Once again, it is that time of the year when we see whitebait nets spread along the riverbanks of both Islands, faces filled with expectancy of that one mighty haul of rare larval form of Galaxid that were once so common they were dumped on fields as fertilizer or fed to pigs as a food supplement..
With a scarcity of good sites it has even come down at times to armed conflict over the possession of a single site.
It was inevitable that the unceasing supply would eventually dwindle away and protection measures were taken by providing a designated season in which these creatures could be caught. These methods have not done much to help the position as the population of some of the rarest species, whitebait consists of a mixture of Galaxid species, as rarer species showed no sign of recovery.
It is not generally understood that the whitebait have to run a massive gauntlet to get not only to the rivers, but also up to the alpine areas. Firstly, many hungry predators follow the run in large numbers. These small fish are a favourite of many marine species.
After this they then have to avoid freshwater species mainly trout and the nets of the whitebaiters.
Once past those man-made constructions become a problem until they finally reach the cool Alpine streams.
From the original number that began this journey only a vastly diminish number finally make it to grow and become breeding adults.
In the interim people pay outrageous sums of money just for small quantities of these juvenile fish leaving populations dangling on the edge of extinction.
A lot of species that travel in these migrations we know very little about and if the situation continues, like the greyling, more species will disappear before we learn anything about them all for the sake of a fritter on a plate.