Friday, 9 August 2019

Making Political Capital Out of Whitebaiting

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SevenSharp, that broadcasts after the NZTV1 6pm news, is intended as light and humorous entertainment — and it is well advised to stay that way.

It is not a place for flippant, political commentary but if it chooses to comment, the commentary should be informed and impartial.   Monday's programme broke this rule with extended commentary on whitebait fishing.



Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage had ten seconds to say whitebait were endangered, that Government had no plan to ban fishing, and there will be further consultation to hear what the public thinks. Shadow Conservation Minister Sarah Dowie had about the same amount of time to state that the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Bill will ban whitebaiting.

 Most of the remaining time was given over to Tony White, a young whitebaiter standing in a river, prompted by interviewer Hillary Barry. "What would you do," she asked, "if, God forbid, Government banned whitebait fishing?" They both thought it could be "the beginning of the end" for fishing, and then Barry, White and Jeremy Wells compared notes on how best to cook it. A not very satisfactory mix of the serious and the humorous.

Hillary obviously thought further whitebait legislation unnecessary, boldly stating there had been "no research" on whitebait's status.  She is wrong.

A DOC working group was established last year to consider possible conservation with a public consultation this year.  And a Forest and Bird report said four of our five native whitebait species are threatened with extinction. Further, some 74% of NZ's native freshwater fish are endangered or threatened with extinction.

Forest and Bird want a ban on commercial whitebait fishing (similar to the ban on commercial  trout fishing), limits on takes, and closure of some rivers, mainly on conservation land, to allow re-stocking. This seems very reasonable to me, and no threat to the NZ way of life, as SevenSharp inferred.  --  ACW
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