Early settlers named the whitebait species 'Galaxid', after the galaxy, as they thought that the spots on their backs looked like stars in the night sky.

Whitebait catch consists primarily of the young of three species: inanga, koaro and banded kokopu; inanga is by far the most commonly caught species.

Giant kokopu, short-jawed kokopu and smelt are also occasionally present in the whitebait catch along with the young of many other fish such as eels, bullies and trout.

Most whitebait species spend part of their life cycle in fresh water and part in the sea.  However, some have adapted to being landlocked in lakes and no longer have to migrate to the sea to breed e.g. dwarf inanga.


In late winter and early spring whitebait migrate back up rivers and streams, finally settling and growing in bush covered streams and swamps. The start of the migration is thought to be influenced by river flows (i.e. shortly after floods) and phases of the moon.


Mature inanga adults migrate downstream to lower river sections and estuaries to spawn in grasses covered by water during spring tides. The eggs remain in the grass until the next spring tide covers them again when the young hatch and are carried out to sea. The spawning habits of other whitebait species are not well known.


The five galaxiid species are found in many different habitats from lowland swamps to rocky streams. Their presence appears to be closely tied to overhead cover and waterside vegetation.


Giant kokopu live in swampy and heavily vegetated streams, often in pools over a mud bottom. Short-jawed kokopu, banded kokopu and koaro prefer fast flowing rocky or boulder bottomed streams with forest cover. Inanga are less "fussy" but are generally found in lower catchment waters.


One of the major problems affecting the whitebait fishery is the destruction of habitat for egg laying or adult fish. As whitebait adults tend to live in natural swamps and bush covered streams it is in the best interest of whitebaiters to ensure that adequate areas of these habitats remain.


The Department of Conservation has been active in identifying whitebait spawning habitat and arranging for its protection. Protection has involved seeking the co-operation of landowners to have spawning areas fenced off from stock. The Department sees the protection of whitebait spawning habitat as playing a major role in enhancing the lasting viability of the fishery.


Another major problem is barriers that stop young fish from getting to adult habitat.


Please note that whitebait are native fish and the giant and short-jawed kokopu are under threat in many areas!


Your assistance in keeping the whitebait fishery healthy not only benefits you, but the health of New Zealand's natural living systems. Don't take more than you need.





WBC Canterbury

Coordinator: Kirsty Brennan (based in EOS Ecology)

WBC Canterbury's goal is to offer schools and their communities practical, holistic and inspiring information and education about their local freshwater environments and to promote positive changes in attitudes and behaviour towards these environments.

Kirsty Brennan has recently taken on the role of WBC Canterbury Regional Coordinator, and is passionate about WBC in Canterbury.  Kirsty attended WBC's national conference in Whangara,Gisborne in 2016 and is set to take on Canterbury and a new 'WBC Environmental Investigators' project.  Watch this space for updates!

Minutes from the 2016 WBC Canterbury Freshwater and Science Education Strategy Hui

Former WBC coordinators in Canterbury included Department of Conservation (DoC) rangers, Annabelle Studholme and Cody Frewin.   Check out this link to see what she got up to with
Seven Oaks School.  Or read a newspaper article about it.


The WBC programme was delivered by Cody to 5 schools and community groups in the Mahaanui area over 2008 and 2009.  This includes, programme introduction, instream workshops (when possible), follow up session and possible ‘take action’ activity or event.  Schools that were involved over this time were; Cotswold School, Russley School, Kendal School, Ashgrove School and Avonhead School.

Some feedback from teachers and students below...
Teacher, Avonhead School: "A great intro and map of the South Island.  Good to check knowledge and build from there – Cody did this brilliantly.  Children loved the 'river' making part – high interest and good conversations with children.  Cody was super organised for this.  The river making demonstrated well the cause and effect with the children”.

Teacher, Russley School: "What a stand out lesson!  The building and making the river with amazing props absolutely got the message across.  Cody has certainly made quality equipment to enhance her lesson.  Her knowledge and drawing on children's prior knowledge developed an incredible understanding of a river, it's requirements and pollution.  I hope many children in Canterbury are lucky enough to share this experience."

Teacher, Avonhead School: "It is so valuable having a person from DoC visiting schools and educating students about the environment in our country."

Student, Valerie: “I learnt that there are different types of water and that different types of fish 

like different grades of water”.

Room 10 students, Russley School: “We didn't know that there were so many animals and plants living in a river.  It is sad that our rivers are getting spoilt from pollution.  People pollute by leaving rubbish behind such as plastic bags and cans.  Farmers let cows and other animals walk in and mess our rivers.  Soil also makes the rivers dirty.  You taught us that trees and plants are important to help make the water ways clean”.