Kaikōura area fishing rules

Recreational fishing rules for the Kaikōura area, including closures, restrictions, and other important notices.

What you need to know


This area is within the South-East area but has different rules. It covers the waters from Clarence Point to the mouth of the Conway River out to a distance of 12 nautical miles.

All recreational fishing – including potting, netting and all other fishing methods – is covered by rules.

Remember, if you're a recreational fisher, selling any fish or shellfish you catch is illegal.



New netting restrictions

From 1 October 2020, new fishing measures are in place to support the threat management plan for Hector's and Māui dolphins. The use of recreational and commercial set nets is prohibited in a number of areas across the country, and the trawl prohibition within the central Māui dolphin habitat zone has been extended. Drift netting is prohibited in all New Zealand waters.

Make sure you are up to date. To learn more about the changes see the "closures and restrictions" section below, or download the rules brochure.

New blue cod rules

From 1 July 2020, the minimum catch size of blue cod is standardised to 33cm across most areas. A "traffic light system" is used to indicate the daily bag limit for different areas.

Make sure you are up to date. To learn more about the changes see the "closures and restrictions" section below, or download the rules brochure.

Ways to check the rules

This page has a summary of:

You can also check rules in our brochures, use the free NZ Fishing Rules app, or text us. You'll also see signs about rules at many fishing spots.

Get a brochure

Other languages

Download the free NZ Fishing Rules app

Or free text "app" to 9889 to be sent the links to your phone. Once installed, the app will work without an internet connection.

Use our free text service

Send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species.

For example, text "blue cod" or "pāua" to 9889. You'll be sent legal bag and size limits for that species by return text.

 Limits, closures, and restrictions

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Finfish bag and size limits

A summary of the finfish daily bag and size limits.

In the Kaikōura area there is a combined maximum daily bag limit of 30 finfish per fisher, consisting of any combination of species listed in Table 1. Individual species limits must not be exceeded.

Any catch taken from the area is included in the combined daily bag limit for the South-East area.

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for finfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Finfish Species Max daily limit per fisher Min fish length (cm)
Albacore tuna See below**
Bass/Hapuku See below**

Blue cod

Blue cod rules changing from 1 July 2020

6 33
Blue moki 10 40
Bluenose See below**
Blue shark 1 game shark total
Bronze shark 1
Butterfish/Greenbone 10 35
Elephant fish 5
Eel 6
Flatfish (except Sand flounder) 30 25
Grey Mullet 30
Hammerhead shark 1 game shark total
Kahawai 10
Kingfish See below** 75
Ling See below**
Mako shark 1 game shark total
Marble fish 30
Sea perch 20 26
Porbeagle shark 1 game shark total
Red gurnard 30 25
Red cod 10 25
Red moki No take
Rig 3
Salmon 2
Sand flounder 30 23
School shark 3
Seven gilled shark 1 game shark total
Skate/Ray 5
Snapper 10 25
Spiny dogfish 15
Stargazer 30
Tarakihi 10 25
Trevally 30 25
Thresher shark 1 game shark total
Trumpeter 15 35
Warehou 15
Wrasse 30

*  Kaikōura – North Canterbury (those waters between Clarence Point and the Waimakariri River). Maximum daily limit of 10 blue cod per person fishing.
**  Daily combined bag limit of 5 per person with a maximum of 3 of any one species.


Harvesting Karengo and Bladder kelp are subject to daily limits and restrictions as follows:

Species Daily limit per fisher Restriction
Karengo 5 litre wet volume measured in a 5 litre bucket Require hand gathering
Bladder kelp 5 litre wet volume measured in a 5 litre bucket Require hand gathering
Shellfish bag and size limits
A summary of the shellfish daily bag and size limits.

Shellfish are taken when they cannot freely return to the water, for example placed into a catch bag or similar. At no time while gathering may you be in possession of more than your daily limit.

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for shellfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Shellfish Species Daily limit per fisher Min size (mm)
Cockle+  50 none
Kina (sea eggs)+ 20 none
Mussels+ 50 none
– Ordinary
– Yellow foot


Pipi+ 150 none
Pupu (Cats eye)+ 20 none
Tuatua+ 150 none
All others (combined) • 30 none

• This is a combined, mixed-species bag limit. It applies to all shellfish species not specifically named above, and includes all crabs, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, whelks, barnacles and freshwater crayfish (koura).
+Shellfish collection is currently prohibited in the Kaikoura and Cape Campbell regions due to the earthquake closure. See map under closures and restrictions for more information. This ban does not apply to rock lobster, scampi or octopus.

Rock lobster/Crayfish

A summary of the rock lobster/crayfish daily bag and size limits.

Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for rock lobster within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.

Rules changing in CRA5 area from 1 July 2020

Daily bag limits

Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) on any one day.

Spiny rock lobster minimum size

Measure the tail width in a straight line between the tips of the two large (primary) spines on the second segment of the tail. If you are unsure of the sex, use the 60mm measurement.

Packhorse lobster minimum size

Measure the tail length along the underside in a straight line from the rear of the calcified bar on the first segment to the tip of the middle fan of the tail. Must have a tail length of at least 216mm (male and female).

Telson Clipping

The telson is the central part of the tail fan on a rock lobster. Telson clipping is a way of marking spiny rock lobster to make it clear that they have been recreationally caught. One-third of the telson is cut off so that it is noticeably shorter than the other sections of the tail fan.

In the Kaikōura area, fishers must check that a lobster is legal size, condition and not subject to any other protections (i.e. carrying eggs) then, must immediately cut one-third off the telson.

Labelled diagram of a telson-clipped lobster [PDF, 551 KB]

Additional rules and protections

There are rules and protections for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover: protected types, gathering methods, pot construction and use. For more details check the:

Closures and restrictions

A summary of areas where catch limits and sizes may be different. More information is in the rules brochure.

Closed areas

No fishing is allowed, this includes Marine Reserves.

  • Hikurangi Marine Reserve
  • Waiopuka (Wakatu Quay)

Marine reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Kaikōura earthquake-related closure

The area between Marfells Beach (west of Cape Campbell) and the Conway River (which sits south of the Kaikōura township), extending 4 nautical miles from shore is closed to the gathering of shellfish and seaweed – excluding rock lobster, scampi and octopus.

The closure applies to both recreational and commercial fishers, and is necessary to help the recovery of these fisheries.

  • It applies to all shellfish and seaweed species.
  • The closure excludes scampi (Metanephrops challengeri), rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) and octopus (Pinnoctopus cordiformis).
  • Gathering shellfish or seaweed in the closed area is an offence and you could be fined up to $100,000.
Marlborough and North Canterbury fishing areas

The marine environment in the shellfish and seaweed closure area is damaged after the earthquakes, and it’s going to take several years to recover. The loss of fishing grounds between North Canterbury (Conway River) and Marlborough (Marfells Beach) has caused an increase in fishing pressure on the neighbouring areas.

If you are gathering kaimoana in Marlborough and Canterbury, do your part to help keep these fisheries sustainable by:

  • Limiting your catch by taking less than your bag limit and just enough for a feed.
  • Changing your fishing method or area if you are only catching small fish or shellfish.
  • Taking special care to return an underside fish and shellfish immediately and with minimum harm.
  • Check local rules for updates every time you go fishing – download the NZ Fishing Rules app.
  • Report suspicious or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24).
Map: The affected area of the earthquake-related closure
November 2016 - Map of closed area from Cape Campbell to Conway River
Map showing the area covered by the earthquake-related closure.

Restricted areas

Particular fishing methods are banned or catch/bag limits for particular species are different.

  • Ōhau New Zealand Fur Seal Sanctuary
  • Te Rohe o Te Whānau Puha Whale Sanctuary

Kaikoura marine area set net closures

The Kaikoura Marine area is closed to all set netting.

Map showing the areas affected by set net restrictions.

Food safety warnings

Warnings are issued when shellfish are unsafe to eat because of contamination with biotoxin.

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.

It is illegal to buy, sell or swap recreationally caught seafood

These are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.

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