The Conservation Department is not proposing to ban whitebait fishing - but it is reviewing the practice to ensure there are still fish to catch.
Submissions on its whitebait management review close on March 2 at 9am, and there's a meeting to discuss them in the Peter Snell Function Room at Cooks Gardens, Whanganui, on February 4, from 10am to noon.
Fishing for whitebait, the young of six species of native fish, is a New Zealand tradition. It's special to tāngata whenua and to many others. But four of those species are classified as 'at risk' or 'threatened'.
The department (DOC) is proposing changes to the whitebait season and to whitebait fishing rules. It does not want to prevent whitebait being sold in New Zealand, but is proposing to phase out any export of the tiny fish.
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It would also like to extend and add more "whitebait refuges" - places where whitebait cannot be fished at all, or cannot be fished at certain times.
The Whanganui River would make a good whitebait refuge, because many of its banks are designated conservation land and covered by native forest. It is identified in DOC's consultation documents as a possible refuge site.
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The whitebait consultation began in 2018, and the department has put a lot of information online.
There have been 3000 submissions made so far, and DOC says all will be considered before Government makes a decision.