Whanganui fishers have mixed views on new rules for whitebaiters which come into force this season.
Keen fisherman Barry Hawthorn said he believed some of the rules would not work, while others were reasonably happy with the changes.
The season began on August 15 and runs until November 30. The main changes cover where whitebaiters can fish, how close they can be to other whitebaiters, how wide their gear can be and how much of the channel width they can fish.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) is holding an information evening about the new rules at 4pm-7pm on August 26 at 151 on London.
Hawthorn has been a whitebaiter since he was 18. On weekdays he's one of the regulars at Kaitoke Stream at South Beach. He has seven nets, suitable for all kinds of situations.
In an unwritten rule, the Kaitoke regulars kept their nets 15m apart, Hawthorn said. The new regulations say fixed nets must be 20m apart.
"The families come down to the streams at Kai Iwi at weekends, and there are quite considerable numbers there. There's not enough room for 20m spacing."
Another rule limits the width of a waterway that can be fished, from 30 per cent down to 25 per cent.
"I don't think that will work. A lot of the streams are very narrow and standard nets are 1.2m, 1.1m or 0.9m," he said.
Hawthorn was at a public forum on whitebaiting in February last year, and said there was no pre-consultation with local whitebaiters. He keeps meticulous records of daily conditions and catches, and said a lot more needed to be known about the six species of fish that make up whitebait.
The June 2015 flood destroyed a lot of spawning habitat, and he expected a poor season in 2016 as a result - but it was the best in many years.
Whitebait ran all year round, he said, and catches now were similar to those he remembers as a teenager.
He said he did not believe DoC would have enough people on the ground to enforce the new rules.
However, warranted officers would be out this year as usual, DoC national compliance officer Matt Davis said, and they could dish out $400 fines.
Fellow local fishers Lynn Teki-Turner and John Maslin were reasonably happy with the new rules, though Teki-Turner hoped people would not scoop between the nets.
Maslin said the rules made sense to him.
"It's a finite resource. We can't just keep hauling the little critters out of the rivers."
The fishers were surprised that trap nets and selling of whitebait had not been banned.
The new rules would be phased in over three years, DoC Whanganui community ranger Lisa Lamberton said. The biggest change next year would be shortening the season to two months - September and October.
The changes are needed to keep the fishery viable, because four of the six species of juvenile fish that make up whitebait are threatened or at risk of extinction.
As well as take by fishers, poor water quality, habitat degradation and impeded fish passage threaten them. DoC, iwi and Horizons Regional Council surveyed the lower reaches of the Whanganui River for the spawning spots of īnanga, which make up 90 per cent of whitebait.
Īnanga have been declining, due to the lack of the grassy spots by waterways where they can spawn. Keeping those can be as simple as ceasing to mow or graze stream banks during the peak spawning months of April, May and June, or fencing the waterway off completely.
DoC freshwater technical adviser Rosemary Miller said limiting fishing to 25 per cent of a small stream would be difficult for local fishers, but it was important.
"There are quite good reasons for restricting fishing from small streams, because that's where the best habitat is for the adults to spawn."