The Department of Conservation (DOC) is reminding whitebaiters to be aware of whitebait regulations as the 2016 season begins this month.

The whitebaiting season runs from August 15 until November 30 everywhere except the West Coast of the South Island, where it runs from September 1 to November 14.

Whitebait are juveniles of five species of native fish: giant kokopu, banded kokopu, shortjaw kokopu, inanga, and koaro. Those that escape the whitebait net grow into adults ranging from 10 to 60 centimetres long.

DOC freshwater scientist Jane Goodman said whitebait are iconic in New Zealand.
"Unfortunately four of the five species are categorised as either threatened or at risk due to declining numbers and habitat. Fishers are encouraged to only take what they need and to think about the sustainability of the fishery for future generations."

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"It's good to see more conservation measures such as planting and fencing off spawning grounds and adult habitat."

"We urge people to contact their local DOC or Regional Council office if they see overhanging culverts or other barriers that stop whitebait migrating," Ms Goodman said.

Whitebaiting is permitted between 5am and 8pm or between 6 am and 9pm when daylight saving starts on September 28.

DOC will be patrolling whitebaiting sites and talking to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with the regulations.

DOC administers regulations that cover fishing methods, location, legal fishing times and net size. Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.

Pamphlets with the regulations are at DOC offices and sporting shops and DOC's website:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/fishing/whitebaiting/whitebait-regulations-all-nz-except-west-coast/