Kahawai are the second most commonly caught fish in New Zealand. Find out about kahawai, the status of the fishery and how we're managing kahawai populations for future generations.
Kahawai fish

About kahawai

Māori name: kahawai

Scientific names: Arripis trutta, Arripis xylabion

The kahawai species most people are familiar with (Arripis trutta) is found around the North Island, South Island, Kermadec and Chatham Islands. They mainly occur in coastal seas, harbours and estuaries, and enter brackish water in rivers. The Kermadec kahawai (Arripis xylabion) is found seasonally around Northland.


  • school together in large groups
  • take bait easily
  • feed in water above the seabed (are pelagic), but will take food from the seabed
  • mostly eat other fish, but also eat krill.

Kahawai spawning isn't well understood but is thought to be offshore on the seabed. Kahawai can live up to 26 years and grow up to 65cm long.

Check fishing rules for kahawai

Fishing rules for kahawai and other fish species differ around the country and can change. Check the rules for your area every time before you go fishing.

The kahawai fishery

The kahawai fishery is split into 6 fishery management areas. Catch allowances are set differently for each area depending on the health of the fish population and fishing pressure.

Kahawai fishery area image

2016 catch allowances (tonnes)

Kahawai are managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System (QMS). By controlling the amount of fish taken from each area, the QMS helps keep fisheries sustainable.

The QMS sets a yearly catch limit (total allowable catch) for kahawai in each management area. From the total allowance (in tonnes), an allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing, and other fishing-related deaths. The remainder is the commercial allowance.

Area Total allowance Commercial allowance Customary allowance Recreational allowance Other mortality1
KAH 1 2220 1075 200 900 45
KAH 2 1530 705 185 610 30
KAH 3 935 410 115 390 20
KAH 4 14 9 1 4 0
KAH 8 1040 520 115 385 20
KAH 10 14 9 1 4 0

1Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as discarding and poaching.

Stock status of KAH 1

 Kahawai stock status (KAH 1) to 2013
Kahawai stock status (KAH 1) to 2013 (vertical dashed line shows start of predicted stock).

The graph shows stock for KAH 1 – the largest kahawai fishery management area by catch – gradually declined until the late 1970s. This was followed by a bigger drop in the 1980s because of changes to commercial fishing methods. Stock has varied since then but has mostly been rising since 2000.

Fisheries New Zealand is managing the fishery to keep the kahawai population around 52% of the original unfished stock (stock before modern commercial fishing methods were introduced). Current stock is well above this target level.

Find out more

For more detailed information and data about kahawai fisheries, download the latest:

Report poaching

Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email poacher@mpi.govt.nz

You can help us by providing:

  • the location
  • vehicle/trailer registration number
  • boat name
  • description of the person

When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.

Who to contact

If you have questions about this page, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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