‘Absolutely no plans’ to ban whitebaiting, conservation minister says

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    Allan Burgess
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    ‘Absolutely no plans’ to ban whitebaiting, conservation minister says

    Photograph: John Bisset

    Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has rejected a claim from the National Party that a proposed new law could see the end of whitebaiting in New Zealand.

    “There are absolutely no plans to ban whitebaiting,” Sage said.

    In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Sage accused the Opposition of “mischief-making”, but National conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie said the proposed law would give the minister the power to prohibit the taking of whitebait.

    National would oppose the second reading of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill, due on Wednesday, Dowie said.

    “The bill does two things. It makes it illegal to take indigenous fish – or whitebait – from conservation areas unless there is an express authorisation to do so.”

    The fact the bill included transition clauses, which would allow whitebaiting in conservation areas for the first year after the law came into force, signalled the minister’s intention, Dowie said. Once the year was up it would be illegal to take white bait from conservation areas unless continued fishing was authorised.

    “The second thing is that on land that isn’t conservation estate you can take fish, however, it must be taken in accordance with regulation,” Dowie said.

    “And through that regulation for indigenous fish, she has the ability to write management plans and create regulations that ultimately dictate that no fishing of whitebait can occur.”

    In her Facebook post, Sage said the bill would enable areas of conservation land to be closed to whitebaiting. “That means native fish can have some rivers and streams where they can swim upstream and spawn without ending up in a net and a whitebait patty.”

    “The whitebait fishery needs better management and the bill provides the tools to do that. And there will be public consultation before any changes are made to the whitebaiting regulations.”

    Sage said 74 per cent of New Zealand’s native fish were threatened or at risk of extinction.

    West Coast Whitebaiters Association president Cheryl Riley said she was very disappointed with the recommendations of the Environment Committee on the bill.

    For the rest of this story see Stuff.co.nz  7 August 2019

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