Kahawai are the second most commonly caught fish in New Zealand. Find out about kahawai, the status of the fishery and how MPI is managing kahawai populations for future generations.
Māori name: kahawai
Scientific names: Arripis trutta, Arripis xylabion
The kahawai species most people are familiar with (Arripis trutta) is found around the North Island, South Island, Kermadec and Chatham Islands. They mainly occur in coastal seas, harbours and estuaries, and enter brackish water in rivers. The Kermadec kahawai (Arripis xylabion) is found seasonally around Northland.
- school together in large groups
- take bait easily
- feed in water above the seabed (are pelagic), but will take food from the seabed
- mostly eat other fish, but also eat krill.
Kahawai spawning isn't well understood but is thought to be offshore on the seabed. Kahawai can live up to 26 years and grow up to 65cm long.
Check fishing rules for kahawai
Fishing rules for kahawai and other fish species differ around the country and can change. Check the rules for your area every time before you go fishing.
The kahawai fishery
The kahawai fishery is split into 6 fishery management areas. Catch allowances are set differently for each area depending on the health of the fish population and fishing pressure.
2016 catch allowances (tonnes)
Kahawai are managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System (QMS). By controlling the amount of fish taken from each area, the QMS helps keep fisheries sustainable.
The QMS sets a yearly catch limit (total allowable catch) for kahawai in each management area. From the total allowance (in tonnes), an allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing, and other fishing-related deaths. The remainder is the commercial allowance.
|Area||Total allowance||Commercial allowance||Customary allowance||Recreational allowance||Other mortality1|
1Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as discarding and poaching.
Stock status of KAH 1
The graph shows stock for KAH 1 – the largest kahawai fishery management area by catch – gradually declined until the late 1970s. This was followed by a bigger drop in the 1980s because of changes to commercial fishing methods. Stock has varied since then but has mostly been rising since 2000.
MPI is managing the fishery to keep the kahawai population around 52% of the original unfished stock (stock before modern commercial fishing methods were introduced). Current stock is well above this target level.
Find out more
For more detailed information and data about kahawai fisheries, download MPI's latest:
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