Enabling innovative trawl technology

Find out how to apply to trial and use new trawl gear for fishing, including nets. Get advice from us and check what you need to do.

What you need to know

Trawling is a long-established commercial fishing method. It provides a cost-effective way to catch fish. Commercial fishing law includes restrictions on the use and design of trawl nets. For example:

  • there are restrictions on what net mesh size is allowed
  • some structural features (such as net sleeves, liners, and flappers) are banned.

Commercial fishers who want to use a new kind of trawl net can apply to us for approval to trial it.

New types of nets must meet criteria

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

To ensure we’re satisfied that the net performs at least as well as an existing net, Fisheries New Zealand will assess how the net compares with an existing net for:

  • species composition
  • size composition
  • impact on protected species
  • impact on benthic species.

Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations – 71B Consideration of application for approval – NZ Legislation

How to apply

Follow these steps for getting approval to trial and use new trawl gear.

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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.

Fisheries (Innovative Trawl Technologies) Notice 2017 [PDF, 572 KB]

Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations – 71A Approval of trawl nets – NZ Legislation

Ask us for advice

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

Email info@mpi.govt.nz

We can help with:

  • the technical requirements for doing a trial
  • the application process.

In some limited circumstances, trials might not need to compare the new nets with existing nets. Check with us whether or not you need to. If we tell you that you do not need to compare nets, we may give you a written waiver of the requirement to trial the new nets.

Step 2: Apply for a “special permit”

About special permits

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. To do this, you’ll probably need to trial the gear under a “special permit”.

Fisheries New Zealand can issue special permits to enable:

  • investigative research
  • trialling of fishing gear.

A special permit will give you a temporary approval to trial the new net on a commercial fishing boat. 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 net (referred to as Net A in the approval application) and existing gear (referred to as Net B).

Make sure your trial is effective

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

  • different areas
  • seasons
  • species you’re targeting
  • mid-water tow
  • bottom tow.

This document has more details on the information you must gather during trials:

Fisheries (Innovative Trawl Technologies) Notice 2017 [PDF, 572 KB]

We’ll assess your special permit application. We’ll let you know if we need more information.

If your application is approved, we'll issue a special permit. This may include conditions for use while trialling the new trawl gear.

Step 3: Apply for approval of the new trawl net

Complete and submit your application

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

Trawl net approval application form [PDF, 161 KB]

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

Make sure you include all the required information from the trials. Fisheries New Zealand will ask for more information from you, if required.

Fisheries New Zealand 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.

What happens if we approve your proposal?

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.

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 we decline your application, we'll advise why. If you want to apply again, you can change your proposal and apply again. You may need to get more information by doing further trials. You’ll need another special permit for this.


Fisheries New Zealand will charge you for the costs of assessing and processing your application. The hourly rate is $150.65 including GST ($131.00 excluding GST). We’ll send you an invoice after we make a decision.

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.

The vessel operator must also keep a copy of the approval on board for inspection by fishery officers.

How will Fisheries New Zealand manage commercially sensitive information?

We must comply with 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 may not be released if it is not in the public interest to release it, and it:

  • is a trade secret or considered commercially sensitive
  • would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it, and it is not in the public interest to release it
  • would be likely to prejudice the supply of similar information, or information from the same source, and it is the public interest that such information should continue to be supplied

Approved trawl nets

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

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 nets, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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