Healthy ecosystems

Fisheries New Zealand works to reduce fishing by-catch and to understand and respond to the effects of environmental change on fisheries productivity.

Managing today for future generations

New Zealand is home to incredible marine ecosystems – from shallow reefs to submarine mountains – with many species unique to our waters. We want to maintain these species and ecosystems for future generations.

Minimising by-catch

During fishing activity, non-targeted or protected species may be caught accidentally. Fisheries New Zealand works to minimise this by-catch, helping to protect populations of protected species and other marine life.

Our work includes regulations around fishing gear and devices to keep seabirds away, area closures and other tools to protect species and minimise impacts. We also support the fishing industry’s efforts to develop and use gear that reduces wider environmental impact.

To minimise by-catch, we need to focus on protection strategies for seabirds, sharks, sea lions and other marine life.

Ocean habitat and ecosystem protection

Bottom fishing is an effective way of catching fish. However, some methods can disturb and damage seabed habitats and associated ecosystems. Understanding these effects is a complex task that requires considerable knowledge about the extent and impact of fishing, the distribution and abundance of the animals affected, and the rates of recovery.

In recognition of the potential effects of bottom fishing, New Zealand has a number of closures in place that protect the seabed.

However, it's important to note that many areas of New Zealand have been bottom trawled for 25-plus years and are still highly productive.

Find out more

Understanding the effects of run-off

Rivers and water running off the land can carry pollution, sediment and nutrients into the sea from places such as urban developments, roads and farms. Over time, this can alter coastal ecosystems and have a knock-on effect on fisheries productivity and the marine environment.

We work with central and local government agencies to address these issues where they occur.

Changes in our oceans

Climate change is starting to affect ocean temperatures, acidity levels and currents across the globe. We're still learning what these changes will mean for our fisheries and marine ecosystems and are working with other government agencies on how best to respond.

Science working groups

We have 2 science groups that specifically address the effects of fishing on the aquatic environment and the broader concepts of biodiversity in New Zealand waters.

  • The Aquatic Environment Working Group (AEWG) commissions and evaluates research on the effects of fishing on the environment, including protected species.
  • The Marine Biodiversity Research Advisory Group explores broader issues at an ecosystem scale as well as climate change and ocean acidification.

Both science groups include fishery scientists and researchers from across government, research institutes, industry, universities and non-government organisations. The AEWG meetings also include fishery managers and are open to the public.

Who to contact

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


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