Managing our catches

Ensuring that fishing activity is sustainable requires effective management, which is a large part of what we do. Find out how we manage commercial, recreational, and customary fishing.

How we manage New Zealand's fisheries

Managing New Zealand's fisheries involves managing fish catch. To ensure fishing activity is sustainable, we manage it through:

  • catch limits (through the Quota Management System)
  • restrictions on the use of damaging fishing gear and methods
  • monitoring and observing fishing activity
  • ongoing scientific research
  • protected species
  • protected areas
  • minimum size limits
  • closed areas
  • closed seasons.

Managing commercial fishing

Seafood is one of New Zealand's top export earners – fisheries exports were worth $1.7 billion in 2016 alone. Maintaining this industry sustainably is important, and the Quota Management System (QMS) plays a central role.

New Zealand's Quota Management System

Every year, an annual catch limit is set for each fish stock (commercial fish species). Fishers can be allocated a share of the total allowed catch for a species. This helps us to control the amount of fish taken, and keep fisheries sustainable.

Annual catch entitlement

Anyone taking fish for sale must hold a commercial fishing permit. The amount of fish that permit holders can legally take depends on the amount of annual catch entitlement (ACE) they hold or obtain.

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 (LFR) (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 do a lot of education and promotion to help people understand and follow recreational fishing rules, including:

  • online information
  • our own mobile app – the NZ Fishing Rules app
  • brochures
  • 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 between different agencies. The Department of Conservation (DOC) plays a large role – its website has information on its responsibilities.

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 (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.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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