How we manage New Zealand's fisheries
Fisheries New Zealand guides the sustainable use of New Zealand's fisheries resources. Learn how we manage fisheries to protect our resources and the environment.
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.
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.
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.
Harvest Strategy Standard for New Zealand fisheries [PDF, 309 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).
Commercial fisheries managed by sector
Fisheries New Zealand manages fisheries in different sectors.
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.
Managing commercial fishing
Seafood is one of New Zealand's top export earners. In 2019, seafood exports were worth $1.9 billion. Maintaining this industry sustainably is important, and the QMS plays a central role.
Responsibilities of commercial fishers
Commercial fishers need to meet certain requirements to fish in New Zealand waters. Requirements include:
- fishing from a registered fishing vessel
- keeping records of catch, effort, and landings
- reporting regularly to us on their catch, effort, and landings
- not discarding or abandoning QMS fish in the sea (with limited exceptions)
- landing catch to approved licensed fish receivers (with limited exceptions).
Commercial fishing and tangata whenua
The Treaty of Waitangi acknowledges Māori possession and use of fisheries. Since 1992, Māori have been allocated 20% of the commercial quota for each species managed under our QMS.
Managing recreational fishing
Fishing is a favourite pastime for many New Zealanders. But there are rules to follow, wherever you're fishing in New Zealand.
Ensuring recreational fishers know the rules
We help people understand and follow the fishing rules. This includes:
- online information
- our own mobile app – the NZ Fishing Rules app
- signs posted in fishing areas
- education through our fishery officers.
Recreational fishing initiative
We established the Recreational Fishing Initiative to:
- improve communication with recreational fishers
- get recreational fishers involved in sustainable practice
- generate feedback on local issues.
Managing customary fishing
Tangata whenua have an enduring interest in their local fisheries – a right guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi.
Fish and seafood taken for customary use is controlled and authorised by appointed tangata kaitiaki/tangata tiaki (guardians), who report this catch to us. Government regulations also help to strengthen the rights of tangata whenua to manage their local fisheries.
Freshwater fisheries management
Freshwater fisheries management in New Zealand overlaps with different agencies. The Department of Conservation (DOC) plays a large role.
The licensing system for freshwater sports fishing is managed by Fish and Game councils.
Commercial fishing of wild freshwater species isn't covered by the Fisheries Act 1996 (with the exception of eels).
Role of the Fisheries Act 1996
We're responsible for enforcing the Fisheries Act 1996 and its regulations. We take the lead on monitoring the fisheries management system.
Fisheries and the environment
We work to reduce the effects of fishing on marine life and the environment.
Who to contact
If you have questions about how we manage New Zealand's fisheries, email email@example.com