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.





Links to other useful websites and resources

Riverscapes Ecology Whitebait and Eel posters and brochures

Riverscapes provides a range of services based around freshwater ecology

LEARNZ provides free virtual field trips for all New Zealand registered
and provisionally-registered teachers. Many of these field trips link
directly with Environmental Education. During a virtual field trip,
students experience going right to the centre of the most fascinating
events, businesses and locations around the country, in real-time.
Students' participation is supported by online background materials and
activities, and is enabled using live audioconferencing, web board and
diaries, images and videos uploaded daily.

Department of Conservation
Everything you need to know about NZ freshwater conservation!
Enter ‘freshwater’ in the main search and find information, research, projects, latest news.



If you’ve collected freshwater 'bugs' from your local stream, you’ll hopefully be able to use this site to identify them and learn about what they may reveal about their habitat. Such information can indicate whether a stream should be preserved in its existing good condition, or whether there may be a need for some form of restoration.

Waicare Programme (Regional/District Councils, Auckland region)
Not to be missed! Re-vamped database, excellent maps and teacher resources. Shows Waicare monitoring sites and info on water-environmental activities and events going on in and around the greater Auckland region.

National Waterways Project
Excellent teacher-learning resources, educational information and links, national monitoring database for schools.

Experiencing Marine Reserves (Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust)
Also check out www.marinenz.org.nz for loads of info on marine stuff!
Our ‘sister’ programme – developed in 2000 by Vince Kerr    , co-ordinated and delivered by Samara Nicholas    
Check out this site to have the best marine experience ever!

NZ Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE)
Good site info with links, networks, contacts on what/who/where it’s all happening nationwide in environmental education.

World Wildlife Fund for Nature

BoC Gases/Where there’s Water 

NZ Landcare Trust 
NGO which facilitates, co-ordinates and supports community-based initiatives around sustainable management (often rural/farm focused). Various Waikato projects have a strong freshwater especially wetlands focus. Subscribe to the newsletter for up-to-date info – news, land management, pest control, workshops, funding opportunities and more.

NZ Forest and Bird

Kiwi Conservation Club
A cool site for kids, adults, teachers and parents. Fun activities, great information and easy to navigate. Have fun!

Bushmans Friend
Get through all the website advertising and jargon to find a comprehensive site with great information on NZ Native trees and plants.

 Wellington Waterwatch
Take Care Co-ordinator (caregroups@gw.govt.nz) 0800496734
Greater Wellington Regional Council care group community monitoring programme.

 Wai Maori Trust
04 9319500
Research on Maori freshwater fisheries and related issues.

Water resources: C Pearson. c.pearson@niwa.co.nz/03 3437871
Catchment processes: R Woods. r.woods@niwa.co.nz/03 3437803
Scientific research and public information on freshwater/catchment management.

NZ Water and Wastes Association
Advocacy and learning Peter Whitehead peterw@nzwwa.org.nz/04 4728925
“Principle voice of the water sector” – sustainable management issues and problem solving around water and waste management.

 NZ Hydrological Society
admin@hydrologynz.org.nz/ 03 3197211
Learning more about managing NZ’s freshwater resources. 

NZ Freshwater Sciences Society
Wendy Paul
Information and networking for freshwater scientists and interests, hosted by the Royal Society.

Genesis Electricity
0800 300 400
Partners with and sponsors several community programmes with a freshwater conservation emphasis.

Landcare Research (Manaaki Whenua)
Communications contact Andrew Trevelyan 03 3219999
Primarily research-based organization without obvious specific reference to freshwater. Provides some education material and excellent biodiversity research. Funds a variety of sustainability education/advocacy work from time to time.

Environmental Monitoring and Action Project (EMAP)
Education co-ordinator Rebecca Goffin.   
rebeccagoffin@royalsociety.org.nz  04 4705772
Combines delivery of the national waterways project (largely defunct) and Globe Programme.



Landcare Research Freshwater Invertebrates Guide