Three years ago I put up a post What if there were only 34 more whitebait harvests left? It was based on this graphic by freshwater fish expert Stella McQueen that suggests whitebait will be extinct by 2050.
From the post,
“We’ve seen this increase in a number of our fresh water fishes becoming endangered. So 1990 20% of our forty native fishes were endangered. Now around 75% of them are endangered. We need to protect them so that they can be there for the future”.
Some twitter commentary from this week hit the nail on the head,
It’s Whitebait season but for the protection of this taonga please do not buy or eat Whitebait until the fishery has recovered.— Joshua (@jcpihama) August 18, 2019
How do you measure absolute stocks, rather than just species makeup by region? Commercial fishing can be reported, but not recreational volumes
You’ve hit the nail on the head there. In the whitebait fishery recreational and commercial takes are one and the same, given that there’s no restriction on the amount that a ‘recreational’ whitebaiter can catch and legally sell. It effectively incentivises greed.What’s the solution? I reckon banning the commercial sale of whitebait is a no-brainer. Adopt the same rules as for trout. If you want a feed go and catch it yourself. Continuing the commercial sale of threatened species with no quotas or records of catch volumes is crazy
Eugenie Sage’s Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill restricts whitebaiting in conservation areas. Responding to National’s ‘mischief-making‘,
“There are absolutely no plans to ban whitebaiting,” Ms Sage said.
“The Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill does enable areas of conservation land to be closed to whitebaiting.
“That means native fish can have some rivers and streams where they can swim upstream and spawn without ending up in a net and a whitebait patty.
Vote National so you can fish it to extinction?— SnarkyMcSnark (@snarky_mk) August 19, 2019
If National weren’t busy politicking New Zealand could be having a discussion about how people can be supported to transition to making a living from enterprises that regenerate nature not destroy it.
Managing native fisheries is critical, and giving DOC more tools to do that makes sense when facing multiple extinctions. Ultimately we need to start respecting the mana of all waterways, and restore and maintain their health. If we’re not going to ban whitebaiting while the stocks recover, maybe we should ban dairy farming along waterways instead.
More from the 2016 post,
We are living in a time of unparalleled environmental destruction: in one generation most of our freshwater fish have made the threatened species list and unless we act quickly they will be all but gone in another generation. As with most other environmental problems there is a lag period and we are now seeing the impacts of previous decades of unsustainable land-use hit home. Even if we stop the destruction right now and start protecting our freshwater ecosystems, these species’ declines will continue for some time.
To save our freshwater heritage we need amendments made to the freshwater fisheries regulations and to the Wildlife Act, and we must have effective regulations put in place in the agricultural sector. Government-employed and funded freshwater scientists’ hands are tied with political tape, meaning these changes must come from the people.
So rise up all those who want their grandchildren to see native fish and have swimmable rivers. Target the environment, fisheries, State-owned enterprises and conservation ministers, councils and Fonterra and tell them we refuse to accept the loss of our fish and our rivers.
We can have a strong farming industry and clean waters but not when the emphasis is on unlimited increases in production. There is a limit to what the land can produce sustainably and what waste the rivers can assimilate and that point has long since been passed in many parts of New Zealand.