We need another process. Perhaps we should consider balancing input from fishers with take. If whitebaiters for example, were actively increasing stocks (there are many ways this can be done) then their extraction of the resource would be well earned and proveably sustainable. Seed in the ground = harvest

  10. greenfly,

    There is always going to be more fish taken then can be counted by any official agency. I dont have any faith in the offical agencies to get fish stock counts correct either so we may well all be “fishing” in ther dark.

    While you can inspect landed commercial fishing catches, the recreatioanl and customary rights fishers will be almost impossible to count.

    Simply a fact of life unless you ban all customary rights and recreational fishing.

    As a recreational fisher I respect all size and quota regulations. Dont want to loose my launch for a stupid reason such as over fishing.

    Cant speak for the rest, though judging by undersized shapper in the Hauraki Gulf not being thrown back by some of our recent immigrant fishers, there might be a good reason to increase the numbers of fishery inspectors at boat ramps and marinas. Also we need those inspectors out in boats to do random spot checks of boats while actually fishing.

    I absolutely sure (well not absolutely but almost all) that recreational fishers would have no problem with extra fishery inspectors.

    Cant speak for the customary rights fishers though.

  11. Panda said: In the past 3 years I have fenced off at least 5 km of the Waimea creek, that is 10 km of fencing. But that will never be enough for you Greens because to comply with the unrealistic clean streams accord I have to fence off every ditch, stream…

    Um, Panda, are there not some significant advantages for the farmer in fencing streams and rivers? Like higher production, better paddock utilisation from break feeding, healthier stock, easier management and fewer stock accidents?

  12. toad,

    No I dont.

    But over a beer or two you get an indication.

    Not saying I’m 100% right, just that the Waikato Environmental report is based on facts gleaned from THEIR understanding of the fishery.

    I’m just saying that those facts may not be correct and their report has no way to correlate their data with actual data.

    I quick look at the prolific sea bird life (and fresh water shags) at the Waikato heads indicates food a plenty.

    However what has to be recognised is that whitebait seasons are sometimes very plentyful and at other times very barren. One year good, another year not so good.

    This year on the Waikato very good, last year OK, the year before not good. Maybe the South Island whitebaitr are not running this year, or have hatched early and the people have missed the run?

    Forgot to mention that the NZ Steel Ironsand mine also has stormwater run off into the Waikato.

  13. Gerrit – your comments suggest strongly that far more fish are taken than could be reported by any official agency – shouldn’t we all be very concerned then, that the pressure on the fishery is far greater than we have believed so far? Are those taking those fish going to voluntarily moderate their take if numbers fall to an unsustainable level, or do we all just cruise to a crash?

  14. [d4j – this comment of yours ended up in moderation for your swearing. It has been further chopped to oblivion by me for being a personal attack that this forum doesn’t really need any more of! Your grammar could use a little help too…]

    greenfly – *****, every whitebaiter is a Conservationist . The trouble is you ******* build a pedestal on ******, of course I planet Natives for the survival of the bait habitat ! What do you do greenfly other than buzzing around the internet talking ******.

  15. Gerrit said: As most of the catch ends up in private freezers, and distributed through a mates mate network, they would not have a clue how big the catch is…

    But they all report to you, so you do know how big the catch is Gerrit.

  16. d4j – you’re a dag. You say, “it is well known the bait is in decline because of pollution and over fishing.” but call for the whitebaiters to be left to their business. If the fishery is to be sustainable (it should be shouldn’t it?), what then, are the baiters really doing to get it that way? Restricting their personal catch? Breeding bait for release? Building habitat for them? I just wonder, d4j, if you can point to some baiter-driven projects of that sort. Or are they just taking?

  17. Toad, stop the rot, you let 1080 kill our environment yet you remain silent?
    You are not real greens, just look at the mess you caused when you destroyed the Timberlands Native Forest Management Model. You are dangerous blow lards, who are totally ineffective, because being Liarbours lap poodles has blinded good -balanced judgment and replaced it with power tripping stinking thinking. Change with the wind but stay in the Beehive. Get a backbone.

  18. toad,

    With respect, Waikato Environmental would not have a clue how much whitebait is taken from the river.

    Ask the locals (and I know more then a few) how much they take, and then ask how does Waikato Environmental measure their catch?

    As most of the catch ends up in private freezers, and distributed through a mates mate network, they would not have a clue how big the catch is, nor would they know where all the possy’s are the whitebait are being caught from.

    That report sounds like it has been written by a desk bound individual who may not have done any worthwhile field work.

    If they had done some field work the answers they would have got would be minimul with the truth (not lies, just understated).

    Last time we went fishing at the mouth of the river, we came away with a big haul of kahawai (go through the forest and fish the incoming tide).

    I sometimes think the reports are written not from reality but rather to paint a picture that suits what the writers intended recipients want to hear.

  19. d4j said…”Fact, stop being a hypocrite and tackle the big problems dude !!”

    Dude. That’s an imperative, not a fact.

    A fact is more along the lines of: Too many cows in rivers. Not enough fish in fritters (Dr Russel, 2008).

  20. d4j – the Greens would dearly love to do something about tackling the pollution of streams and rivers from fertiliser runoff. It is one of the issues about which we a re most passionate. Get us enough votes and we will do something about it after the election. But at the moment we shout from the sidelines but are ignored by the Government on that issue (and many others), because we don’t have the power that being in Government brings.

  21. Toad, stop your rubbish mate, it is well known the bait is in decline because of pollution and over fishing. As you charlatan greens can’t do anything about the $2 billion of fertilizer dropped on our paddocks( pollution of fishery habitat) , I suppose you attack the fishermen. Fact, stop being a hypocrite and tackle the big problems dude !!

  22. d4j said…fisherman are getting really pissed off

    They’ll get even more pissed off when there are no fish.

    When I was a kid I used to be able to go down to my local harbour beach at low tide and within half an hour would have a feed of scallops for the whole family. Now there’s not a single scallop to be found there. Pollution was a factor, but overfishing certainly was too.

  23. panda, a lot of rocks in that picture…surely not a flooded paddock. Some very un-grass like plants there too.

  24. The over fishing insinuation is more radical green non sense. Look you tree huggers, you have already stopped a man putting out a set net for a feed of fish. You have stuffed duck shooting!

    Leave the whitebait alone or do want to let the dogs out ?Back away greenie empty space nitwits, as fisherman are getting really pissed off !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Gerrit said: Waikato river has whitebait by the bucketful being harvested.

    Gerrit, I’d suggest you look at the evidence:

    Environment Waikato 14/08/02:

    He said the Waikato once had a huge whitebait fishery yielding 100 tonnes a year with two canneries and the excess used as fertiliser. Agricultural development had had a huge effect on the industry as early as after the first World War, but the scope of the problem and lack of effective alternatives or funding prevented any response.

    Catches had fallen dramatically since the early 1930s, but over 100 fishers a day still fished the lower Waikato River and catches fetch up to $170 a kilo. As a result of overfishing and habitat loss the fishery was in danger of collapse.

  26. Do the farmers in the various regions mentioned chemical-top their pasture the way they do in some parts of the country? The chemicals used are endocrine disrupters and affect the breeding abilities of mammals and fish. Flow-off to streams could well affect the fish and their total numbers as time goes by and the predators that feed on the bait, us.

  27. Shundra,

    The Waikato flows trough the most densely farmed dairy country, has major and minor cities and industrial areas contributing contaminated stromwater, the Huntly power station pouring warm water into it, it’s flow controlled by hydro stations, its bottom dragged for river sand, etc.

    Yet still produced prolific white bait catches. Supports commercial fisherman with mullet and flounder.

  28. Relating to the photo, MAF have spent a great deal of money spraying for the salt marsh mosquito (SMM), using a hormonal insecticide that could damage coastal arthropods such as crabs and shrimps. However, a year 3 student has discovered that simply keeping cows out of the salt marsh reduces the habitat for this pest, since they breed in small “ephemeral” ponds formed by hoofprints. Fencing off the cattle also results in uite rapid regeneration of the native flora.

    The results of a survey of SSM habitat in fenced off salt marsh was presented at the Coastal Management Conference last year, and Environment Waikato were impressed enough with the results to fund some further study.

  29. Kahikatea
    Maybe you should come and have a look for yourself.

    (but please don’t tell your friends how great it is here, us Coasters have spent alot of time and effort creating negative publicity to keep nutters away)

  30. # panda Says:
    August 18th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    > Be very careful what you call west coast wetland

    > We have had hundreds of MM of rain on the past few weeks,that photo could be the middle of a paddock

    I wasn’t aware that the distinction between wetland and paddock existed on the coast.

  31. In the past 3 years I have fenced off at least 5 km of the Waimea creek,
    that is 10 km of fencing. But that will never be enough for you Greens because to comply with the unrealistic clean streams accord I have to fence off every ditch, stream ,and dried up water course on the farm, just in case it rains (and it sometimes dose that here on the Coast ) and Russel decides pop around with his camera and photograph my cows standing near or god forbid in a flowing water course

  32. As usual the greens are totally ignorant of how the environment on the West Coast actually operates. As a keen trout fisherman one of my favorite rivers is the Grey and despite all the fear mongering of dire consequences for these rivers I have not found any evidence of the water quality being seriously degraded. Get educated on the evironment in question before you comment would be my advice.
    Auckland vote “fishing” or should I say “white” baiting.

  33. Waikato river has whitebait by the bucketful being harvested.

    And the Waikato has been a dairy effluent river for a long time.

    Maybe those South Island whitebait need to harden up a bit!

  34. Be very careful what you call west coast wetland

    Without a back ground to put that photo in context it means absolutely nothing

    We have had hundreds of MM of rain on the past few weeks,that photo could be the middle of a paddock

  35. I fished and still far too early for a feed of bait.
    I know more about the fishery than DOC , just ask the boreholes.

  36. Southland Times (August 18) Headline –

    Baiting ban sought by environmentalist

    A SOUTHLAND environmentalist is calling for a ban on whitebaiting to allow the fishery to recover, just as the season kick-starts in Southland.
    (this story can be read online; etc.)

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