Fisheries observers

Our observers collect independent information on board commercial fishing vessels about fishing catch and effort, fishing activity, and effects of fishing on the environment. Find out about the information they collect, what you need to do if an observer is on your vessel, and our planned observer days.

What fisheries observers do

Fisheries New Zealand places observers on vessels commercially fishing in New Zealand waters and the high seas, if landing to New Zealand (under international agreements). They independently confirm catch and effort to catch fish and collect a range of information including:

  • data on fish being caught, fish processing and fishing activity
  • information about marine mammal and bird interactions
  • biological information for stock assessment
  • unusual specimens for museums
  • information about vessel safety and employment.

Independent catch and effort data

Observers collect independent data to compare to fishing vessel data. They keep a separate catch and effort logbook, recording:

  • catch calculations and amounts for all species caught
  • details of fishing operations such as:
    • start and finish times
    • positions
    • fishing and bottom depths
    • devices and practices to protect non-targeted species
    • catch data for each tow or set.

Data collected for other agencies

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

If an observer is on your vessel

If we ask you to take an observer on your fishing vessel, then you must carry one as a condition of your fishing permit. You must provide them with:

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

Observers aren't enforcement officers, but they must record any potential offences they observe.

2020-2021 observer seadays plan

Each year, Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation plan the number of observer days needed at sea for different fisheries and clients. The 'seadays plan' is for 1 July to 30 June each year.

The following tables show the current number of sea days planned for each fishery and the total delivered up to 31 December 2020.

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

 

Observer pre-placement health and safety assessments

Commercial fishing vessels need to pass a health and safety assessment before an observer can board for departure. This will help Fisheries New Zealand meet its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Fisheries New Zealand staff will assess a vessel before the observer is deployed. This should give the owner the opportunity to mitigate health and safety issues without it being held in port.

For now, a pre-placement health and safety assessment must always be performed before an observer boards for departure. To reduce the disruption that assessments may cause, Fisheries New Zealand is developing a risk assessment process to determine how often assessments are needed. This will make sure everyone meets their health and safety obligations with the least disruption.

Fisheries New Zealand has developed assessment forms for both inshore and deep water vessels. Fishers should read these to ensure they understand what inspections will involve.

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, 130 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 observers, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: