By: Christopher Cookson
Galaxias are a genus of scaleless freshwater fish found only in the southern hemisphere, with several native to New Zealand, with some species endemic (found only in New Zealand). The name comes from the speckled skin pattern that resembles a field of stars or galaxy. Galaxias species are divided into two groups; migratory, and non-migratory. Migratory galaxiids are so named because they spend the first winter of their life in the ocean, before migrating up rivers and streams in spring. Non-migratory galaxiids spend their entire life in the same body of water where they hatched.
The juveniles of the migratory species are well known collectively as whitebait. In Marlborough, whitebait can be found in the Wairau river, both in the main channel, and the artificial Diversion, along with various small streams and artificial drainage channels. Inanga (Galaxias maculatus) are the smallest, shortest lived, and most commonly caught variety of whitebait.
Whitebait have suffered a significant decline in numbers for a variety of reasons including fishing, habitat loss or degradation, predation from introduced fish such as trout, and effects of climate change.
Marlborough is also home to several non-migratory Galaxias species including Galaxius brevipinnis found only in Lake Chalice. Other non-migratory species in the region include Alpine galaxias, Dwarf galaxias, Northern flathead galaxias.