Fisheries observer services

Find out about what fisheries observers do and check planned observer seadays. Check what you need to provide if an observer is coming on your boat.

What fisheries observers do

Fisheries observers join commercial fishing boat trips to collect data. They collect data on:

  • what fish the fishers are catching
  • how many fish they're catching
  • information on marine mammal and seabirds (by-catch and sightings)
  • biological information to help with assessing fish stocks
  • unusual specimens for museums
  • information about vessel safety and employment
  • fish processing information.

Observers provide independent data on fishing catch and effort

The data that observers collect is independent. They compare it against data from the fishing boats. They keep a separate logbook recording catch and effort. This includes:

  • catch information and amounts for all species caught
  • details of fishing operations, like:
    • start and finish times
    • positions and places where fish were caught
    • fishing and bottom depths
    • devices and practices to protect protected species (like seabirds and marine mammals)
    • catch data for each tow or set.

Data collected for other agencies

Observers collect information for Fisheries New Zealand as well as for:

If an observer is on your boat

You must take an observer on your boat if we ask you to. This is a requirement under the Fisheries Act 1996. You must provide them with:

  • food
  • accommodation
  • access to the boat, records, fish, crew, and equipment
  • full access to communication devices on the boat
  • help to complete their duties.

Observers are not enforcement officers. However, they must record any potential offences that they observe.

Number of days that observers spend at sea

Each year, we work with the Department of Conservation to plan the total number of days that observers will be at sea for. This is called a "seadays plan". These plans always run from 1 July to 30 June of the next year.

2020-2021 observer seadays plan

The following tables show the number of seadays planned and completed between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021.

Inshore fisheries

Middle-depth fisheries

Deepwater fisheries

Highly migratory

Other fisheries

Inshore fisheries

Fishery Stock management and environment (Fisheries NZ) Conservation (DOC) Total planned Total completed 
West Coast North Island set net + bottom long-line + trawl 115 115 230 244
Snapper 1 (SNA1) trawl - Standard 109 109 218 79
Snapper 1 (SNA1) trawl-PSH 60 60 120 51
Tarakihi 2 (TAR2) trawl 77 77 154 31
South Coast South Island set net 90.5 90.5 181 47
East Coast South Island set net - Kaikoura 142 142 284 38
East Coast South Island set net - Otago 66.5 66.5 133 46
East Coast South Island trawl - TMP 120 120 240 163
East Coast South Island trawl - TAR 196.5 196.5 393 45
South Coast South Island trawl 64 64 128 29
Bottom long line - (SNA1) 187.5 187.5 375 110
Bluenose/hapuku and bass 1 (BNS/HPB1) bottom long line 50.5 50.5 101 34
Set net - BNS1 11.5 11.5 23 0


Middle-depth (MD) fisheries

Fishery Stock management and environment (Fisheries NZ) Conservation (DOC) Total planned Total completed 
Southern blue whiting 360 90 450 254
Squid 1280 320 1600 146
West Coast North Island FOVs 212.5 37.5 250 120
West Coast South Island FOVs 318.75 56.25 375 441
Chatham Rise Middle Depth FOVs 340 60 400 85
Sub-Antarctic Middle Depth FOVs 403.75 71.25 475 252
West Coast North Island Domestic 42.5 7.5 50 87
West Coast South Island Domestic 170 30 200 229
Chatham Rise Middle Depth Domestic 361.25 63.75 425 314
Sub-Antarctic Middle Depth Domestic 153 27 180 56
Hoki Cook Strait 85 15 100 80
WCSI Hoki-Inside the line 85 15 100 95
Scampi 6A 160 40 200 200
Scampi Other 140 35 175 60
LIN BLL >34m 85 15 100 64
Ling BLL <34m 170 30 200 81

Deepwater (DW) fisheries

Fishery Stock management and environment (Fisheries NZ) Conservation (DOC) Total planned Total completed
North Island Deepwater 67.5 7.5 75 31
Chatham Rise Deepwater 225 25 250 132
Sub-Antarctic Deepwater 67.5 7.5 75 43
West Coast Deepwater 54 6 60 49

Highly migratory species

Fishery Stock management and environment (Fisheries NZ) Conservation (DOC) Total planned Total completed
Domestic tuna longline - North Island STN 131.75 23.25 155 139
Domestic tuna longline - South Island STN 119 21 140 42
Domestic SLL - North Island BIG/SWO 97.75 17.25 115 0
Domestic SLL - South Island BIG/SWO 17 3 20 0
Domestic purse seine 61.2 10.8 72 12
Domestic purse seine (super seiner) 25.5 4.5 30 0

Other

Fishery1 Compliance Requested days/permit requirements (industry) Total planned Total completed
Compliance 100   100 32
High risk vessels   0 0 115
Medium risk vessels   50 50 0
CCAMLR1   265 265 291
SPRFMO1 bottom long line   250 250 214
SPRFMO1 Exploratory bottom long-line   50 50 21
SPRFMO1 Exploratory bottom long-line   100 100 0
West coast North Island trawl survey   30 30 33
WCPFC1 surface long-line   10 10 0
Vessel specific conversion factor   30 30 27

1CCAMLR – Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources, SPFRMO – South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, WCPFC – Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission

Fishery Stock management and environment (Fisheries NZ) Conservation (DOC) Total planned Total completed
Training 680 120 800 262

 

Heath and safety assessment before leaving port

A commercial fishing boat must pass a health and safety assessment before it leaves port with an observer on it. This helps us to meet obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Fisheries New Zealand does the assessment.

We're making a risk assessment process

We're making a risk assessment process for boats that will have an observer on board. This will help to:

  • work out how often your boat needs a health and safety assessment
  • reduce disruption that the assessments might cause
  • help everyone with meeting their health and safety obligations.

Find out what the assessment involves

We have assessment forms for both inshore and deepwater boats. Fishers should read these to make sure they understand what the assessments will involve.

We've updated these in response to COVID-19.

Deep water pre-placement health and safety assessment form [PDF, 196 KB]

Inshore pre-placement health and safety assessment form [PDF, 183 KB]

Previous seadays plans

2019-2020 observer seadays [PDF, 128 KB]

2018-2019 observer seadays [PDF, 45 KB]

2017-2018 observer seadays [PDF, 360 KB]

2016-2017 observer seadays [PDF, 358 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about fisheries observer services, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: