Ben Crichton M.Sc. Project: Whitebait fishery and populations dynamics of kōkopu

Ben’s research seeks to answer the elusive question of whether whitebaiting impacts the population dynamics of harvested kōkopu species and whether closing areas to whitebaiting contributes to species protection and increased production.

To achieve this, Ben will monitor banded, shortjaw, and giant kōkopu populations within whitebaited and legally closed waterways on the West Coast of the South Island each month for a year. Using spotlights, the nocturnal kōkopu are caught at night with hand nets and placed in buckets to be measured.

Environmental variables, such as pool volume and bank cover, are also likely to affect kōkopu abundance, so these are also measured at each site. This means the effects of whitebaiting can be more precisely evaluated. This research hopes to provide insight into the sustainability of the nationally significant, but highly controversial, whitebait fishery while ensuring that kōkopu and the whitebait fishery are preserved for future generations

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