Whitebait season kicked off Sunday, with new rules being introduced across the country.
It’s hoped the three-year plan will help improve the sustainability of the threatened species, while also making sure Kiwis can keep fishing for kai.
Whitebaiting is being restricted to estuaries and near river mouths, and nets can’t be longer than six metres.
West Coast Whitebaiters Association’s Rob Roney says it’ll be a “huge difference” moving forward.
“They’re interesting… for us on the West Coast it wasn’t expected.”
Gear will also only be able to take up a quarter of the width of the waterway, down from a third.
Next year the season will be cut down by six weeks, meaning whitebait nets will only be out for two months of the year.
Conservationists hope the changes will help improve whitebait populations with four of the six species considered under threat or at risk of extinction.
But Forest and Bird say the rules don’t go far enough to what’s needed in order to save the species.
“So what we’ve been asking the Government to do is bring in meaningful things like licensing and catch limits,” said spokesperson Rick Zwaan.
Meanwhile, whitebaiters are sceptical about the current data being gathered.
“Several researchers have said the data that is there is simply invalid,” said Roney.
“It has been collected by different methodologies, different times of the year, by different people and all it really is is a repository of sightings of whitebait.”
Some whitebait is already being left alone in so-called refuges on the South Island’s West Coast, with more being created to help its species keep swimming.