How to apply for a fisheries special permit
Special permits can allow certain activities that would usually be restricted under the Fisheries Act 1996. Find out about special permits for fisheries, what they do and don’t cover, and how to apply for one.
Reasons why a special permit may be granted
Fisheries New Zealand can issue special permits under Section 97 of the Fisheries Act 1996. Special permits allow the permit holder to take fish, seaweed, or other aquatic life, for:
- eradication of unwanted aquatic life (like introduced pests or biosecurity threats)
- trials and experiments with fishing vessels or gear
- helping a person with a disability to fish by permitting alternative methods
- any other purpose that the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries approves.
A special permit can override any section of the Fisheries Act if the activities are:
- consistent with the purpose of the Act
- consistent with its principles.
We are not likely to issue a permit if your activity can be done through a legal pathway.
Special permits are not for customary fishing
Special permits do not apply to customary fishing areas and activities.
You'll need to contact the local tangata kaitiaki/tiaki (guardians) of an area to get:
- permission to take fish in a customary management area, or
- an authorisation for customary food gathering (such as kaimoana for a hui or tangi).
Activities under a special permit
A special permit could allow the holder to:
- fish in an area that is closed under regulations
- take undersized fish
- use restricted fishing gear or trial new gear
- use illegal fishing methods to eradicate or manage unwanted aquatic life (including freshwater).
Conditions may be imposed on a special permit
A special permit may include conditions on what you can and can’t do. Conditions might include:
- limiting areas where you can fish
- limiting the amount, size, or species of fish or other aquatic life you can take
- how you must dispose of fish or other aquatic life
- vessels and fishing methods you can use
- notifying Fisheries New Zealand before fishing
- what information you must report back to Fisheries New Zealand.
Time limits on permits
A special permit is issued for a specific time period. If a permit is approved, it does not grant any future:
- catch history
- individual catch entitlement, or
- other right under the Fisheries Act.
Follow the steps
Step 1: Prepare your application
Ask for advice
We encourage you to contact us first to discuss your concept and get advice. We can advise you on whether the idea is feasible, and on the application process.
Prepare your detailed proposal
All special permit proposals should include:
- the reason for the activity
- the species that will be taken
- the amount of each species that will be taken
- details of any vessels that are used
- how collections will be done
- the people involved
- how you plan to dispose of the species taken
- information on any consulting that was done.
Requirements for research and gear trials
Applications for research and gear trials must include an effective research proposal. The application form has information on the requirements.
Special permit application form [PDF, 189 KB]
Information for trialling new trawl gear
If you want a special permit so that you can trial new trawl gear, there are different legal requirements.
Consult with people and organisations who may be affected
The activities you do under a special permit might affect certain people or organisations. We'll consult with them (or their representatives) before issuing the permit. You can speed up this process by:
- doing your own consultation with the people and organisations that your activity might affect
- providing us with letters from those groups confirming that they support your proposed activities.
Consult with tangata whenua
Fisheries New Zealand acknowledges our obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi and various settlement Acts. We must provide tangata whenua with opportunities to give input and participate in managing fisheries.
Before you submit your application, we encourage you to consult with tangata whenua in the area of your proposed activities. If you're unsure who to consult with, you can email us or visit the Te Kāhui Māngai website. They have a list of iwi and Māori organisations.
Find out more
List of species of importance to tangata whenua by area [PDF, 235 KB]
Step 2: Complete the application form
After completing a detailed proposal, you need to complete the relevant application form.
Special permit application form [PDF, 189 KB]
Include your Fisheries New Zealand client number
You need to include your Fisheries New Zealand client number on the form. You will have a client number if you:
- are a commercial fisher
- are a licensed fish receiver
- are a registered or licensed fish farmer
- have had a special permit before.
If you don't have a Fisheries New Zealand client number yet
If you don't already have a Fisheries New Zealand client number, you'll need to complete the relevant client application form. You can download the one you need from the FishServe website. FishServe is our partner for administering commercial fishing in New Zealand.
Submit your completed application form
You can email your application and supporting information to:
Or, you can mail it to:
Aquaculture and Fisheries Permitting Team
Fisheries New Zealand (MPI)
Private Bag 14
We'll let you know if we need more information. If we do, there could be a delay in processing your application.
Step 3: Considering your application
After we receive your application, we'll assess the proposal and check whether it meets the purpose and principles of the Fisheries Act. It helps if you contacted us for advice in the earlier stages of developing your concept.
We'll need to be satisfied that your proposed activity:
- has merit
- is consistent with the purpose that you have applied under
- is consistent with the purpose and principles of the Fisheries Act.
If we approve your special permit, we'll email or post you a copy of it. You'll need to make sure you:
- understand and follow all the terms and conditions of the permit
- keep a copy with you whenever you're fishing under its authority.
If your special permit is declined, we'll advise you why. If it gets declined, you can change your proposal and submit it for assessment again.
The hourly rate for assessing a special permit is $133.88 (including GST, or $116.42 excluding GST). We'll send you an invoice after a decision is made. Most applications take between 6 and 20 hours to process.
Making changes to an approved special permit
As you do work under your special permit, you may find it no longer fits with the activities you're doing or wanting to do. If you need to update or change the conditions of your permit, you can email us about updating your special permit.
You do not need to use a form to update your special permit. You can just send us the information. We'll assess your request, advise you of the decision, and let you know the outcome.
Find out more
Who to contact
If you have questions about special permits or the application process, email firstname.lastname@example.org