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.





National Launch of World Wetlands Day-RAMSAR 40th anniversary celebration.

February 2nd 2011

40 wetland creatures created by children across the country will frame the shore of one of New Zealand’s last remaining healthy dune lakes. 

A gathering of people as the sun rises over the first wetland site on the planet to see the dawn of World Wetlands Day.

As the sun rises, local kaumatua welcome the day with a ceremony of song, karakia and haka.

As a specially written song is performed, people gather by the shore of the lake and release woven emblems to the sounds of the putatara, thus marking the official launch of World Wetlands Day and the 40th anniversary of Ramsar..

At the conclusion of the ceremony, 40 flax are planted to commemorate the anniversary.

Oscar holiday programmes will create the 40 wetland creatures. 

A special webpage has been created on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website for children to upload poems, clips, photos about wetlands.   The creators of the wetland creatures will have video clips of them talking about their creature and their inspiration uploaded onto the webpage.  Click here to go to DoC's webpage.

Local iwi are organising the dawn ceremony and waka.

All media outlets are invited to attend.

The event is being coordinated by the Department of Conservation in Kaitaia in partnership with Far North Environment Centre, Ngai Takoto, Bushlands Trust, Northland Regional Council and the Whitebait Connection.

Download the flyer here