Snapper are the most popular recreational fish in New Zealand. Learn about snapper, the status of the fishery, and how we're managing snapper populations for future generations.
Image of a snapper fish

About snapper

Māori name(s): tāmure, kouarea

Scientific name: Pagrus auratus

Snapper are copper-pink on top with a silver-white underside and a number of small blue dots on their sides.

They are:

  • most abundant at depths of 15m to 60m but are found down to about 200m
  • widely distributed in the warmer waters of New Zealand, and most abundant in the Hauraki Gulf
  • the dominant fish in northern inshore communities
  • at home in a wide range of habitats, including rocky reefs and areas with sandy or muddy bottoms.

Snapper mature at 3 to 4 years when they are 20cm to 28cm long. They can live for over 60 years and grow up to 105cm. They release numerous batches of eggs throughout spring and summer.

Check fishing rules for snapper

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

The snapper fishery

The snapper 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.

Image of Snapper fishery areas

2016 catch allowances (tonnes)

Snapper 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 snapper in each management area. From the total allowable catch (in tonnes), an allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing, and other fishing-related deaths. The remainder is the commercial allowance.

Area Total allowable catch Commercial allowance Customary allowance Recreational allowance Other mortality2
SNA 1 8050 4500 50 3050 450
SNA 2 450 315 14 90 31
SNA 3 1 32.3
SNA 7 306 200 16 90
SNA 8 1785 1300 43 312 130
SNA 10 10

1 Areas marked '–' have no allowance set (not enough information is available to set catch allowances)
2 Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as discarding and poaching.

Stock status of SNA 1

Graph of Snapper stock status SNA1

The graphs show stock size for SNA 1 – the largest snapper fishery management area by catch. Snapper populations started declining in the 1980s when modern commercial fishing methods were introduced. Those methods meant a lot more fish were caught.

However, fish populations started to recover again in the 1990s. Fisheries New Zealand is managing the fishery to keep rebuilding the snapper population until it is around 40% of the original unfished stock level (stock before modern fishing methods were introduced).

Apart from fishing, the amount of fish in SNA 1 is affected by the number of young fish entering the fishery and environmental factors like water temperature.

Find out more

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

Report poaching

Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email

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 the information on this page, email

Last reviewed: