Any moves to restrict whitebait catches should start by outlawing the selling of the native fish, recreational fishers say.
New Plymouth's Kerry Fleming has spent 40 years chasing the elusive creatures at Waiwhakaiho River and said it had not got any easier, nor more difficult, to catch enough for a fritter or two.
"There are enough regulations already.
"I just think you shouldn't be able to sell it," he said. "It would allow them to breed more in the bigger rivers.
"At least some of their habitat would be better for them," he said.
Calls are growing for tougher regulations governing whitebaiting, particularly the sale of them.
Department of Conservation river ranger Chris Annandale claims in the Waikato Times a lot of money changes hands during the whitebait season.
He knows of someone who allegedly sold $30,000 of whitebait, tax free, while collecting a sickness benefit.
Whitebait are the juveniles of five native species, including some that are threatened. There are no restrictions on how many whitebait a person can catch or possess and unlike every other native fish are not covered by the quota system.
The whitebait season in most of the country is open between August 15 and November 30, with fishing permitted between 5am and 8pm.
New Plymouth's John Schumacher said the quantities caught in most Taranaki rivers meant restrictions on amounts were not required.
"It's like with the paua.
"They don't grow very big and people around here don't get huge amounts of whitebait," he said.
Making whitebaiting illegal in alternate seasons would help rebuild the stocks but enough got up the river before and after the season that such restrictions were not necessarily needed.
Teenage whitebaiter Matt Smith was another who believed the sale of whitebait should be stopped.
"Because they are native fish aren't they," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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