Fish Quota Management System

The Quota Management System (QMS) guides the sustainable use of New Zealand fisheries. Find out what the QMS is and how it works.

About 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

The QMS supports sustainable fishing

The QMS was introduced in 1986. Before then, it was difficult for the New Zealand government to limit the number of fish from commercial species being caught. Now, we have more information on the health of New Zealand's fisheries, which helps us to set limits that keep fishing sustainable. The total allowable catch limits we set are based on the best available information, which includes:

  • research
  • reporting from the fishing industry.

Find out more about sustainable fishing and our research:

Sustainable fisheries

Fisheries Change Programme

Fisheries NZ research

Species in the QMS

There are 98 species (or species groups) in the New Zealand QMS.

Quota species list – FishServe

These species are divided into 642 separate fish stocks. For example, hoki is one species, divided into 2 separate fish stocks. Each fish stock has a “quota management area” (QMA).

These areas are based on administrative and biological factors for the species such as how many fish there are in different regions. Using QMAs to manage fish stocks allows finer control over stocks. It means we can set sustainable catch levels to suit different areas.

Most species in the QMS are managed separately. We manage some similar species (like flatfish species) in groups if they are:

  • often caught together
  • difficult for fishers to identify or tell apart.

How quota works

Quota is a share in a fish stock. The total number of quota shares for each fish stock is always 100,000,000. On the first day of a fishing year, quota owners get Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE). The amount of ACE that a quota owner receives depends on:

  • how much quota they own
  • the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for that fish stock in that fishing year.

ACE gives quota owners the right to catch a certain amount of a fish stock during the fishing year.

Commercial fishers need to have enough ACE to cover the QMS fish they catch during the year. If they don't, they face financial penalties.

Learn more about ACE

Image showing total allowable catch is divided between recreational, customary, and commercial fishers, and TACC is divided into individual transferable quotas.

Limits on owned quota

There are limits on how much quota people can own. These are called “aggregation limits”. These limits can be placed on a whole species or on an individual stock.

In some cases, the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries may allow a person to hold more than the specified aggregation limit after consulting with other quota holders.

Aggregation limits don't apply to:

  • the Crown
  • Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Limited
  • the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust.

Find aggregation limits in the Fisheries Act

Reporting requirements

There are regular reporting requirements for fishers and licensed fish receivers (LFRs). These are requirements of the fisheries recordkeeping and reporting regulations.

Fisheries (Recordkeeping) Regulations 1990 – NZ Legislation

Fisheries (Reporting) Regulations 2017 – NZ Legislation

Commercial fishers reporting requirements

Where relevant, commercial fishers (permit holders) must provide:

  • fish catch, non-fish species or protected fish species, disposal, processing, and landing reports
  • monthly harvest returns.

Fisher returns – FishServe

Licensed fish receiver reporting requirements

LFRs must submit a return each month. This lists:

  • amounts and types of fish received in the previous month
  • fishers that supplied the fish to them.

Licensed fish receivers

How we use this information

This information helps us to monitor and manage New Zealand’s fisheries. Our scientists and fisheries managers use the information to inform management recommendations about:

  • catch limits for a stock
  • setting deemed value rates (deemed values are charges that fishers are invoiced if their catch of a QMS stock exceeds their ACE holding).

Deemed values and rates

This information also allows us to track fish through the fisheries value chain. This helps us to monitor trade and catch and ensure that it's legitimate and lawful.

By law, catch limits for every fish stock have to be set at levels that ensure their long-term sustainability. We rigorously monitor the amount of fish caught compared to set catch limits. There are financial penalties for commercial fishers who catch more than their entitlement in a year.

Those who deliberately break the law can face serious consequences, including the confiscation of fishing vessels and jail.

Fisheries registers

We keep public registers of:

  • quota
  • ACE
  • fishing permits
  • fishing vessels
  • automatic location communicators (ALCs)
  • high seas permits.

These registers are administered by a separate organisation, FishServe, on our behalf.

About register reports – FishServe

Who to contact

If you have questions about the fish quota management system, email

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