Observer services

MPI observers collect independent information on board commercial fishing vessels about fishing catch and effort, fishing activity, and effects of fishing on the environment. Find out about the information they collect, what you need to do if an observer is on your vessel, and our planned observer days.


What fisheries observers do

MPI places observers on vessels commercially fishing in New Zealand waters and the high seas, if landing to New Zealand (under international agreements). They independently confirm catch and effort to catch fish and collect a range of information including:

  • data on fish being caught, fish processing and fishing activity 
  • information about marine mammal and bird interactions
  • biological information for stock assessment
  • unusual specimens for museums
  • information about vessel safety and employment.

Independent catch and effort data

Observers collect independent data to compare to fishing vessel data. They keep a separate catch and effort logbook, recording:

  • catch calculations and amounts for all species caught
  • details of fishing operations such as:
    • start and finish times
    • positions
    • fishing and bottom depths
    • devices and practices to protect non-targeted species 
    • catch data for each tow or set.

Data collected for other agencies

Observers collect information for MPI as well as for the:

If an observer is on your vessel

If MPI asks you to take an observer on your fishing vessel, then you must carry one as a condition of your fishing permit. You must provide them with:

  • food
  • accommodation
  • access to the vessel, records, fish, crew, and equipment
  • full access to communication devices on the vessel
  • help to complete their duties.

Observers aren't enforcement officers, but they must record any potential offences they observe.

2016-2017 observer seadays plan

Each year, MPI and the Department of Conservation plan the number of observer days needed at sea for different fisheries and clients. The 'seadays plan' is for 1 July to 30 June each year.

The following tables show the current number of sea days planned for each fishery and the total delivered up to 30 June 2017.

Inshore fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (MPI)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed 
West Coast North Island set net 200   200 131
West Coast North Island inshore trawl 175 175 350 448
SNA1 trawl 75 75 150 42
Bottom long-line North East North Island (SNA) 75 75 150 163
East Coast South Island set net 155 155 310 146
South Coast South Island set net 160 160 320 140
Bottom long-line bluenose target (FMA 1)1 51.5 51.5 103 91
Hawkes Bay trawl 100   100 28
SNA1 Danish seine 85 15 100 19
East Coast South Island trawl 100 100 200 81
West Coast South Island trawl 50 50 100 16

1FMA 1 – Fisheries Management Area 1

Middle-depth (MD) fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (MPI)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed 
West Coast North Island MD 29.75 5.25 35 84
West Coast South Island MD 153 27 180 176
Chatham Rise MD 340 60 400 386
Sub-Antarctic MD 212.5 37.5 250 170
Southern blue whiting 88 22 110 115
Squid 64 16 80 162
Hoki Cook Strait 80 20 100 101
West Coast South Island Hoki – inside 25 nautical miles 85 15 100 102
Scampi 360 90 450 259
Ling bottom long-line (all vessel sizes) 382.5 67.5 450 298

Deepwater (DW) fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (MPI)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
North Island DW 153 17 170 97
Chatham Rise DW 243 27 270 146
Sub-Antarctic DW 54 6 60 42
West Coast DW 63 7 70 62

Highly migratory species

Fishery1Stock management and environment (MPI)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
Surface long line – out-of-zone, WCPFC 8.5 1.5 10 0
Domestic tuna surface long-line – East Coast southern bluefin tuna 280.5 49.5 330 294
Domestic tuna surface long-line - West Coast southern bluefin tuna 195.5 34.5 230 200
Domestic surface long-line - East Coast BIG/SWO 191.25 33.75 225 106
Domestic surface long-line - West Coast bigeye tuna and swordfish 38.25 6.75 45 40
Purse seine – skipjack tuna (not super seiner) 59.5 10.5 70 51
Purse seine – skipjack tuna (super seiner) 25.5 4.5 30 51

1WCPFC – Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission

Foreign owned vessels

FisheryStock management and environment (MPI)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
West Coast North Island 595 105 700 494
West Coast South Island 867 153 1020 804
Chatham Rise MD 297.5 52.5 350 667
Sub-Antarctic MD 544 96 640 556
Southern blue whiting 320 80 400 315
Squid 760 190 950 1080
Squid jig 0 0 0 0

Other

Fishery1ComplianceRequested days/permit requirements (industry)Total plannedTotal completed
Any 100   100 29
High or medium risk vessels   530 530 372
CCAMLR   450 450 223
SPFRMO trawl   525 525 520
SPRFMO bottom long-line   35 35 63
Precision Seafood Harvesting trials   240 240 606
Other       50
Vessel Specific Conversion Factor   60 60 13

1CCAMLR – Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources, SPFRMO – South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation

Who to contact

If you have questions about observers, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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