Environmental scientists are warning the government that all five native whitebait species will become extinct by 2034 if action isn't taken immediately.
Massey University's Kyleisha Foote and Pierce McNie presented a petition with more than 3000 signatures to the Primary Production Select Committee this morning.
They say commercial whitebait fishing, declining water quality, and a reduction in habitat are behind the falling number of whitebait.
According to the scientists, without immediate action one of the five whitebait species could be extinct within three years and all five will be extinct in 2034.
"We have known about the decline for a long time yet there has been no change in the management of the fishery in the last 20 years," said Foote.
"We’re thinking if we don’t do anything now there’s going to be no whitebait left for recreation whitebaiters to go and be able to catch a feed."
They made a raft of recommendations including ending commercial whitebaiting, introducing catch allowances for recreational whitebaiters and an independent review of the long-term sustainability of the fishery.