Pāua status and information

Pāua are unique to New Zealand and highly valued. Find out about pāua, fishing rules, and the status of the fishery.

image of paua four different views

About pāua

Other name: abalone

Scientific names: Haliotis iris, Haliotis australis

Pāua are large sea snails that are highly valued by Māori, recreational fishers, and the commercial fishing industry. Pāua have always been a food source for Māori and play a significant role in manaakitanga ki ngā manuhiri (hosting of visitors).

Black-foot pāua (Haliotis iris) are the most commonly found and caught species. Yellow-foot pāua (Haliotis australis) are only caught in small numbers.

Pāua:

  • live in shallow waters (generally less than 10m) off the coast of New Zealand
  • have a very small home range and can form large groups in suitable areas
  • reproduce by releasing large amounts of spawn that are carried by currents to new locations.

Successful spawning is related to the number and size of groups. This makes it important to leave some pāua to breed for the next generation. Habitat like reefs and seaweed are important for settlement of their young.

Fishing rules for pāua

There are minimum legal sizes for harvesting pāua and bag limits.

Legal size

The minimum legal size for taking black-foot 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.

Bag limit

For most of New Zealand, recreational fishers can take 10 of each pāua species. 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).

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.

Pāua status and how we manage their numbers

The pāua fishery is split into 11 fishery management areas. Catch allowances are set differently for each area depending on population size, the health of stock, and fishing pressure.

image of Paua fishery area

2016 catch allowances (tonnes)

Pāua are managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System (QMS). By controlling the amount of pāua taken from each area, the QMS helps keep their numbers healthy. The QMS sets a yearly catch allowance for pāua in each management area.

Find out about the QMS

What the allowances were for each group in 2016

Area

Total allowance

Commercial allowance

Customary allowance

Recreational allowance

Other mortality²

PAU 1

–¹

1.93

PAU 2

121.19

PAU 3

91.62

PAU 4

326.54

PAU 5A

148.98

PAU 5B

105

90

6

6

3

PAU 5D

134

89

3

22

20

PAU 6

1

PAU 6A

PAU 7

133.62

93.62

15

15

10

PAU 10

1

¹ Areas marked '–' have not yet had an allowance set (not enough information was available to set catch allowances and have not been reviewed since).

² Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as incidental mortality and illegal fishing.

Stock status of pāua

Area

Stock status¹

PAU 3 (2014)²

At or above target

PAU 5A (2014)

Southern Area: above target

Northern Area: Above target

PAU 5B (2014)

Close to target

PAU 5D (2013)

Below target

PAU 7 (2015)²

Below target

¹ Current data not available for all areas.

² Stock status currently being monitored due to 2016 earthquake.

Find out more

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

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.

Who to contact

If you have questions about pāua, email info@mpi.govt.nz

Last reviewed: