Date: 15 August 2014
By Jane Goodman | Freshwater Technical Advisor
Did you know that New Zealand’s whitebait fishery consists of the young of five migratory galaxiid species?
The five migratory galaxiid species include inanga (Galaxias maculatus), koaro (Galaxias brevipinnis), banded kokopu (Galaxias fasciatus), giant kokopu (Galaxias argenteus) and shortjaw kokopu (Galaxias postvectis). Smelt (Retropinna retropinna) are also present in catches from some rivers along with the young of other fish species such as eels and bullies.
Whitebait and their parents are declining. Three of the five galaxiid whitebait species (inanga, koaro and giant kokopu) are listed as ‘at risk - declining’; shortjaw kokopu is listed as ‘threatened – nationally vulnerable’ and banded kokopu is listed as not threatened (Goodman et al. 2013).
Whitebait are iconic as fritters but they also fascinate many people when they're not in a frying pan! They use both rivers and the sea to complete their life-cycle, the giant kokopu can grow up to almost 60 centimetres and some species are amazing climbers and have been found above large waterfalls.
You can help ensure whitebait are here in the future by planting and fencing stream edges and reporting any overhanging culverts to your local DOC or Regional Council Office.
Whitebaiting in the surf near Okarito River mouth
The whitebait species are iconic and fascinating. They stir emotion in many groups of New Zealand’s society who appreciate them for a variety of reasons. The Department acknowledges, encourages and supports the great work of everyone involved with conserving the whitebait species. Please continue to do what you can to ensure that these intriguing fish are here for future generations to admire and enjoy.