Highly migratory species fisheries

Find out how we manage highly migratory species and ensure they're fished sustainably.

About highly migratory species fisheries

Highly migratory species (HMS) are fish that swim large distances and go beyond New Zealand waters. Most New Zealand commercial fish species (non-HMS) stay in New Zealand waters.

Examples of HMS that are caught in New Zealand

Target HMS include:

  • bigeye tuna (surface longline)
  • yellowfin tuna (surface longline)
  • southern bluefin tuna (surface longline)
  • swordfish (surface longline)
  • albacore tuna (mostly by trolling)
  • skipjack tuna (by purse seine, in New Zealand waters and other areas of the Pacific Ocean).

Learn about commercial fishing methods – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Because HMS move outside of New Zealand waters, we manage them with other countries. This is usually done through:

  • regional fisheries management organisations
  • international agreements.

Learn about international fisheries management

Managing HMS fisheries

We manage HMS fisheries under the National fisheries plan for highly migratory species fisheries.

National fisheries plan for highly migratory species 2019 [PDF, 1.5 MB]

This plan guides New Zealand's:

  • management of HMS in New Zealand waters
  • international role in managing HMS
  • changes or decisions for HMS fisheries under the Fisheries Act 1996
  • planning for fisheries services.

When we make the plan, we work with:

  • tangata whenua representatives
  • commercial and recreational fishing representatives
  • environmental groups.

These groups form the HMS fisheries plan advisory group.

The plan is implemented through an:

  • annual operational plan, explaining what we plan to deliver
  • annual review report, assessing progress over the past year.

Annual operational plan for highly migratory species fisheries 2020/21 [PDF, 839 KB]

Annual review report for highly migratory species fisheries 2019/20 [PDF, 1.5 MB]

Sustainable management of HMS fisheries

We make sure HMS fisheries are economically and environmentally sustainable by:

  • promoting effective regional management of HMS fisheries
  • using suitable fisheries management tools in New Zealand waters, including:
    • our Quota Management System for target species, and
    • other controls to keep non-quota (non-target) species healthy
  • reducing bycatch
  • supporting international sustainability certification of some fisheries.

Sustainable fisheries certification

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies fisheries around the world as sustainable. For New Zealand fisheries, the MSC has certified:

  • the albacore tuna troll fishery
  • Talley's skipjack tuna purse seine fishery.

This means they have met the MSC's sustainable fisheries and environmental standards.

MSC certification is internationally recognised. It gives:

  • assurance that a fishery is being managed sustainably
  • access to important overseas markets for certain species – others can trust we're doing the right thing.

Different fishing methods and sustainability

Environmental effects of HMS fishing depend on the fishing method. For example:

  • longline fishing also catches non-target species and other animals (bycatch), including seabirds and turtles
  • purse seine fishing for skipjack tuna has little bycatch in New Zealand waters
  • albacore troll fishing has no major bycatch, and minimal environmental impact.

We manage the effects of commercial fishing on the environment in New Zealand and internationally. We do this under regional fisheries management organisation arrangements. Details on this for HMS fisheries can be found in the HMS fisheries plan and the annual operational plan.

Reducing longline bycatch

We have management measures in place to reduce the effects of longlining on non-target species. For example:

  • certain vessels must use fishing gear and devices that deter seabirds
  • we support industry to develop and use more environmentally-friendly fishing gear.

We also support management of the environmental effects of longline fisheries outside New Zealand waters. This includes managing New Zealand fisher activities and their catch. This is done under international arrangements.

Read more about reducing deaths of seabirds by fishing gear

Who to contact

If you have questions about HMS fisheries, contact info@mpi.govt.nz

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