Image: Inland Fisheries Service, Tasmania
Community type

Aquatic herbland

Habitat type

Tidal wetlands and macrophytes beds

Whitebait are a group of small fish that frequent estuaries and may venture into shallow waters over tidal flats. In the Derwent estuary there are six different species collectively called ‘whitebait’. These fish all have semi-transparent bodies, and migrate upstream each spring to spawn and take shelter in estuarine wetlands and mudflats. One whitebait species is the endemic Lovettia sealii, which is known to have a life cycle of just one year. The Derwent once supported a important whitebait fishery, but commercial fishing was suspended after fish stocks plummeted in the 1950s, leading to the closure of the fishery in 1974. Numbers have slowly increased to sufficient levels for a limited recreational season. Baitfish and whitebait are an important part of marine and freshwater food webs as they are targeted by a wide range of larger aquatic predators.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.