National survey of recreational fishers

We've been surveying recreational fishers across New Zealand to help build a picture of what they catch. Find out about the survey and the results.

28 August 2019

Survey results released

The survey found that in 2017-2018, recreational fishers caught an estimated 7 million individual finfish and 3.9 million individual shellfish.

Other findings included:

  • about half of all recreational fishing occurred around the north-east coast of the North Island along the coastline from the tip of Northland to East Cape
  • an estimated almost 2 million fishing trips were taken in 2017-2018
  • in the Hauraki Gulf the average recreational snapper catch has seen a lot of fluctuation, almost tripling in the last 30 years, but trending down since the last survey in 2012.
  • the average recreational kahawai catch has more than quadrupled in the Hauraki Gulf.
  • Southland is the only area in the country where recreational fisher numbers appears to be increasing, by about 14%.

Survey results [PDF, 5.2 MB]

Media release

New survey measures recreational fishing

Overview of the recreational fishing survey

Between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018, we surveyed recreational fishers on their fishing activity in New Zealand's ocean waters.

The survey results will help us to better understand and manage recreational fishing and fishing activity in important shared fisheries.

Timeline of the survey

The survey ran for one year, from 1 October 2017. The results and analyses were released on 28 August 2019. We do this survey every 5 to 6 years as part of a wider piece of research with the National Research Bureau (NRB) and NIWA (the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research).

Results of the previous survey (run in 2011 and 2012) were published in 2014.

Download survey results and harvest estimates (2011-2012) [PDF, 10 MB]

How was the fishing survey run?

Each person on the panel was regularly sent a text to ask if they went fishing. Keen fishers were asked more often than occasional fishers.

If a panellist replied to the text saying that they'd been fishing, an interviewer from the National Research Bureau (NRB) called them at a suitable time to get more details.

Interviewers recorded the catch of each species in each area. That information was scaled up to the national catch by all fishers using standard statistical methods.

The panel survey used the world's best practice methods, and its results were confirmed by other surveys that NIWA does. NRB completed the survey.

Fishing survey information – NRB website  

Making sure we got accurate results 

To support the panel survey, NIWA staff were at popular boat ramps between North Cape and East Cape on about 60 days in 2017. Interviewers asked fishers if they'd like to participate. If so, they asked what they caught that day, and measured the size of fish caught.

NIWA also used low-flying aircraft on those days to count the number of boats on the water. This information is combined to estimate the total day's catch in that area.

Researchers calculated the catch of each species in each area using the:

  • panel survey results
  • information from the boat ramps
  • boat count data.

By comparing these estimates of important species in the north, Fisheries New Zealand is able to measure the accuracy of the survey. In 2012, these methods gave similar results for fish species commonly caught in northern New Zealand.

For more information on the research that NIWA carries out on recreational fishing download this pamphlet:

Recreational fishing surveys explained [PDF, 597 KB]

Keeping your information private

All information collected will be kept private, and only used for strengthening how we manage New Zealand fisheries. We won't share people's secret fishing spots – we just needed to know where they fished and if they caught anything.

Related pages

Recreational fishing initiative

Recreational fishing rules

Who to contact

If you have questions about the survey, email

Last reviewed: