|Not a member? Sign up now!|
A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher is having to mix Bovril with Vegemite to bait whitebait until Marmite returns to the supermarket shelves next year.
UC masters student Jessica Hill has gone through more than 200 500gm jars of Marmite in her research project to find out why New Zealand whitebait numbers are declining. Whitebait love Marmite, she said.
``Bovril is not as good as Marmite but I’m mixing it with Vegemite to stretch out my bait until Marmite is back in production next year,’’ UC researcher Jessica Hill said today.
``Marmite production has halted because of the Christchurch earthquakes and I quickly ran out of bait in the middle of this large experiment.
``We were able to buy a small box of marmite from the Fresh Choice supermarket in Merivale and I’ve had so much support from my supervisors, friends, the UC Marine Ecology Research Group and everyone who donated jars of Marmite. Without this help the work would have been almost impossible,’’ Hill said.
Whitebait catches may have been declining since the 1930s which is of importance to whitebait lovers and the general public. One of the key reasons for the decline in whitebait numbers is the damaged caused by livestock and the public walking around unintentionally damaging the spawning habitat in estuaries.
Hill said she wanted to know whether whitebait in damaged spawning areas were moving to connected rivers via tributaries or estuaries with better spawning habitat.
She researched 10 rivers in Christchurch and Westport and tagged whitebait to carry out her research. She studied the known spawning sites and captured mass spawning number of whitebait and tagged them to study their movements.
``We found that whitebait easily move between tributaries and estuaries to better spawning grounds. We’re now doing more research to see how many whitebait are moving this coming summer and we are seeking to preserve at least one small spawning site in a catchment.
``We want to restore the damaged spawning areas so we can increase egg survival and hopefully increase next year’s whitebait catch. To do that, we need to fence off livestock. It’s just a very small area so it is feasible to achieve. We also need to plant in the riparian zone where the whitebait spawns.
``I’m currently running a spawning experiment in the lab to see if the whitebait would rather spawn on native or exotic vegetation. Once we know this we will plant adequate vegetation in all the damaged spawning areas. If we don’t do anything to protect these areas whitebait catches will continue to decrease.’’
Hill will present her research findings to date at the UC’s annual biology conference for students on campus on Wednesday, October 17.