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Ed Sheeran

Maori sidelined in whitebait debate
Whitebaiting in Mokau © GettyImages

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The chair of Te Wai Māori, the Māori freshwater fisheries trust, says iwi need to urgently get involved in the debate about the state of the whitebait catch.

Forest and Bird opened the whitebait season with a call to end commercial whitebaiting because four of the five native fish species are in danger of extinction.

Ken Mair says he wants to see more research and more communication with iwi about issues like habitat restoration, water quality and catch levels.

But he agrees there is a need for urgency.

"Māori, iwi are a central part of whitebait as regard to native fisheries and let's get on with it. I'm worried that once again we as iwi are being sidelined from this debate when we are a critical part of this discussion around whitebait," Mr Mair says.

Whitebait includes koaro, īnanga and giant kōkopu, which the Conservation Department rates as declining, shortjaw kōkopu, which is vulnerable, and banded kōkopu, which is not threatened.

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