Pāua: rules and guidelines
Pāua (known as abalone in other countries) are a unique species of shellfish found only in New Zealand. Learn more about how to gather pāua, including specific rules and guidelines that help keep their population sustainable.
Daily catch/bag and legal size limits
Pāua are a precious resource, for both their flesh and their multicoloured shells. Legal size limits are set to allow pāua to reach maturity and breed before they are harvested.
We have a summary of the rules and methods for gathering pāua:
Brochure: Guidelines for gathering pāua [PDF, 2.7 MB]
Each day, a person can take a maximum of:
- 10 ordinary (blackfoot) pāua
- 10 yellow-foot pāua.
Some areas may have other restrictions and rules.
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).
The minimum legal size for taking blackfoot pāua is:
- 80mm (shell-length) for the area around Taranaki
- 125mm (shell length) for the rest of New Zealand.
Pāua around Taranaki often don't reach 125mm. This is probably because of the environment.
The minimum legal size for yellow-foot pāua is 80mm.
Restrictions on underwater breathing apparatus
You can't have an underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) while collecting pāua (or while you're in possession of pāua). This includes having a UBA in your vehicle or on your vessel.
Pāua in Kaikoura and Cape Campbell
Due to the November 2016 earthquake, fishing is restricted around Kaikōura and Cape Campbell.
Keeping pāua sustainable
To protect the sustainability of New Zealand pāua:
- measure pāua underwater, for example with a pāua knife
- never use sharp objects when removing pāua from rocks or reefs
- return undersized pāua as you found them
- keep pāua in seawater and out of the sun
- keep within the size and catch/bag limits
- take only a few pāua from each area
- never remove or shuck pāua from its shell until you're above the high-water mark.
You can use our pāua knife to remove pāua without damaging them, and to check they are the right size.
Contact us to get a pāua knife
You can request a pāua knife from your local fisheries office.
Video: A guide to gathering pāua (1:36)
[Fisheries officers Justine and Tokanui address the camera directly, between video footage described below.]
Justine: Pāua can be found along much the New Zealand coastline.
Tokanui: Pāua's been taking a hammering from poaching and incorrect handling.
Justine: To ensure pāua is around for a while make sure you understand the rules for your area.
[A man crosses a beach carrying fins, a collecting bag and an orange plastic pāua knife/ruler.]
Justine: Pāua can be taken while snorkeling or sometimes by gathering at low tide.
[He rinses a dive mask in the water with the ruler/knife on the rocks next to him. He enters the water wearing a mask and snorkel. He is seen underwater wearing the snorkel.]
Justine: If you are snorkeling for pāua, no breathing apparatus is permitted. This gives pāua stocks a chance to replenish in deeper water where they can't be reached.
Tokanui: When snorkeling it's a good idea to check the size of the pāua on the spot so it has a better chance of survival if it is below the minimum size.
[The diver measures a pāua on a rock underwater.]
Tokanui: If it looks of size, gently slide a knife between the pāua and the rock, being careful not to injure the pāua as it will often bleed to death when it's been cut.
[The diver uses the plastic knife/ruler to remove the pāua from the rock, then turns it over to measure it again on the underside.]
Tokanui: If it does work out to be too small place it back where got it and hold it there for a few seconds.
[The diver places a pāua on a rock underwater and leaves his hand on it momentarily.]
Justine: Under normal circumstances you're allowed to take 10 legal-sized pāua per day. But that doesn't mean you have to get that every time. 10 might be more than you need.
Tokanui: To shuck a pāua run your thumb between the pāua and the shell. You will feel it separate. Remove the skirt and the 2 teeth at the front of the pāua. And there you have it. Ready to tenderise.
[A diver in a boat measures the underside of a pāua. We see someone insert his thumb between the flesh of the pāua and the shell almost to the second knuckle, then begin to slide his thumb around the edge of the shell to further separate it.
Justine: By following these steps, we know that our future generations can enjoy pāua.
Get text alerts on your area. Text your region name to 9889.
[A mobile phone is shown with text on the screen:
You can report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity online:
You can also:
- call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24), or
- email email@example.com
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 pāua rules and guidelines, email firstname.lastname@example.org