Inshore fisheries

New Zealand's inshore fish stocks are important to tangata whenua, customary, recreational, and commercial fishers, and all New Zealanders. Because there is a range of inshore fishing activities, we use a number of approaches to ensure sustainable fisheries for future generations.

About inshore fisheries

Inshore fisheries are found from the waterways within New Zealand through to about 12 nautical miles offshore. They include:

  • freshwater fisheries – mostly longfin and shortfin eels (whitebait are managed separately by the Department of Conservation)
  • finfish fisheries – these vary around the coastline but include snapper, blue cod, flatfish, gurnard, tarakihi, and trevally
  • shellfish fisheries – including cockles, pipi, paua, and rock lobster
  • other aquatic life including seaweeds.

Find out about whitebait 

Managing inshore fisheries

Fisheries New Zealand manages most inshore fisheries under the Quota Management System (QMS).

Under the QMS, a target level is set for each fish stock to keep populations at a sustainable level. Fish stocks are kept around these target levels by setting a total allowable catch that is allocated between commercial, recreational, and Māori customary fishers.

Plans to manage inshore fisheries

Broad management of various inshore fish stocks is set out in the draft national plans for inshore finfish, shellfish, and freshwater fisheries. We're reviewing and updating these plans to reflect recent initiatives, including the Fisheries Change Programme.

Science to support management

The Medium term research plan for inshore finfish identifies core information needed to support monitoring of New Zealand’s inshore finfish stocks over the next 5 years.  This allows for coordination and planning of future research and associated costs.

Monitoring approaches identified in the medium-term plan are determined by the draft National fisheries plan for inshore finfish fisheries (2011) and any specific harvest strategies that have been developed. The national fisheries plan sets out management objectives for inshore finfish stocks and an annual planning process to identify and deliver services to support management. The medium-term plan directly contributes to the annual planning process.

Fisheries New Zealand is currently developing a new national inshore finfish fisheries plan that will guide the operational management of inshore finfish fisheries, including monitoring and research requirements. Once the new fisheries plan is approved, the medium-term research plan will need to be revised to incorporate the new management objectives and monitoring and research services contained in the new national fisheries plan. This is likely to involve a period of transition where monitoring or research requirements of fisheries management have changed.

Medium term research plan inshore finfish (August 2020) [PDF, 856 KB]

Our work with specific fisheries

Some of our current work includes a plan to rebuild a North Island snapper stock, a national strategy for blue cod, and engagement with recreational fishers.

Snapper 1 management plan

The Snapper 1 fishery supports the largest catches of snapper in New Zealand and is important to a range of different people. Although snapper stock is increasing in this area, more needs to be done to make sure snapper are fished sustainably. The Snapper 1 management plan aims to increase the snapper population to 40% of unfished levels (levels before modern fishing methods were introduced).

National Blue Cod Strategy

Blue cod fisheries in some areas are under pressure. There are different rules in different places and no combined approach – so we're developing a national strategy to make sure we have sustainable blue cod fisheries for all New Zealanders.

Recreational fishing

The Recreational Fishing Initiative is a plan to improve communication with recreational fishers. We want to better understand your concerns and work together for shared sustainable fisheries for the future.

Fisheries and the environment

The New Zealand Government helps protect the inshore environment from unwanted effects of fishing by:

  • monitoring fishing activity and interactions with the environment
  • establishing protected areas that can't be fished
  • closing some areas to bottom fishing
  • making sure fishers use fishing gear that reduces the impact on the environment (such as streamers on lines to prevent catch of seabirds).

Who to contact

If you have questions about inshore fisheries, email 

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