Big boost for whitebait spawning habitat

Last updated 12:00 26/02/2013

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Manawatu's whitebait are a popular delicacy in decline but the tiny fish's population may get a boost.

Horizons Regional Council has netted $23,000 in funding to improve the spawning habitats of native fish, including whitebait, that migrate through the Manawatu River.

Horizons Regional Council has received Enviro-link funding for whitebait spawning habitat restoration and a fish barrier to aid native fish migration from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Science and Innovation.

The project, which comes under the Manawatu River Leaders' Accord project aims to identify spawning sites of inanga, which make up 90 per cent of catches.

The council will use the funding to fix native fish migration barriers, fence off waterways and establish planting on the water's edge, providing habitat and shade for native fish to breed.

Horizons freshwater management officer Josh Markham said lowland farm intensification had gradually depleted inanga spawning habitat as stock grazed plants near the river's edge.

"By fencing off waterways and planting alongside streams we hope to restore and protect spawning sites and in turn protect and increase our native fish population. We have Manawatu River Accord Clean Up funding available to assist landowners with this," he said.

Inanga spawning habitat restoration experts Dr Mike Hickford from Canterbury University, and Hans Rook and Martin Ruledge from Deeto will visit the Manawatu region to run a workshop on how to restore the whitebait's habitat, and Dr Jacques Boubee, a freshwater ecologist, will provide guidance.

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- Manawatu Standard

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