How we manage New Zealand's fisheries

Fisheries New Zealand guides the sustainable use of New Zealand's fisheries resources. Learn how we manage commercial fisheries to protect our resources and the environment.

Fisheries management

We guide the sustainable use of New Zealand's fisheries resources – making sure we balance economic, social, environmental, and cultural outcomes.

We manage:

Strengthening fisheries management

In late 2015, we launched a major programme to improve the way we manage our fisheries. The Fisheries Change Programme (previously called the Future of Our Fisheries programme) will strengthen our fisheries management system and change the way we monitor commercial fishers. The programme won't change the Quota Management System tools, or the rights associated with owning quota.

Management under the QMS

New Zealand fisheries are managed under the Quota Management System (QMS). Under the QMS, a yearly catch limit (the total allowable catch, TAC) is set for every fish stock. By controlling the amount of fish taken from each stock, the QMS helps keep New Zealand fisheries sustainable.

From the TAC, an allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing and other fishing-related mortality, and the remainder is the total allowable commercial catch (TACC).

How we monitor fish stocks

Fisheries New Zealand's Harvest Strategy Standard (HSS) guides the way we manage fish stocks under the QMS.

Under the standard, we monitor and manage fish stocks using 4 performance measures.

  • A target level – the level we want fish stock to fluctuate around for the best balance between use and sustainability, while allowing for environmental variation.
  • A soft limit – if stock falls below this level we consider it overfished and manages the fishery to rebuild it. 
  • A hard limit – if stock falls below this level we consider it collapsed. The fishery may be closed to rebuild it.
  • An overfishing threshold – a rate of stock removal that will lead to levels below the other performance measures.

The Operational guidelines for New Zealand’s Harvest Strategy Standard help fisheries scientists, managers and stakeholders use the standard. 

Quota and ACE

Quota gives commercial fishers a share of a fish stock. 

After the TACC for a stock has been set, each quota owner is allocated catch based on the quota they own. Known as Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) this may then be traded or sold.

Crown quota

 The Crown is one of the largest quota holders due to: 

  • new stocks entering the QMS  – where there is quota 'left over' after stock is allocated to Māori (20%) and to commercial fishers
  • forfeited quota – quota may be transferred to the Crown if a quota owner is convicted of an offence
  • surrendered quota – when fishers surrender quota to the Crown because they are leaving the fishing industry. This happens when they don't want to sell a small amount of quota because the cost of transferring it is more than the quota’s value.

Crown quota is transferred to commercial fishers through public tender with a set reserve price. We include all Crown-held quota shares in a tender round unless:

  • we're concerned about sustainability of the stock
  • the stock is in the Kermadec Fisheries Management Area (Area 10 stocks)
  • there are legal proceedings involving the species or stock
  • there are outstanding appeals with the Catch History Review Committee (catch history is used to allocate quota for some stocks)
  • there are public concerns about fishing for the stock (for example, some shark species).

Fisheries managed by sector

Fisheries New Zealand manages New Zealand fisheries in different sectors. Find out more about how we manage:

Fish species and stocks by management team [PDF, 333 KB] 

Fisheries and the environment

We work to minimise the effects of fishing on the environment, including on other species. We work with industry to monitor and reduce fishing bycatch through the:

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