Forest & Bird is heartened that 90% of respondents to a Department of Conservation survey support changes to whitebaiting regulations.

“This level of public support bodes well for finding solutions that will help ensure our unique and threatened native fish have a future,” says Annabeth Cohen, Forest & Bird’s freshwater advocate.

DOC’s public survey was supported by feedback at public meetings, the Whitebait Working Group and consultation with Māori. The findings will become a discussion document for public consultation later in the year.

“The future management of our native fish species is such an important issue, and it’s great all New Zealanders will have an opportunity to have their say,” says Cohen. “We know our whitebait species face many threats, including habitat loss, pollution, climate change and physical barriers to their migration. Fishing is yet another pressure, and it’s one we can easily do something about.”

Forest & Bird has participated in the Whitebait Working Group alongside scientists, commercial and recreational fishers, and other stakeholders. “As part of the working group, we’ve advocated for a moratorium on commercial whitebait fishing to be included as an option for the public to consider,” says Cohen. “But we’re open to considering any solution that improves the status quo, which is a largely unregulated industry dealing in threatened native fish.”

She hopes new regulations will be in place by the time the 2020 season opens.


Whitebait comprises five different species of migratory galaxiid fish: Giant kōkopu, banded kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, kōaro, and īnanga. Four out of five of these species are in serious trouble.