South-East area fishing rules

Recreational fishing rules for the South-East area, including closures, restrictions, and other important notices.

About the South-East area

Map of South-East fishing area

This area includes the east coast of the South Island between Clarence Point near Kaikoura, down to Slope Point in Southland, and extending out 200 nautical miles to the Chatham Islands.

Note: There is a small area around Kaikōura that has different rules.

Kaikōura area fishing rules


 

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 – 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.


UPDATES

New netting restrictions

From 1 October 2020, new fishing rules came into force 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 is 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 across most areas. 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

South-East area – Fishing rules brochure (North) [PDF, 2 MB]

South-East area – Fishing rules brochure (South) [PDF, 1.7 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

Expand All
Finfish – size limits and catch/bag limits

Size limits and catch limits for finfish.

In the South-East area there is a combined daily bag limit of 30 finfish per fisher. This means that you can have a combination of up to 20 of any of these fish in total. You must not exceed individual species limits.

Over and above the combine bag limit of 30 fish, there are also individual limits for groper/hapuku/bass, and kingfish. These have a combined daily limit of 5 (and up to 3 can be kingfish).

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

There is no limit on finfish species not listed in Table 1 or 2.

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.

New blue cod rules

Finfish Species

Min length (cm)

Max daily limit
(per fisher)

Min mesh size
for nets (mm)

Blue cod

33

See below

Blue moki

40

15

114

Bluenose

5

160

Blue shark

1

100

Bronze shark

1

100

Butterfish/Greenbone

35

15

108

Eel

6

12

Elephant fish

5

150

Flatfish (except Sand flounder)

25

30

100

Grey Mullet

30

90

Hammerhead shark

1

100

Hapuku/bass

160

Kahawai

15

90

Lamprey

30

100

Ling

30

100

Mako shark

1

100

Marble Fish

30

100

Porbeagle shark

1

100

Red cod

25

10

100

Red gurnard

25

30

100

Red moki

40

15

115

Rig

5

150

Salmon

2

100

Salmon (Otago Harbour)

45

2

100

Sand flounder

23

30

100

School shark

5

150

Seven gilled shark

1

100

Skate/Ray

5

100

Snapper

25

10

125

Spikey dogfish

15

100

Spotted black groper

No take

100

Stargazer

30

100

Tarakihi

25

15

100

Thresher shark

1

100

Trevally

25

30

100

Trumpeter

35

15

100

Warehou

15

100

White pointer shark

No take

100

Wrasse

30

100

* The North Canterbury area runs from the south bank of the Waimakariri River to the mouth of the Conway River.

Table 2 - additional to combined bag

Finfish Species

Min fish length (cm)

Max daily limit per fisher

Min set net mesh size (mm)

Southern bluefin tuna

1

Blue cod restrictions

Blue cod...

Rule

Pot construction

Rigid square mesh, where:

  • the squares in the mesh must be at least 54mm by 54mm
  • the mesh should be strong, and not easily bent or reshaped.

Accumulation limit

When your fishing trip is more than 1 day, if you can prove you have not taken more than the daily bag limit on any given day you can possess 2 daily bag limits of blue cod.

 

Limits for certain areas

 

  • Kaikōura blue cod management area: Kaikōura Marine Area (Clarence River to Hurunui River) – 6 per fisher per day.
  • Te Taumanu o Te Waka a Maui Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day.
  • Oaro-Haumuri Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day.
  • Outside these areas, 10 per fisher per day.
  • Canterbury blue cod management area (Hurunui River to Rakaia River): 2 per fisher per day including Akaroa Taiāpure.
  • North Otago blue cod management area (Rakaia River to Taiaroa Head): 10 per fisher per day.
  • East Otago Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day.
  • Southern blue cod management area (Taiaroa Head to Sand Hill Point): 15 per fisher per day.
  • Chatham Islands blue cod management area: 15 per fisher per day.

Measurable state

All blue cod must be landed in a measurable state. The following measurable states apply:

  • Kaikōura blue cod management area (Clarence River to Hurunui River) – whole or gutted.
  • Canterbury blue cod management area (Hurunui River to Rakaia River) – whole or gutted.
  • North Otago blue cod management (Rakaia River to Taiaroa Head) – whole or gutted.
  • Chatham Islands blue cod management area – whole or gutted, and/or headed.
  • Southern blue cod management area (Taiaroa Head to Sand Hill Point) – whole or gutted and/or headed.

Eating blue cod on the boat

Fishers may possess blue cod in another state if it is immediately eaten on board the fishing vessel from which it was taken. Any fish eaten, form part of the daily limit.

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 can't 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)

Cockle

150

none

Kina (sea eggs)

50

none

Mussels

50

none

Oysters
– Dredge^+
(Season: 1 Mar to 31 Aug)


50


58

Pāua
– Ordinary
– Yellow foot
– Ordinary (Canterbury)***
– Yellow foot (Canterbury)***

Moeraki Mātaitai* (outside closed areas)

East Otago Taiāpure**

Timaru Mātaitai


10
10
5
5

3 (combined total)

0

3 (combined total)


125
80
125
80

as above

0

as above

Pipi

150

none

Scallops+
(Season: 15 Jul to 14 Feb)

20

100

Tuatua

150

none

All others (combined) •

50

none

^ During the open season dredge oysters can be harvested by dredge and the use of underwater breathing apparatus. Both the daily limit and minimum size of 58mm applies. Hand gathering dredge oysters: there is no restriction on either size or season for dredge oysters that are hand-gathered (includes shore picking and free diving, does not include diving using underwater breathing apparatus.) The exception is the waters of the Chatham Islands where the dredge oyster minimum size of 58mm applies.

* View a map of the Moeraki Mātaitai Reserve including closed areas [PDF, 203 KB]

** View the East Otago Taiapure rules including closed and restricted areas [PDF, 1.5 MB]

*** Map of the Canterbury pāua restrictions [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Get a brochure [PDF, 2.2 MB]

+ Limited provision allows a diver on a vessel to gather extra bag limits of oysters and scallops for up to 2 other people acting in a dive safety capacity. Note: This only applies to taking scallops and oysters.

• 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).

Rock lobster/crayfish rules

A summary of the rock lobster/crayfish daily bag and size 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 changing in CRA5 area from 1 July 2020

Daily bag limits

Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) per 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).

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:

Rock lobster

From Clarence Point to the Waitaki River

Telson clipping is required for all recreationally harvested spiny rock lobsters. The last third of the telson (central part of the tail fan) must be cut off so that it is noticeably shorter than the other sections of the tail fan. Do not telson clip any packhorse rock lobsters.

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

When daily limits are accumulated over a multi-day trip, the maximum number of spiny rock lobster that one person can have in their possession at any one time is:

  • 18 spiny rock lobsters (3 daily bag limits of 6)

This possession limit applies everywhere, including in the home.

‘Bag and tag’ conditions apply – you must hold spiny rock lobster in a container or bag that contains only a single day’s catch, and is clearly labelled with:

  • the individual fisher’s name,
  • the date the lobsters were taken, and
  • the number of lobsters held.

For more details check the:

Closed areas and special restrictions

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

Blue cod restrictions

Blue cod...

Rule

Pot construction

Rigid square mesh, where:

  • the squares in the mesh must be at least 54mm by 54mm
  • the mesh should be strong, and not easily bent or reshaped.

Accumulation limit

When your fishing trip is more than 1 day, if you can prove you have not taken more than the daily bag limit on any given day you can possess 2 daily bag limits of blue cod.

 

Limits for certain areas

 

  • Kaikōura blue cod management area: Kaikōura Marine Area (Clarence River to Hurunui River) – 6 per fisher per day.
  • Te Taumanu o Te Waka a Maui Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day.
  • Oaro-Haumuri Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day. Outside these areas 10 per fisher per day.
  • Canterbury blue cod management area (Hurunui River to Rakaia River): 2 per fisher per day including Akaroa Taiāpure.
  • North Otago blue cod management area (Rakaia River to Taiaroa Head): 10 per fisher per day.
  • East Otago Taiāpure: 2 per fisher per day.
  • Southern blue cod management area (Taiaroa Head to Sand Hill Point): 15 per fisher per day.
  • Chatham Islands blue cod management area: 15 per fisher per day.

Measurable state

All blue cod must be landed in a measurable state. The following measurable states apply:

  • Kaikōura blue cod management area (Clarence River to Hurunui River): whole or gutted.
  • Canterbury blue cod management area (Hurunui River to Rakaia River): whole or gutted.
  • North Otago blue cod management (Rakaia River to Taiaroa Head): whole or gutted.
  • Southern blue cod management area (Taiaroa Head to Sand Hill Point): whole or gutted and/or headed.
  • Chatham Islands blue cod management area: whole or gutted, and/or headed.

Eating blue cod on the boat

  • You can eat blue cod on the fishing boat it was caught on, but you have to eat it as soon as you fillet it.
  • Any blue cod that you eat still counts towards your daily catch/bag limit.

New restrictions on pāua

In December 2019, the recreational limit for pāua changed in Canterbury, Marlborough, and Nelson.

The daily catch/bag limit is now 5. The accumulation limit is 10, or 1.25kg of minced meat. This means you can possess up to 10 pāua at any time (for example, in your house). This applies to both black-foot and yellow-foot pāua.

Please note the shellfish closure in Kaikōura and South Marlborough area from Marfells Beach to the Conway River remains closed as per below.

Map for the Canterbury pāua restriction
November 2016 - Map of closed area from Cape Campbell to Conway River

Closed areas

You can't fish in these areas. This includes Marine Reserves. Follow the links to view maps of the reserves on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website:

Marine reserves are managed by DOC.

A to Z of marine reserves – Department of Conservation

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. This excludes 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 ans is 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're gathering kaimoana in Marlborough and Canterbury, do your part to help keep these fisheries sustainable:

  • Limit your catch by taking less than your bag limit and just enough for a feed.
  • Change your fishing method or area if you are only catching small fish or shellfish.
  • Take 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 of the affected area of the earthquake-related closure
Map for the Canterbury pāua restriction
November 2016 - Map of closed area from Cape Campbell to Conway River

Set netting restrictions

Set netting is prohibited offshore to 4 nautical miles along the east coast of the South Island from Clarence to South Point. However, exemptions apply. You can use set nets:

  • in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and inlets except for the Avon-Heathcote estuary
  • for flounder between 1 April and 30 September in the Pigeon Bay, Akaroa Harbour, Lyttelton Harbour and Port Levy areas around Banks Peninsula.

Flat fish (flounder) set nets must be:

  • 9 meshes or less deep.
  • Have a monofilament diameter equal to or less than 0.35mm.
  • Have a minimum mesh size of 100mm.
  • Be anchored at each end.
  • Not exceed a total length of 60m.
Other areas where set or drag netting is restricted or banned
  • Kaiapoi and Waimakariri rivers – set netting restrictions
  • Lake Ellesmere – set netting restrictions
  • Catlins Lake – no set netting or drag netting
  • Otago Harbour – set netting restrictions.
r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps South East Update 23092020
r200216 Rec SN Closure Comms Maps South East Update 23092020

Taiāpure

An area of special significance to an iwi or hapū, where additional rules and restrictions are in place.

Download the rules brochures:

Find out more on the NZ Legislation website:

Mātaitai reserves

Areas where tangata whenua manage non-commercial fishing through bylaws:

Rapaki Bay - Banks Peninsula

Koukourarata - Banks Peninsula

Timaru (Tuhawaiki, Te Ahi Tarakihi and Waitarakao mātaitai)

Lyttleton Harbour/Whakaraupō Mātaitai Reserve

Moeraki – Tikoraki/Tawhiroko and Turaka Waka areas are closed to the gathering of pāua

Shellfish food safety warnings

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

Check for warnings in the South-East 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

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

Find out more about hunting and gathering

Follow us on Facebook

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

Northland

East Cape/Bay of Plenty

Nelson/Marlborough/Kaikoura

Canterbury/Westland

Otago/Southland

Find out more

Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 – NZ Legislation

Who to contact

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

Last reviewed: