National survey of recreational fishers

Find out about the surveys we do with recreational fishers, what information it provides, and the results.

Overview of the recreational fishing survey

Every 5 to 6 years, we run the National Panel Survey of Marine Recreational Fishers. The survey collects fishing information from marine recreational fishers. This helps us to understand what they catch. We use this information when making fisheries management decisions.

The survey is part of a wider piece of research with the:

  • National Research Bureau (NRB)
  • National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

Results from the most recent survey (2017 to 2018)

Between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018 we surveyed New Zealand recreational fishers on their fishing activity. The results and analyses were released on 28 August 2019.

National panel survey of marine recreational fishers 2017–18 [PDF, 5.2 MB]

The survey found that from 2017 to 2018, recreational fishers caught or collected an estimated:

  • 7 million fish
  • 3.9 million shellfish.

Other findings

  • There were an estimated 2 million fishing trips during the survey period.
  • About half of all recreational fishing happened around the North Island's north-eastern coastline (from the tip of Northland to East Cape).
  • In the last 30 years in the Hauraki Gulf, the number of snapper being caught per year (on average) has tripled. The average number caught has decreased since the last survey (2011 to 2012).
  • On average, more than 4 times as many kahawai were being caught in the Hauraki Gulf.
  • In Southland, the number of recreational fishers has increased by about 14%. This was the only area where recreational fisher numbers appear to be increasing.

Media release: New survey measures recreational fishing

Past survey results

Results of the previous survey (run in 2011–12) were published in 2014.

National panel survey of marine recreational fishers 2011–12: Harvest estimates [PDF, 10 MB]

How the surveys work

The NRB recruits panellists using face-to-face interviews. Each panellist was regularly sent a text to ask if they went fishing. Fishers that went fishing more often got texted more frequently. If a panellist replied saying that they'd been fishing, an interviewer from 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. Other surveys executed by NIWA helped confirm the results.

Marine fisher and non-fisher survey – Information for participants

Making sure we get accurate results

To support the panel survey, NIWA also did a boat ramp survey. The 2 surveys were compared to check that the results were similar. This helped us measure how accurate the NRB survey was. In 2012, the results from both surveys were similar.

In the boat ramp survey, NIWA interviewers asked fishers if they'd like to participate. If they did, the interviewer 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 was 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.

This pamphlet has more information on the research that NIWA does on recreational fishing.

We're counting on you – Recreational fishing surveys explained [PDF, 597 KB]

Keeping your information private

All information collected is kept private. It's only used for strengthening how we manage New Zealand's fisheries. We don't share people's secret fishing spots. We just need to know where they fished and what they caught.

Find out more

Recreational fishing initiative

Recreational fishing rules

Fisheries research

Who to contact

If you have questions, email

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