Fish stock status

MPI regularly assesses New Zealand fish stocks and compares them against 4 performance measures. Get the latest results on the status of our fish stocks.


Current stock status

MPI's December 2016 stock status table shows the status of 379 of New Zealand's main fish stocks (or sub-stocks).

Stock status table for fish stocks [PDF, 449 KB]

Which stocks are included

Of the 379 fish stocks included:

  • 42 were assessed in 2016
  • 337 were assessed in previous years
  • 374 are Quota Management System (QMS) stocks or sub-stocks
  • 5 are non-QMS species that are Antarctic or highly migratory species.

Nominal stocks not included

We haven't included 292 QMS fish stocks that:

  • are in areas outside the main range of a species – set up for administrative purposes only
  • have insignificant catch or catch allowance (generally close to zero tonnes)
  • have little to no potential to develop as either recreational or commercial fisheries.

Download a list of nominal fish stocks [PDF, 57 KB]

Management by stock levels

MPI assesses and manages fish stocks using 4 performance measures:

  • A soft limit – below this level, a fish stock is considered to be overfished or depleted and needs to be actively rebuilt, for example by reducing the total allowable catch.
  • A hard limit – below this level, a fish stock is considered to have collapsed and fisheries may need to be closed to rebuild at the fastest possible rate.
  • Overfishing threshold – a rate of stock removal that shouldn't be exceeded as it will lead to stocks falling below other 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.

Stock status graph showing the fluctuations in stock size over time (years) and the relationship between the management target and the soft and the hard limits for a stock that is fished perfectly at an optimal constant rate.

How sustainable are our fish stocks?

The soft limit is an import performance measure as it can show potential sustainability issues.

We know the status of 161 stocks against the soft limit. Most of our fish stocks are in good shape (above the soft limit):

  • 83% or 134 stocks and sub-stocks
  • 97% of catch by weight.

Download a summary of 2016 fish stock status [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Overfished stocks

27 stocks or sub-stocks are below the soft limit:

  • southern bluefin tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna (highly migratory species that aren't always in our waters)
  • 3 stocks of black cardinalfish
  • 5 stocks of bluenose
  • 4 stocks or sub-stocks of orange roughy
  • 3 stocks or sub-stocks of snapper
  • 2 stocks or sub-stocks of John Dory
  • 2 stocks or sub-stocks of scallops
  • 1 stock or sub-stock each of flatfish, oyster, pāua, pipi and freshwater eels.

Rebuilding for sustainable stocks

MPI is managing these fisheries to rebuild them towards target levels, for example by:

  • reducing total allowable commercial catches of QMS stocks
  • supporting management of highly migratory species under international arrangements.

Find out more


How we assess fish stocks

MPI's Harvest Strategy Standard (HSS) guides the way we assess and manage fish stocks under the Quota Management System (QMS).

Download the Harvest Strategy Standard [PDF, 237 KB]

Reports for individual species

Each year, MPI convenes a large number of Fisheries Assessment Working Group meetings to assess the status of fish stocks using:

  • scientific research (from contracted research providers)
  • validated catch and fishing effort reports from commercial fisheries
  • data from our on-board observer programme
  • other relevant information.

This information is summarised in 2 annual fisheries assessment plenary reports – the main one in May (3 volumes) and one for rock lobsters and highly migratory species (2 volumes) in November. The plenary reports provide information on our fisheries and the status of each fish stock.

Who to contact

If you have questions about fish stock status, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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