Keeping New Zealand's fisheries sustainable
Our work involves making sure we balance economic, social, environmental, and cultural outcomes for fisheries. To ensure fishing activity is sustainable, we manage:
- catch limits and allowances
- restrictions on the use of fishing gear and methods
- monitoring and observing fishing activity
- ongoing scientific research
- fishing interactions with protected species
- protected areas
- minimum size limits
- closed areas
- closed seasons
- New Zealand-owned and New Zealand-flagged fishing vessel activity in international waters.
A programme to strengthen fisheries management
In late 2015, we launched a major programme to improve the way we manage our fisheries. The Fisheries Change Programme focuses on:
- strengthening the fisheries management system
- changing the way we monitor commercial fishing.
The programme does not change the Quota Management System tools or the rights of quota owners.
Find out more about the Fisheries Change Programme
Using the Quota Management System
Most of the fish species that are important to New Zealand's commercial, recreational, and customary fishers are managed under the Quota Management System (QMS). For species managed under the QMS, there's an annual limit of how much can be caught. This is the "total allowable catch", or TAC. This TAC is divided among:
- commercial fishers
- recreational fishers
- customary fishers.
Check catch allowances for different species
We monitor fish stocks to help set QMS limits
Fisheries New Zealand's Harvest Strategy Standard guides the way we manage fish stocks under the QMS.
Under the standard, we monitor and manage fish stocks using 4 performance measures.
- A target level: the level we want a fish stock to fluctuate around for the best balance between use and sustainability, while allowing for environmental variation.
- A soft limit: if a fish stock falls below this level we consider it overfished. We manage the fishery to rebuild it.
- A hard limit: if a fish stock falls below this level we consider it collapsed. The fishery may be closed to rebuild it.
- An overfishing threshold: a rate of fish stock removal that will lead to levels below the other performance measures.
Check the status of a fish stock
Harvest Strategy Standard for New Zealand fisheries [PDF, 309 KB]
Operational guidelines for New Zealand's Harvest Strategy Standard [PDF, 843 KB]
Quota and annual catch entitlement
Quota gives commercial fishers a share of a specific fish stock. After the "total allowable commercial catch" (TACC) for a stock has been set, each quota owner is allocated catch based on the quota they own. This is called "annual catch entitlement" (ACE). ACE can be traded or sold.
The Crown is one of the largest quota holders. This is because of:
- new stocks entering the QMS – where there is quota "left over" after stock is allocated to Māori (20%) or commercial fishers
- forfeited quota – quota may be transferred to the Crown if a quota owner is convicted of an offence
- surrendered quota – when fishers surrender quota to the Crown because they're leaving the fishing industry. They may not wish to sell a small amount of quota because the cost of transferring it is more than the quota’s value.
Crown quota is transferred to commercial fishers through public tender with a set reserve price. We include all Crown-held quota shares in a tender round unless:
- we're concerned about sustainability of the stock
- the stock is in the Kermadec Fisheries Management Area (Area 10 stocks)
- there are legal proceedings involving the species or stock
- there are outstanding appeals with the Catch History Review Committee (catch history is used to allocate quota for some stocks)
- there are public concerns about fishing for the stock (for example, some shark species).
Find out more about Crown fishing quota and ACE tenders
Commercial fisheries managed by sector
Fisheries New Zealand manages fisheries in different sectors.
Highly migratory species fisheries
Different fish stocks are managed by different teams.
Fish species and stocks by management team [PDF, 333 KB]
Managing commercial, recreational, and customary fishing
Find out about what we do to manage these fishing activities.