Māori customary fishing

Customary fisheries are the fishing rights of tangata whenua. Learn about customary fishing rights and the regulations that guide how they are managed.


customary taonga

About customary fisheries

Customary fishing hook

Customary fisheries are recognised fishing rights of tangata whenua (people of the land with authority in a particular place) for:

  • traditional and customary practices – for example, traditional management of a fishery
  • customary non-commercial food gathering.

Customary fishing takes place in a rohe moana (defined customary fishing area) of the tangata whenua­.

Rights guaranteed through legislation

Customary fishing rights are guaranteed to tangata whenua under Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi. These rights are protected by law in the:

Under the Deed of Settlement, MPI has specific obligations to Māori to provide for:

  • customary fisheries management practices
  • traditional gathering of fish.

Customary fishing regulations

Customary fishing float

There are different customary fishing regulations for different areas.

  • The Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998 apply to the North Island and Chatham Islands.
  • The South Island Customary Fishing Regulations 1999 apply to the South Island and Stewart Island.
  • Other specific regulations relate to Deeds of Settlement for particular iwi (tribes).

Tangata kaitiaki/tiaki

Under the regulations, guardians can be appointed for a specific rohe moana.

Tangata whenua notify the Minister of Fisheries of proposed guardians (called tangata kaitiaki or tangata tiaki). The Minister then confirms their appointment.

Tangata kaitiaki/tiaki authorise and manage customary activities, enabling customary fishing and management traditions to continue in the rohe moana.

Find out more

Customary fishing rules

Tangata kaitiaki/tiaki set customary fishing rules that are consistent with their customary practices. They are responsible for managing customary fishing in their rohe moana and:

  • are the only people who can authorise customary fishing
  • regularly report the amount of customary catch in their rohe moana to MPI so that sustainability measures (such as catch limits) or management controls can be set for the fishery.

Who to contact

If you have questions about customary fisheries:

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