Fisheries Management System review

We finished a review of the fisheries management system in 2015. Find out about the review and the results.

Review led to major work programme

The review of the fisheries management system finished in 2015. We then developed a major work programme called the Fisheries Change Programme (which used to be called the Future of our Fisheries Programme). This programme is designed to enhance and update how New Zealand's fisheries are managed.

Background to the review

New Zealand's fisheries management system is sound, and independent scientific assessments show that overall New Zealand's fisheries are doing well. However, the system's main building blocks (the Fisheries Act and the Quota Management System) have been in place for over 20 years.

In that time, technology has advanced and society's expectations of how fisheries management should operate has also changed. A review of the system was needed to ensure the system continues to deliver for all New Zealanders.

What the review covered

The review considered the changing needs and expectations of the people who use New Zealand's fisheries. It helped us to ensure our systems are focused on sustainably meeting and managing those needs.

This review gave us a chance to look at our:

  • fisheries management
  • processes
  • technology
  • research gathering
  • regulations and legislation.

Review themes

We used 5 themes to guide the review.

  • Ensuring sustainability
  • Benefits for all New Zealanders
  • Decision-making processes
  • Monitoring and enforcement
  • Future challenges.
Ensuring sustainability

Ensuring sustainability is a main principle of Fisheries New Zealand's fisheries management system. Our fisheries management system is considered world-leading, and research shows that our fisheries are sustainable.

Ensuring sustainability involves making sure that fish populations remain large enough that they can breed enough fish for the future. As well as managing fishing, this also involves not destroying the marine habitats responsible for spawning, migration, and feeding.

Benefits for all New Zealanders

We wanted to consider how the fisheries management system could benefit all New Zealanders. This means thinking about all the groups of people who use New Zealand's marine space – not just industry. The Fisheries Act 1996 provides a framework for balancing competing interests – so that all New Zealanders can benefit.

Decision-making processes

The Fisheries Act 1996 contains several decision-making functions and powers which ensure resource sustainability. 

Fisheries New Zealand makes most decisions. To make informed decisions, we consult with other groups, and look at a range of information and research. 

Generally, the Minister sets the parameters on fishing, and the chief executive supplies the management services like:

  • research
  • compliance monitoring
  • enforcement
  • administration.

Decision-making must be supported by checks and balances, to manage risk and protect the interests of all New Zealanders.

Monitoring and enforcement

Monitoring is central to ensuring that fishing activity is sustainable. We monitor New Zealand's commercial and recreational fishing activity in different ways, and are introducing new technology to help us.

Future challenges

The review aimed to develop the foundations of the Quota Management System and the Fisheries Act 1996. The fisheries management system has to be able to respond to challenges facing it:

  • New Zealand's marine areas are getting busier, and this will continue as our population grows. More groups have an interest in New Zealand's fisheries, and sometimes they compete for the same space or resources.
  • Recreational fishers, tangata whenua, and local communities want to be more involved in managing local areas.
  • Interest in the effects that fishing has on the environment has grown.
  • International seafood markets want to be sure that seafood products are sustainable and can be traced.
  • Fisheries management has become more complex and costly as a growing number of 'one off' arrangements are established. One example is the local recreational rules for the Kaikōura marine area. Improving the fishing management system's ability to respond to local interests can place new demands on information, decision-making, and compliance systems.
  • The effects of global warming and climate change are already measurable. New Zealand's climate and ocean acidity levels are changing.

Geographic coverage

The area reviewed included:

  • the New Zealand coastline (territorial sea)
  • the wider Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
  • freshwater fisheries.

The focus was on wild catch fish species and shellfish. The high seas beyond New Zealand’s EEZ were not included.

What the review didn't cover

The review was focused on enhancing and updating the existing fisheries management system. But some main features of the system were out of scope:

  • sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources as set out in Section 8 of the Fisheries Act
  • the Quota Management System tools (quota and annual catch entitlements)
  • the rights of commercial quota ownership
  • the Crown's obligations under Treaty settlements
  • the rights and interests of tangata whenua, and customary management
  • the right to fish for recreation.

Public consultation

As a first step in the review, we approached the public about their views on:

  • opportunities and priorities for change
  • the strengths and weaknesses of the current system.

To gather information, we:

  • ran an online questionnaire
  • hosted drop-in information sessions
  • met with interested groups.

Our fisheries experts were available to answer questions, and the questionnaires were available at the venues.

Ideas and suggestions

The suggestions and ideas we received focused on:

  • fisheries stocks sustainability
  • maximising the benefits of total allowable catch
  • improved cost management
  • the need for better fisheries information
  • opportunities for alternative governance arrangements
  • responding effectively to future challenges.

Download the submissions

What happened next

Since the review began, Fisheries New Zealand and the Government have progressed pieces of work, including:

  • Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge
  • Marine Protected Areas Act proposal
  • The Future of our Fisheries consultation process
  • The Fisheries Change Programme.

We're also working on illegal discarding, and the findings of the independent Heron report.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the review, email

Last reviewed: