Kaikōura area fishing rules

Recreational fishing rules for the Kaikōura area, including closed areas, special restrictions, and other important notices.

About the Kaikōura fishing area

This area is within the South-East fishing 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.

This page has the rules for:

  • size limits
  • catch/bag limits (how many fish or shellfish you can take each day)
  • closed areas (where you cannot fish)
  • special restrictions.

All recreational fishing is covered by the rules. This includes potting, netting, and all other fishing methods.

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


New netting restrictions

On 1 October 2020, new fishing rules were inroduced to help protect Hector's and Māui dolphins.

  • Set nets are banned in several areas of the country.
  • The trawl prohibition within the central Māui dolphin habitat zone has been extended.
  • Drift netting is banned everywhere in New Zealand.

New blue cod rules

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

How to check the rules

You can find a summary of the size and catch limits, closed areas, and special restrictions further down this page.

Size limits, catch/bag limits, closed areas, and special restrictions

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

Download the free NZ Fishing Rules app

Mac App Store for Apple devices

Google Play for android devices

Or free text "app" to 9889 to be sent the links to your phone. After you install it, the app will work without an internet connection.

Get a brochure

Download the rules brochure [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Visit a Fisheries New Zealand office

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 receive a text with legal bag and size limits for that species.

Size limits, catch limits, closed areas, and special restrictions

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Finfish – size limits and catch/bag limits

Size limits and catch limits for finfish.

Size limits and catch limits for finfish.

In the Kaikōura area, there is a combined daily limit of 30 fish per fisher, consisting of any combination of species listed in Table 1. You must need exceed individual species limits.

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

You can have fish in Table 2 in addition to the maximum of 30 fish from Table 1.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. For example, a harbour might have different size limits for certain species. Check the "Closed areas and special restrictions" section on this page for more information.

Finfish Species

Max daily limit per fisher

Min fish length (cm)

Albacore tuna

See below**


See below**

Blue cod

Blue cod rules changed from 1 July 2020



Blue moki




See below**

Blue shark

1 game shark total

Bronze shark





Elephant fish




Flatfish (except Sand flounder)



Grey Mullet


Hammerhead shark

1 game shark total




See below**



See below**

Mako shark

1 game shark total

Marble fish


Sea perch



Porbeagle shark

1 game shark total

Red gurnard



Red cod



Red moki

No take





Sand flounder



School shark


Seven gilled shark

1 game shark total






Spiny dogfish










Thresher shark

1 game shark total








* 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:


Daily limit per fisher



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 – size limits and catch/bag limits

A summary of the shellfish daily bag and size limits.

Shellfish are considered "taken" (collected or harvested) when they cannot freely return to the water. For example, when you put them in a bag. When you're gathering/collection, you can never possess more than your daily limit.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. For example, a harbour might have different size limits for certain species. Check the 'Closed areas and restrictions' section on this page for more information.

Shellfish Species

Daily limit per fisher

Min size (mm)




Kina (sea eggs)+






– Ordinary
– Yellow foot






Pupu (Cats eye)+






All others (combined) •



• 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 banned in the Kaikoura and Cape Campbell regions. This is due to the earthquake closure. See the map under "closed areas and special restrictions" for more information. This ban does not apply to rock lobster, scampi, or octopus.


Rock lobster/Crayfish rules

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

This section has the rules for both:

  • spiny rock lobster
  • packhorse lobster.

Remember, there may be other specific rules in some areas. Check the 'Closed areas and special restrictions' section on this page for more information.

Rules changed 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.

  • The minimum measurement for males is 54mm.
  • The minimum measurement for females is 60mm.
  • If you're not sure what sex the lobster is, 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 (tail fan) 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]

Other rules and protections

There are rules for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover:

  • protected types
  • banned gathering methods
  • pot construction and use.
Protected types

You can't take:

  • female rock lobster “in berry” carrying external eggs
  • soft shell stage rock lobster (rock lobster that has shed its skin)
  • unmeasurable rock lobster (like if its tail is damaged)
  • undersized rock lobster.
Banned gathering methods
  • You can't possess rock lobster in an unmeasurable state seaward of the high water mark.
  • No spring-loaded loops or lassos – hand operated only.
  • No spears or puncturing devices – it is an offence to possess a speared rock lobster.
  • Do not remove external eggs from any rock lobster.
  • No baited nets.
  • Maximum of 3 rock lobster pots per fisher.
  • Maximum of 6 rock lobster pots from a vessel for 2 or more fishers.

Visit this page for information on pot construction and use:

Closed areas and special 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.

r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps Kaikoura Update 23092020
r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps Kaikoura Update 23092020

Food safety warnings

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

Check for warnings in the Kaikōura area


Report poaching

You can report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity online.

Report illegal fishing (such as poaching)

You can also:

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

Follow us on Facebook

Our regional Facebook pages bring you information about the fishing rules and how we manage and protect local fisheries:

Find out more

Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 – NZ Legislation

Who to contact

If you have questions about Kaikōura area fishing rules, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: