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.

 


 

 

 

Whitebait Connection (WBC) Auckland

Coordinators:

Mountains to sea Conservation Trust (MTSCT)  Trustee and National Coordinator  Kim Jones reinvigorated WBC delivery in the Auckland region in 2015.  The current focus in this region is on monitoring and raising awareness of local freshwater issues, supporting local government initiatives and local community groups.  Key waterways of current projects include the Mahurangi River (Rodney – Hauraki Gulf), Kaipara – Hoteo River sub-catchment, Manukau Harbour.  WBC has delivered the programme to Warkworth Primary School and begun working in with WaiCare to locate Inanga spawning habitat on the Hoteo River.  We have also started collaborating with many other stakeholders in the Mahurangi River catchment including Mahurangi Action Group, Mahurangi Technical Institute, Wai Care and Ngati Manuhiri to organise a Native Fish Discovery Night along the Mahurangi River in August/September 2015. 

Sophie Tweddle has just come onboard too and has started WBC delivery to North and West Auckland schools.