Highly migratory species

Highly migratory species fisheries are managed under a national fisheries plan. Learn how we make sure they are fished in a sustainable way.


About highly migratory species fisheries

Highly migratory species (HMS) are fish that swim large distances. They are found in New Zealand and international waters.

New Zealand's HMS fisheries are made up of:

  • large pelagic species (fish that live near the surface of the water column) such as bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, and swordfish caught by surface longline. Important non-target species include albacore tuna, pelagic sharks, Ray's bream, and moonfish 
  • skipjack tuna caught by purse seine inside New Zealand waters and in other areas of the Pacific Ocean
  • albacore tuna mostly caught by trolling.

Learn about commercial fishing methods – FAO website

Management of HMS fisheries

Availability of HMS in New Zealand waters varies seasonally and with the health of the wider stock. Because they move into waters outside New Zealand control, we manage them in cooperation with other countries.

Plan to manage HMS fisheries

MPI manages HMS fisheries under the National fisheries plan for highly migratory species fisheries. 

Download the HMS fisheries plan [PDF, 2.2 MB]

This 5-year plan guides New Zealand's:

  • management of HMS in our own waters
  • international role in managing HMS
  • changes or decisions for HMS fisheries under the Fisheries Act
  • planning for fisheries services.

The plan includes chapters that guide management of specific HMS fisheries, including:

MPI will release a new HMS national plan in 2017.

Putting the plan into action

An advisory group helps to develop and implement the national HMS plan. The HMS fisheries plan advisory group meets twice a year and includes environmental and fisheries (commercial, recreational, and customary) stakeholders.

The plan is implemented through an:

Sustainable management of HMS fisheries

MPI makes sure HMS fisheries are economically and environmentally sustainable by:

  • promoting sound regional management of HMS fisheries
  • using appropriate fisheries management tools within New Zealand waters, including our quota management system and other controls to keep non-quota populations healthy
  • advancing measures to reduce bycatch (catch of untargeted species like seabirds)
  • supporting international sustainability certification of some fisheries.

Sustainable fisheries certification

New Zealand's albacore tuna troll fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as meeting sustainable fisheries and environmental standards.

Talley’s (a commercial fishing operation) skipjack tuna purse seine fishery is currently being assessed for MSC certification. 

MSC certification is internationally recognised, giving New Zealanders:

  • assurance that our fisheries are being managed sustainably
  • access to key international markets for certain species – others can trust we are doing the right thing.

Managing environmental effects

Environmental effects of HMS fishing depend on the fishing method.

  • Longline fishing vessels also catch non-targeted fish and other animals (bycatch) like seabirds and turtles.
  • Purse seine fishing for skipjack tuna has little bycatch in New Zealand waters, but methods used elsewhere in the Pacific result in bycatch.
  • The albacore troll fishery has no major bycatch and minimal environmental impact.

MPI manages the effects of commercial fishing on the environment both in New Zealand and internationally (under Regional Fisheries Management Organisation arrangements). Details for HMS fisheries can be found in the HMS fisheries plan and the annual operational plan.

Reducing longlining bycatch

MPI has management measures in place to reduce the effects of longlining on non-targeted fish species and other animals such as seabirds and turtles. For example:

  • certain vessels must use fishing gear and devices that deter seabirds
  • we support industry to develop and use more environmentally-friendly fishing gear.

We also support management of the environmental effects of longline fisheries outside New Zealand waters under international arrangements. This includes managing New Zealand fisher activities and their catch in international waters.

Find out how MPI manages bycatch

What fishers can do

To reduce the chance of seabirds being caught by longlines, fishers must use streamer or tori lines to frighten birds away from baited hooks, and either:

  • set (put out) lines at night, when fewer birds are around, or
  • weight lines so they sink faster.

Other seabird bycatch mitigation techniques that fishers can use include managing offal to avoid attracting birds to the vessel and dying baits blue to make them less visible to seabirds.

The Department of Conservation supplies surface longline vessels with special equipment to safely release turtles if they get caught in fishing gear.

Get the latest news

The Pelagic update is a newsletter published by MPI to:

  • keep you up-to-date with important fishery news
  • encourage collaboration between different groups involved with HMS fisheries
  • help manage the fishery.

Subscribe to the newsletter by emailing info@mpi.govt.nz

Download the July 2017 Pelagic update [PDF, 744 KB]

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about HMS fisheries, contact info@mpi.govt.nz

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