Honorary fishery officers

It's an unpaid voluntary role but honorary fishery officers play an important part in patrolling New Zealand's coastline and helping preserve our fisheries. Find out more about their work and how you can become one of the team.

Quick facts

  • More than 220 warranted honorary fishery officers (HFOs) work around New Zealand.
  • HFOs help educate recreational fishers about the rules and regulations.

  • Each year they do about 27,000 inspections and catch over 1,000 amateur fishers breaking the law.

  • Most HFOs spend about 100 hours a year in their volunteer roles.

  • When fully trained, they have similar powers to paid fishery officers, including the authority to search, question and seize.

  • All have a passion for protecting our fisheries for future generations.

Volunteer HFOs a vital part of MPI's work

Two honorary fishery officers kneeling down on a beach counting seized paua.
Wellington HFOs with more than 70 seized pāua. The daily limit is 10.

Honorary fishery officers are volunteer warranted officers who patrol New Zealand's coastline to help preserve our fisheries.

They work alongside full-time fishery officers, helping recreational fishers understand rules and regulations.

Our HFOs are highly motivated and committed to assisting with the sustainability of New Zealand's fisheries.

They provide an important community service through their unpaid work.

Fully-trained HFOs have similar powers to full-time, paid fishery officers, including the authority to search, question and seize. To become a warranted HFO, they do comprehensive training and must pass several exams.

Duties are a mix of education and compliance

HFO duties include:

  • educating people about fishing rules and encouraging voluntary compliance
  • investigating suspicious behaviour and gathering information on people breaking fishing rules and regulations
  • doing patrols, and checking fishers are following the rules
  • detecting and apprehending offenders and helping their successful prosecution.

HFO requirements

HFOs need to be:

  • in good health and reasonably fit
  • able to commit to working about 100 hours a year
  • professional, enthusiastic, and an excellent communicator
  • passionate about protecting the New Zealand fishery for future generations.

Many volunteers also have a background in fishing and speak languages used by their communities.

Find out more – check the job description [PDF, 96 KB]

If you have questions about becoming an HFO, email HFO@mpi.govt.nz

Training for new officers

All new HFOs get extensive formal training to help them do their job. They'll spend about 80 hours patrolling and training under close supervision before becoming a warranted HFO.

Meet some of our volunteers

Find out what motivates them to take on a sometimes confrontational role, working for free and in many cases using up their annual leave.

Dan Ellis – 15+ years as an HFO

HFO Dan Ellis standing on a wharf
Dan is Wellington's most active HFO.

Dan is an ex-Territorial Force Army sergeant with over 20 years' service and a member of a local search and rescue organisation.

He's the most active HFO in the Wellington region, often patrolling weekdays after work and about 4 weekend days a month.

He says he's passionate about preserving our fisheries for future generations and is a diver and fisher himself.




Dennis Karauna – 10+ years in the role

HFO Dennis Karauna standing in front of an MPI boat in a shed
Dennis is an avid fisherman and diver, who is passionate about sustainable fishing.

Also in Wellington, Dennis patrols 1 to 2 weekends a month. Dennis originates from Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and is an avid fisherman and diver who says volunteering is about giving his time to the community to protect our valuable resource.

Dennis is passionate about the sustainability of all things from the sea so that his children and their children can get to enjoy it too.

He likes interacting with the public who are out enjoying our beautiful coastline and educating them about sustainable fishing.




Barry Nicolle – 2+ years volunteering

HFO Barry Nicolle standing outside with farm land in the background
Barry puts in up to 60 hours a month.

If you've ventured to Jackson Bay, at the southern end of the West Coast, you may have come across Barry – the resident HFO.

He's been putting in up to 60 hours a month helping educate locals and visitors and enforcing the recreational fishing rules.

He says he's motivated by the need to protect our fisheries for future generations.




HFOs in the news

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about honorary fishery officers, email HFO@mpi.govt.nz.


Last reviewed: