Novel modelling approaches to improve conservation outcomes for whitebait

This research project aims to improve management best practice for whitebait.


New Zealand’s five whitebait species are taonga, with the fishery being important culturally, socially, and economically. Whitebait face pressures from habitat loss, fishing, loss of connectivity and predation and four of the five species are threatened with extinction. There is widespread concern that they will soon be lost – some are already on the cusp of regional extinction.

Research fellow Finnbar Lee, Professor George Perry and Associate Professor Kevin Simon (from the University of Auckland) are working with collaborators at the University of Canterbury, the Department of Conservation and Auckland Council to understand how pressures such as fishing, habitat degradation and predation are affecting adult and juvenile whitebait.

Using simulation models developed for each of the five whitebait species the team will identify which management interventions are most likely to reduce extinction risk and facilitate population growth. They are also working to turn the models underlying their simulations into a web-based application that will allow stakeholders to rapidly determine if proposed management plans are likely to be effective.

The goal is to improve management best practise for whitebait. Hopefully this research can contribute to a decrease in the likelihood that whitebait go extinct, and ultimately, we want to see all five species thriving across Aotearoa.


Research Fellow Finnbar Lee


About the researchers

Finnbar Lee, School of Environment

Professor George Perry, School of Environment

Associate Professor Kevin Simon, School of Environment