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New Zealand’s Manāki aims to grow whitebait in land-based farm

December 9, 2022  By  Nestor Arellano

Typically a mere 25 to 50 millimetres long and its schools of young growing in coastlines and estuaries, whitebait are a tender and tasty delicacy eaten head, tail and all in various parts of the world. However, whitebait consists of fry of important fish species such as mackerel, bass, and sardines. Their harvest is not considered ecologically viable.

A New Zealand based aquaculture company, named Manāki Whitebait, aims to change all that by building the first land-based facility designed to sustainably grow whitebait. Manāki Whitebait is owned by Tahu Whaoa Group Holdings.

The company reported that it has just come one step closer to its plans to develop a year-round commercial of supply of whitebait while helping protect the local specie. Manāki  said its pilot project recently launched at the Bluff’s Ocean Beach in Southland.


In New Zealand, whitebait are the juveniles of five of the countrys most precious native freshwater fish: inanga, kōaro, banded kōkopu, giant kōkopu and shortjaw kōkopu.

While the adult fish live in freshwater, whitebait hatch and spend the first 12 weeks living in the ocean. During their time in freshwater whitebait swim upstream to grow into adults.

The giant kōkopu, which can grow up to 45 cm in length and live for more than 20 years, is considered “vulnerable and decreasing” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list,” according to Manāki.

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