Baiters asked to spare the fry for fish pass trial

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 16/08/2014

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Whitebaiters are being asked to save some of their catch from the frying pan and donate them to Horizons Regional Council.

The council wants to trial new fish passes designed to boost native fish populations, including the five species known as whitebait.

Yesterday was the first day of the whitebait season with fishermen out early to secure the best spots in Manawatu streams and rivers.

At the aptly named Whitebait Creek in Foxton Beach about a dozen people were out in the water tending to their nets.

Whitebaiter Anne Nicholson said she had "got a few" and was having fun. "There's probably enough in there for a fritter at the moment," she said motioning to a bucket on the stream's edge.

Nicholson was one of several whitebaiters who told the Manawatu Standard that the number of whitebait was declining each year, though all were hopeful of a good haul at some point in the season.

Designed by Horizons' staff in consultation with Niwa, fish passes use rocks and concrete to create baffles which fish can swim up through to get past barriers such as weirs, dams and culverts.

Horizons senior environmental scientist for water quality Logan Brown said the first pass to be tested would be at Kara Stream in Kingston Rd where Horizons would work with Niwa to release whitebait at the bottom of the pass and measure how many made it to the top. "Inanga are one of five whitebait species in New Zealand and they make up 90 per cent of the whitebait catch," Brown said.

Inanga spent half of their life in freshwater and half at sea.

Brown said he hoped fish passes would help species get upstream to access breeding grounds.

"This testing will help us see how effective the passes are or whether we need to do more to aid their journey."

Freshwater ecologist Amber McEwan said that few people realised that four of the five whitebait species were more endangered than the little spotted kiwi.

McEwan, who runs a consultancy business in the lower North Island, said spreading this knowledge about whitebait would play an important part in attempts to save these species.

The whitebait season runs until November 30.

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- Manawatu Standard

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