The Whitebait Debate
May 4th 2008 06:13
Whitebait is highly prized by kiwis. The New Zealand whitebait catch consists primarily of the young of the species: inanga (Galaxias attenuatus/maculatus), koaro (Galaxias brevipinnis) and banded kokopu (Galaxias fasciatus).
Inanga is by far the most commonly caught species. Giant kokopu (Galaxias argenteus), short-jawed kokopu (Galaxias postvectis) and smelt (Retropinna retropinna) are also occasionally present along with the young of many other fish such as eels, bullies and trout.
According to Charles Darwin in Origin of Species, Galaxias attenuatus inhabits Tasmania, New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, and the mainland of South America. This probably indicates dispersal from an Antarctic centre during a former warm period
Galaxias attenuatus is also found in south-eastern Australia. Although present in small numbers in some Tasmanian whitebait catches, G. attenuatus does not occur in quantities of commercial significance in any region other than New Zealand.
L. sealii occurs only in Tasmanian coastal streams, mainly along the north coast, but also in rivers of the west and far south-east. The adults have a transparent body with their gonad and swim bladder visible. After spawning they are almost black.
The West Australian whitebait, Hyperlophus vittatus is commercially fished from populations of adults occur along the entire coast between Fremantle and Bunbury where the whitebait do not normally extend very far offshore.
New South Wales Health is alerting people not to eat raw whitebait following reports of three Sydney women treated for cholera. All three women had recently eaten raw whitebait. Subsequent investigation found that the whitebait was imported from Indonesia and sold as 'Nanata'. Though this whitebait from Indonesia is no longer on the market, thorough cooking of seafood will kill cholera and other bacteria.
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