Observer services

Our 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

Fisheries New Zealand 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 Fisheries New Zealand as well as for the:

If an observer is on your vessel

If we ask 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.

2018-2019 observer seadays plan

Each year, Fisheries New Zealand 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 1 July 2018.

Inshore fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (Fisheries NZ)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed 
West Coast North Island set net 150   150 0
West Coast North Island inshore trawl 280 280 560 0
Snapper 1 (SNA1) trawl 75 75 150 0
Snapper 1 (SNA1) bottom long-line 65 65 130 0
East Coast South Island set net 60 60 120 0
South Coast South Island set net 100 100 200 0
Bluenose/hapuku & bass 1 (BNS/HPB1) bottom long-line
55 55 110 0


Middle-depth (MD) fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (Fisheries NZ)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed 
West Coast North Island 42.5 7.5 50 0
West Coast South Island 170 30 200 16
Chatham Rise 255 45 300 0
Sub-Antarctic 170 30 200 0
Southern blue whiting 104 26 130 0
Squid 240 60 300 0
Hoki Cook Strait 102 18 120 0
West Coast South Island hoki – inside 25 nautical miles 68 12 80 1
Scampi 320 80 400 16
Ling bottom long-line (all vessel sizes) 340 60 400 10

Deepwater (DW) fisheries

FisheryStock management and environment (Fisheries NZ)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
North Island 90 10 100 0
Chatham Rise 198 22 220 0
Sub-Antarctic 54 6 60 0
West Coast 54 6 60 0

Highly migratory species

FisheryStock management and environment (Fisheries NZ)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
Domestic tuna surface long-line – East Coast southern bluefin tuna 190 33 223 0
Domestic tuna surface long-line - West Coast southern bluefin tuna 109 19 128 16
Domestic surface long-line - East Coast bigeye tuna and swordfish 236 42 278 0
Domestic surface long-line - West Coast bigeye tuna and swordfish 91 16 107 0
Purse seine – skipjack tuna (not super seiner) 60 11 70 0
Purse seine – skipjack tuna (super seiner) 26 5 30 0


Foreign owned vessels

FisheryStock management and environment (Fisheries NZ)Conservation (DOC)Total plannedTotal completed
West Coast North Island 510 90 600 17
West Coast South Island 680 120 800 36
Chatham Rise middle depths 467.5 82.5 550 0
Sub-Antarctic middle depths 510 90 600 0
Southern blue whiting 255 45 300 0
Squid 850 150 1000 0

Other

Fishery1ComplianceRequested days/permit requirements (industry)Total plannedTotal completed
Any 100   100 0
High or medium risk vessels   350 350 2
CCAMLR   300 300 0
SPFRMO trawl   500 500 13
SPRFMO bottom long-line   70 70 0
Precision Seafood Harvesting trials   120 120 2
WCPFC surface longline   20 20 0
Vessel specific conversion factor   60 60 0

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

Previous seadays plans

Who to contact

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

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