Fishing native species could be restricted to iwi members

A Rotorua iwi plans to restrict the fishing of native species in central North Island lakes to its own iwi members.   

A Rotorua iwi wants to restrict fishing of native fish in lakes across Rotorua and central North Island. Source: 1 NEWS

Te Arawa is the first iwi to be allowed to set its own fishing bylaws under its Treaty settlement.

And Te Arawa Lakes Trust wants only iwi members catching a number of treasured species including whitebait, kakahi and eels.

"It's a statement really that we want to conserve this species," said Ian Kusabs, a fisheries scientist.

The trust also wants to outlaw the take of the koaro, a native fish species whose population has collapsed across all of the lakes.

The proposed bylaws are a mixture of science and traditional knowledge.

"So for example, the koura are in berry from pretty much April through to September, October. So that's when you don't want to harvest them. And the traditional season for collecting koura was from November through to March," Mr Kusabs said.

Trout is an introduced fish, so will still be fair game.

But the taonga species are not so popular, and an iwi leader hopes the bylaws will increase awareness among younger generations of Te Arawa traditions.

"Today you will see the full dishes and plates of koura untouched. People, young people, are no longer eating it simply because I believe the supermarket has taken the place of our lakes," said Sir Toby Curtis, Te Arawa Lakes Trust Chairman.

However, Sir Toby is conscious there's a job to be done to get everyone on board.

"What is more important is that we don't rush into these things, which gives people the impression we don't want you to be near our lakes we don't want you touching anything in our lakes."

Fish and Game won't comment yet on the bylaws, which go out to the public early next year.