Enabling innovative trawl technology

We've made changes to the regulations for commercial trawling so that fishers can trial and use innovative trawling technologies. Learn about the changes to the regulations and how to apply for approval to trial and use new trawl gear.

What you need to know

Trawling is a long-established commercial fishing method that provides a cost-effective way to catch fish. Commercial fishing regulations contain restrictions on use and configuration of trawl nets. For example, there are restrictions on what net mesh size is allowed, and a ban on structural features such as net sleeves, liners, and flappers.

Commercial fishers who want to use a new kind of trawl net, can apply to us for approval to trial and use the gear.

New types of nets must meet criteria

We'll only approve the use of the new net if we're satisfied that it performs at least as well as an existing net in providing for the use of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability. The way fishers use the new net must also be consistent with any relevant fisheries plans.

How will Fisheries New Zealand manage commercially sensitive information?

We must meet the requirements of the Official Information Act (OIA) to manage the release of information that is requested by the public. All information held by us is a matter of public record and is considered official information for the purposes of the OIA. Under the OIA, the release of information must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

However, information supplied in support of an application for either a special permit or an approval of a new trawl net will not be released if it:

  • is a trade secret or considered commercially sensitive, and releasing it would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it, and it is not in the public interest to release it
  • would impact on the supply of similar information in the future, and it is not in the public interest to release it.

How to apply

Follow the steps to get approval to trial and use new trawl gear.

Expand All
Step 1: Develop your concept

Understand the legal requirements

Before applying for approval to trial and then use any innovative trawl gear, you should understand the legal and information requirements.

Ask us for advice

If you're planning to apply, MPI encourages you to contact our fisheries management team to discuss your concept and get guidance.

MPI can help with the technical requirements for doing a trial, and the application process. In some limited circumstances, trials may not be required to compare the innovative gear with existing nets.  Check with MPI Fisheries Management as you may be given a written waiver of the requirement to trial the innovative gear.

Step 2: Apply for a special permit

Your application to approve the use of your new trawl gear should be supported by evidence of how well it performs compared to existing nets. For this, you’ll probably need to trial the gear under a special permit.

MPI may issue special permits to enable investigative research and trialling of fishing gear. A special permit will provide you with a temporary approval to trial the new gear on a commercial fishing vessel. You may need a special permit to authorise both:

  • an initial small-scale testing of a concept
  • a full-scale trial needed to obtain enough information for the comparison between the new trawl gear (referred to as Net A in the approval application) and existing gear (referred to as Net B).

You should also consider the following document when developing your special permit application:

MPI will assess your special permit application and will ask you for more information if required.

If your application is approved we'll issue a special permit. This will include the conditions for using the new trawl gear for the trials.

Ensure your trial is effective

To meet the criteria for approving new trawl gear under the new regulations, you’ll need to do research and trials in an effective way. Remember, the end goal of the trial is to use the new net commercially. You should develop the special permit proposal for your gear trial so that it reflects how you want to use the gear if it's approved. Consider how the gear performs in relation to:

  • areas
  • seasons
  • target species
  • mid-water tow
  • bottom tow.

The Fisheries (Innovative Trawl Technologies) Notice 2017 has more details about the information you must gather during trials.

Consultation may be required before deciding whether to issue a special permit. You may choose to tell other sectors about your concept and get their support before lodging an application.

Fees and charges

MPI will charge you for:

  • the costs of assessing and processing an application for a special permit
  • amending a special permit (if you choose to do so).

The hourly rate is $133.88 (including GST, or $116.42 excluding GST). MPI will send you an invoice after a decision is made on an application.

Step 3: Apply for approval of the new trawl net

Submit your application

Once you've got enough information through the special permit trials, you can submit an application to have the new trawl net approved for use.

Send the form to the postal address in the application form, or email it to info@mpi.govt.nz

You'll need to include all the required information from the trials. MPI will ask for more information from you, if required.

MPI technical experts will assess the application against the assessment criteria set out in the regulations.

We must be satisfied that the new trawl net performs at least as well as the existing net.

The decision

We will inform you of the decision.

What happens if we approve your proposal?

If your trawl net is approved we'll publish the approval on this website, and notify you by email or post. MPI will assign your approval a unique identification code or model number.

The approval will include terms and conditions on using the approved trawl net. Conditions could include:

  • using a specific reporting code
  • restrictions on areas or depth ranges where the net can be used
  • species that you can target.

You can now promote and sell the trawl net design (with unique identification code or model number). But before you start fishing with the new trawl net, you need to follow the steps outlined in Step 4.

What happens if an application is declined?

If an application is declined, we'll advise why. If you want to re-apply, you can change your proposal and apply again. You may need to get more information by doing further trials under another special permit.


MPI will charge you for the costs of assessing and processing an application to approve new trawl technologies. The hourly rate is $150.65 including GST ($131.00 excluding GST). MPI will send you an invoice after a decision is made.

Step 4: Use the new trawl net

After we issue an approval and notify the approval on this website, vessel operators can start using the new trawl net subject to the terms and conditions issued in the approval. But first they must:

  • notify FishServe that they intend to use the approved net (using the unique identification code or model number)
  • specify which vessels they plan to use the gear on.

The new net (and all of its components) will need to be labelled with the unique identifier that MPI issued with its approval. This will allow fishery officers to identify which vessel operators have approval to use the new trawl gear. The vessel operator must also keep a copy of the approval on board for inspection and verification.

Trawl net approval

Fisheries New Zealand has approved the use of the following trawl nets under regulation 71A of the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations 2001:

Consultation on regulation amendments

We consulted from 9 May to 8 June on proposed amendments to regulations to support digital monitoring and innovative trawl technologies. These technical amendments are intended to be practical and workable for the fishing industry.

Fisheries Change Programme

Enabling Innovative Trawl Technology (EITT) is a part of the Fisheries Change Programme. The programme involves introducing new technology to help manage New Zealand's fisheries, to ensure continued sustainability now and into the future.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the commercial trawling regulations, or about how to apply for approvals to trial and use new trawl gear, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: