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New whitebait season start date

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The new whitebaiting season dates were first announced in June 2021 as part of a three-year rollout of changes to whitebaiting regulations. Photo: Simon Watts

In an important step towards a sustainable whitebait fishery, the whitebait season will take place from 1 September to 30 October throughout New Zealand, starting this year, with the exception of the Chatham Islands where whitebaiting season will continue from 1 December until the last day of February.

Previously, the majority of New Zealand’s whitebaiting season ran from 15 August to 30 November, while the West Coast season ran from 1 September to 14 November.

The new season dates will help to reduce fishing pressure on all whitebait, especially the most threatened species, and ensure the whitebaiting season is consistent throughout New Zealand, DOC’s whitebait fishery manager Nick Moody said.

“Whitebait are taonga and mahinga kai for Māori and provide a much-loved recreational pastime for New Zealanders. However, four of the six whitebait species are classified as threatened or at risk of extinction from a variety of causes including habitat loss and barriers to their migration.

“Our goal is to ensure healthy and restored whitebait populations and provide equitable access to a sustainable and thriving fishery. We want to ensure the decline is reversed. No one wants to see whitebait go extinct.”

The new whitebaiting season dates were first announced in June 2021 as part of a three-year rollout of changes to whitebaiting regulations, following two years of public engagement.


Changes to whitebait regulations announced

Read more: Huge public support for better whitebait management options

Read more: Habitat and rivers: Key to halting whitebait decline


These changes included creating new whitebait refuges introduced in Abel Tasman National Park and the southern part of Fiordland National Park, and changes made to the regulations on fishing gear and fishing methods.

“This year we will continue the work we began last season on gathering data to help us better manage the fishery. Expect to see us out on the river counting the number of fishers and their methods during the season,” Moody said.

“We are really keen to engage with fishers and the wider community and will provide fishers with opportunities to give feedback on the implementation of new regulations and quality of their fishing experience.”

Regulations taking effect from 2022

  • A nationally consistent shortened whitebait fishing season from 1 September to 30 October.
  • The nationally standardised shorter season will reduce fishing pressure on the most threatened species of whitebait during their peak migration period.
  • The Chatham Islands will retain its whitebaiting season of 1 December to the last day of February.

Visit DOC’s website for information on the whitebaiting season including the new regulations. 

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