The Act will change existing fishing rules and policies
The Fisheries Amendment Act (the Act) aims to encourage better fishing practices, and modernise and strengthen New Zealand’s fisheries management system.
Many of the enabling aspects of the Act are given effect through regulations and other instruments such as fisheries notices, many of which will be implemented over a 4-year period.
The Act will change existing rules and policies by:
- strengthening the commercial fishing rules relating to the landing and discarding of fish
- introducing new graduated offences and penalties, including enabling the creation of an infringement regime for less serious offences and a system of demerit points
- enabling the further use of on-board cameras
- creating a new defence to help save marine mammals and protected sharks and rays
- streamlining the adjustment of recreational management controls.
Fisheries Amendment Act 2022 – NZ Legislation
Tightening the rules for landings and discards
The amended Act clarifies the existing settings of what can (or must) be discarded or landed and the following rules for all commercial catch:
- all catch must be reported, whether they are Quota Management System (QMS) species or not
- QMS stocks or species, live or dead, must be landed unless an exception has been issued
- QMS stocks or species that may be returned to the sea that are dead or unlikely to survive must be accounted for, within the fisheries management system – that is, through Annual Catch Entitlements (ACE) or deemed values, or other allowances.
The Minister for Oceans and Fisheries may enable an exception for a QMS species or stock to be returned or abandoned to the sea if they are satisfied that:
- the stock or species has an acceptable likelihood of survival when returned to the sea or other waters, or
- retaining the stock or species would damage other stocks or species taken by the commercial fisher (for example, an ammoniating species), or is damaged because of unavoidable circumstances (for example, diseased or predated fish), or
- the stocks or species must be returned or abandoned to the sea for a biological, fisheries management, or ecosystem purpose, and the stock or species has an acceptable likelihood of survival when returned.
Four-year implementation period
This change does not mean an immediate ban on discards. There will be a review of existing landing and discard exceptions and rules such as what QMS species or stocks may or must be returned to the sea. This will take place during the next 4 years (by 2026). We will assess if exceptions meet the new evidence-based criteria to remain in place or if we'll remove them. Some existing exceptions to the requirement to land all QMS species will remain indefinitely, such as most existing shellfish and crustacean exceptions.
The existing exceptions must be reviewed against the new criteria by 30 September 2026. As each review is undertaken, the minister will consider whether an exception should remain in place, be amended, or removed. Any exceptions deemed to meet one of the new criteria will be specified in the Fisheries (Landing and Discard Exceptions) Notice.
The 4-year timeframe also gives commercial fisheries time to adapt to the new requirements.
Find out more about how the Act will be implemented
Creating new rules for offences and penalties
The Act introduces a new graduated system for offences and penalties for breaches of the landing and discard rules. The Act enables the creation of:
- an infringement system for low-level offences
- a demerit point system for repeat offences.
The goal of these systems is to encourage compliant fishing behaviours. These new systems will allow for commercial fishers to be penalised more proportionately to their offending.
Enabling the further use of on-board cameras
The Act enables the further use of on-board cameras to observe fishing activities that occur once fish are brought onboard, including sorting, processing, and discarding.
Find out more about on-board cameras
Creating a new defence to improve outcomes for marine mammals and protected sharks and rays
The Act has a new defence that allows fishers to abandon or return fish to the sea to save a marine mammal or protected shark and ray species. Under this defence, fishers that release QMS fish to safeguard a pod of dolphins, as happened in 2017, will no longer be liable for prosecution. It also encourages the use of innovative fishing equipment that can safely release fish and protected species underwater.
More responsive decision-making for recreational fishing
The Act includes a change to recreational fishing management controls to better support more responsive decision-making.
Changing recreational fishing controls like bag limits and minimum legal sizes can take up to 2 years. The amended Act will speed up the process. It will allow certain recreational controls to be set or varied by a Notice issued by the minister, rather than through the full regulation process. This will make setting recreational controls faster and more consistent with the setting of commercial controls.
Find out more
Fisheries Amendment Act FAQs [PDF, 257 KB]
Who to contact
If you have questions about the Act, email FisheriesChangeProgramme@mpi.govt.nz