Pāua are unique to New Zealand and highly valued. Learn about pāua and the status of the fishery.

image of paua four different views

About pāua

Other name: abalone

Scientific names: Haliotis iris, Haliotis australis

Pāua are large sea snails that are highly valued by Māori, recreational fishers and the commercial fishing industry. Pāua have always been a food source for Māori, and play a significant role in manaakitanga ki ngā manuhiri (hosting of visitors).

Black-foot pāua (Haliotis iris) make up most of the pāua fishery while yellow-foot pāua (Haliotis australis) are only caught in small numbers.


  • live in shallow waters (generally less than 10m) off the coastline of New Zealand
  • have a very small home range and can form large groups in suitable areas
  • reproduce by releasing large amounts of spawn that are carried by ocean currents to new settlement sites.

Successful spawning is related to the number and size of groups, so it's important to leave some pāua to breed for the next generation. Habitat such as reefs and seaweed are important for settlement of their larvae.

Check fishing rules for pāua

The minimum legal size for harvesting black-foot pāua is 125mm (shell length) for most New Zealand waters. However, the minimum legal size for the recreational fishery around Taranaki is 85mm. Pāua in this area often don't reach 125mm, probably because of the environment.

Yellow-foot pāua have a minimum legal size of 80mm.

For most of New Zealand, recreational fishers have a bag limit of 10 of each pāua species. The maximum that one person can have in their possession (including at home) at any one time is:

  • 20 pāua
  • 2.5kg of shucked pāua (shell removed).

You can't have an Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA) while collecting or in possession of pāua. This includes having a UBA in your vehicle or on your vessel.

Due to the November 2016 earthquake, fisheries in the Kaikōura and Cape Campbell regions are closed. 

The pāua fishery

The pāua fishery is split into 11 fishery management areas. Catch allowances are set differently for each area depending on population size, the health of stock and fishing pressure.

 image of Paua fishery area

2016 catch allowances (tonnes)

Pāua are managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System (QMS). By controlling the amount of pāua taken from each area, the QMS helps keep the fishery sustainable.
The QMS sets a yearly catch allowance for pāua in each management area.

Area Total allowance Commercial allowance Customary allowance Recreational allowance Other mortality2
PAU 1 1 1.93
PAU 2 121.19
PAU 3 91.62
PAU 4 326.54
PAU 5A 148.98
PAU 5B 105 90 6 6 3
PAU 5D 134 89 3 22 20
PAU 6 1
PAU 7 133.62 93.62 15 15 10
PAU 10 1

1 Areas marked '–' have not yet had an allowance set (not enough information was available to set catch allowances and have not been reviewed since).
2 Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as incidental mortality and illegal fishing.

Stock status of pāua

Area Stock status1
PAU 3 (2014)2 At or above target
PAU 5A (2014) Southern Area: Above target
Northern Area: Above target
PAU 5B (2014) Close to target
PAU 5D (2013) Below target
PAU 7 (2015)2 Below target

1 current data not available for all areas.

2 stock status currently being monitored due to 2016 earthquake.

Find out more

For more detailed information and data about pāua 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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