Apply for a high seas fishing permit

Find out how to apply for a permit to catch or transport fish on the high seas, and about the permit conditions.

High seas fishing permits are for international waters

A high seas fishing permit allows registered New Zealand vessels to catch or transport fish on the high seas. The high seas are areas of ocean that aren't covered by any country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The permit only covers certain high sea fisheries.

Fisheries covered by a high seas permit

This table shows the areas you can apply to fish in, their area codes, and the stock managed in each area.

Area name

Area code

Stock managed

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Area

CCAMLR

Antarctic marine living resources

Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna Convention Area

CCSBT

Southern bluefin tuna in all areas where they occur

South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Convention Area

SPRFMO

All fisheries resources except:

  • highly migratory species
  • anadromous and catadromous species (such as eels, salmon)
  • marine mammals, reptiles and seabirds.

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention Area

WCPFC

Highly migratory species

Areas not covered by a high seas fishing permit

A high seas fishing permit doesn't necessarily give you access to all high seas fisheries. Some high seas areas and stocks are managed under regional arrangements that New Zealand isn't a party to.

Find out how to ask for approval to fish in these waters

Permits cover requirements when fishing on the high seas

A high seas fishing permit provides:

  • general requirements for fishing on the high seas, and
  • specific conditions relating to your planned fishing activities.

Always read your permit carefully – the conditions can change from year to year.

Applying for a high seas fishing permit

These steps explain how to apply for a permit.

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What you need to know before applying

WHAT THE PROCESS COVERS

This process is for New Zealand vessel operators who want to catch or transport fish on the high seas.

If you want to fish in New Zealand waters (in the New Zealand EEZ), refer to Operating as a commercial fisher

Before you apply for a high seas fishing permit, you'll need to:

Fishing in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Convention Area

If you wish to operate in the CCAMLR Convention Area, you'll also need to apply for an Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) permit.

How to complete a high seas fishing permit application

You can apply for a high seas fishing permit through FishServe. You can either do it online or by downloading the application form.

You'll need to provide information about:

  • yourself (as the vessel operator)
  • the vessel you want a permit for (including photos)
  • where you want to fish
  • the species you want to catch in each area
  • the fishing methods you plan to use in each area
  • your fishing history.

High seas fishing permits cannot give access to all high seas fishing areas. For some, you need extra permissions.

Fishing methods and target species

On the application form, you must list for each area:

  • the fishing methods you plan to use
  • the target species codes.

If there isn't a code for the species, provide its:

  • common name, and
  • scientific name (family, genus, and species).

Answer questions about your fishing history

You'll need to give details of any previous:

  • suspension or loss of a high seas fishing permit
  • breaches of fisheries laws (including on the high seas)
  • fishing on the high seas without a high seas fishing permit.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will consider this information when deciding whether to issue you with a permit.

Check for extra requirements

Some areas and stocks managed under regional arrangements have additional requirements.

If you plan to fish in the:

Submit your completed application

Submit it online or post to FishServe.

Make sure you include:

  • the required documents listed on the application form
  • any extra requirements for the areas you plan to fish in.

Allow 20 working days for your application to be processed.

Getting your permit

If you get approval, FishServe will:

  • issue you with a high seas fishing permit with the conditions you need to meet
  • place your permit details on the public high seas fishing permit register.

Check your permit thoroughly to make sure you understand the permit conditions – these can change from year to year.

New Zealanders on foreign vessels

New Zealand nationals can't use a foreign-registered vessel to fish on the high seas unless they are authorised to do so by the country the vessel is flagged to. That country must be a party to:

  • the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement
  • the FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and
  • Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas
  • a relevant global, regional, or sub-regional fisheries organisation or arrangement.

A New Zealand national is a New Zealand citizen, resident, or body corporate.

Permit conditions 

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General permit requirements you'll need to meet

1. Always carry the permit or a copy of it on board the vessel.
2. Notify MPI of your intention to:

  • leave port on a high seas trip
  • enter and exit from any EEZ or restricted area
  • enter port from a high seas trip
  • dispose of or receive fish by transhipment.

3. You may have to carry observers on your vessel.
4. The vessel must be inspected before leaving a New Zealand port.
5. The vessel must carry and continuously operate a GPR device.
6. The vessel must be marked in accordance with the Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations 2001. Tenders must also be marked.
7. Landing into a New Zealand port must be to a Licensed Fish Receiver, and a fishery officer or observer must supervise the landing – unless an exemption is issued.
8. Landing into a foreign port requires the prior written approval from MPI
9. You need prior approval from MPI to move fish between vessels (tranship) on a trip – both to and from the vessel.
10. You must complete the appropriate high seas reports for your fishing activities.
11. The vessel must:

  • go directly to the high seas when leaving port (to fish on the high seas) and not fish in the New Zealand EEZ unless it has prior approval from MPI
  • go directly to port when entering the New Zealand EEZ and not fish unless it has prior approval from MPI
  • go directly to the high seas when leaving a foreign port (to fish on the high seas) and not fish in the country's EEZ unless it has approval from the foreign country
  • go directly to port when entering a foreign country's EEZ and not fish unless it has approval from the foreign country.

12. Whenever the vessel is in an area where fishing, or certain types of fishing, are not allowed, stow the relevant fishing equipment so that it isn't available.
13. Requirements for specific stocks or areas:

  • You must have approval from MPI to trawl on the "Westpac Bank" area of the Challenger Plateau next to New Zealand's EEZ.
  • You must have approval from MPI to fish for any straddling or highly migratory fish stocks that are subject to measures established by organisations or arrangements listed in the permit.

Find out more

Reporting to Fisheries Communication Centre

International fisheries reporting requirements

Who to contact

If you have questions about:

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