Shared fisheries for the future

The health and sustainability of our fisheries is important for all New Zealanders. MPI manages fish populations to ensure there's enough now and for future generations.

Kai moana: the ocean's bounty

Fisheries are part of our heritage as New Zealanders. Whether it’s fresh-caught fish for family and friends, a meal of delicacies for marae guests, or the seafood landed to market at a regional port. To ensure there's enough fish now and into the future, we need to use fish resources wisely.

MPI works to manage this heritage. We keep fish populations healthy for those who want to catch and eat fish, and for our industry to catch and sell. We want future generations to have as many options for using these resources as New Zealanders enjoy today.

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Estimating the size of our fish populations

Every year, MPI contracts the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and other scientists to estimate the size of many fish populations and how those populations are trending over time. Then, they compare the results with what we consider ideal population sizes.

Setting catch limits and allocations

MPI recommends catch limits based on estimates of a fish population's size and the likely impact of fishing. After allowing for customary harvest, we calculate and allocate recreational and commercial portions of the recommended catch limits, and make allowances for other fishing-related deaths.

In recognition of rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori own 20% of the commercial allocation for species managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System.

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Wider environmental and other changes

Sometimes environmental factors, non-fishing activities, and pathogens can affect the behaviour of fish, the productivity of fisheries and the habitats and ecosystems that support them.

Some inshore shell fisheries, such as scallops, pipi, and oysters, are particularly susceptible to changing land use, sediments and diseases like Bonamia. While these factors may not be caused by fishing, we need to adjust catches nevertheless to ensure the populations remain sustainable.

Rebuilding our fisheries

In the 1970s, the fishing industry was expanding and snapper and rock lobster were over-caught. At the same time, commercial fishing extended into deeper waters and catch levels rapidly increased. From 1986 we began to set new catch limits for commercial fisheries and a Quota Management System to allocate catches.

With stocks depleted, catch limits were reduced (or set at zero). A number of fish stocks have now recovered.

Ongoing work

Fisheries management needs to keep pace with a changing world. Recreational fishing has grown in popularity, and society is much more interested in sustainability.

We're constantly updating our approach to fisheries management to accommodate such changes. We also constantly update our science methods as new tools and technological advances develop.

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Who to contact

If you have questions about fisheries management, email

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