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Commercial fishers landing exception: Fish caught by surface longline that are partially eaten by predators

Update – 22 May 2024

The Minister for Oceans and Fisheries has agreed to provide for a landing exception for seven highly migratory species that are managed under the QMS, when caught by surface longline and when predation leaves them unfit for human consumption. This includes the addition of two species (moonfish and Ray’s bream) to the exception from what was originally proposed, following feedback received in consultation. These species are commonly caught by surface longline and their addition to the exception will help improve information on the species and predation in the fleet.

The exception will come into effect on Saturday 1 June 2024.

The exception will be published in the Fisheries (Landing and Discard Exceptions) Notice as follows:

"Highly migratory species that may be returned or abandoned if damaged by predation.

  1. This clause applies to the following highly migratory species taken by surface longline:
    1. Bigeye tuna
    2. Southern bluefin tuna
    3. Pacific bluefin tuna
    4. Yellowfin tuna
    5. Swordfish
    6. Moonfish
    7. Ray’s bream
  2. A commercial fisher may return a fish of a species listed in subclause (1) to the waters from which it was taken if they:
    1. determine that the fish has been damaged by predation; and
    2. display the fish to an on-board camera prior to return so that damage is visible."

Background to landing exceptions

Under the Fisheries Act 1996, commercial fishers are prohibited from returning or abandoning to the sea, or other waters, any fish or shellfish that are subject to the Quota Management System (QMS). However, the Act allows for exceptions to the rule.

See section 72A(2) of the Fisheries Act 1996 – NZ Legislation

Consultation background

Fisheries New Zealand was assessing whether a commercial landing exception should be provided for 5 highly migratory species managed under the QMS, when caught by surface longline and eaten by predators.

The 5 species were:

  • bigeye tuna
  • yellowfin tuna
  • southern bluefin tuna
  • pacific bluefin tuna
  • swordfish.

Predation by toothed cetaceans (whales and dolphins), sharks, and large cephalopods (for example, squid) on highly migratory species caught in surface longline fisheries is a well-known problem globally. These events are considered to be largely unavoidable due to difficulties in predicting and avoiding their occurrence and can have big economic impacts on fishing operations.

Based on the unavoidability of these events, Fisheries New Zealand proposed to provide for an exception. The proposed exception was to allow commercial fishers to return leftover parts of any of the 5 species caught by surface longline, that have been damaged by predation to such an extent that the fish is unfit for human consumption.

We sought your feedback on the proposal. Full details were in the consultation document.

Consultation closed on 1 March 2024.

Consultation document

Commercial landing exception: Fish predation in surface longline [PDF, 477 KB]

Related documents

Commercial landing exception reviews: Operational guidelines [PDF, 386 KB]

Commercial landing exceptions: Policy context and legal overview [PDF, 358 KB]

Related consultations

Commercial fishers landing exception: Pacific bluefin tuna (closing 9 February 2024)

Commercial fishers landing exception: Southern bluefin tuna (closing 1 March 2024)

Related information

Implementing the Fisheries Amendment Act 2022

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