South-East area fishing rules
Recreational fishing rules for the South-East area, including closures, restrictions, and other important notices.
Due to the earthquake of 14 November 2016, fisheries in the Kaikōura and Cape Campbell regions are closed:
- Collection of shellfish and seaweed is prohibited between Marfells Beach and the Conway River out to a distance of 4 nautical miles.
Details, including a map of the closed area, are in the 'Closures and restrictions' box on this page.
What you need to know
This area, includes the east coast of the South Island between Clarence Point near Kaikoura, down to Slope Point, Southland, and extending out 200 nautical miles to the Chatham Islands. However, it excludes a small area around Kaikoura, which has different rules.
All recreational fishing – including potting, netting and all other fishing methods – is covered by rules.
This page is a summary of daily bag and size limits and closed and restricted areas.
For more information about rules you can:
- download the rules brochure [PDF, 2 MB] or a printer-friendly version [PDF, 1.9 MB]
- get the free NZ Fishing Rules app – Apple or Android
- send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species – for example "blue cod" or "pāua". You'll be sent legal bag and size limits for that species by return text.
You can also:
- get a rules brochure from MPI offices
- email MPI to be posted the rules brochure
- read the full rules in the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 2013 – NZ Legislation website
It is illegal to buy, sell or swap recreationally caught seafoodThese are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.
In the South-East area there is a combined daily bag limit of 30 finfish per fisher, consisting of any combination of the species listed on the following table. Individual species limits must not be exceeded.
Additionally there are individual limits, over and above the combined bag, for Groper/Hapuku/Bass and Kingfish. These have a combined daily limit of 5 (max 3 Kingfish).
There is no limit on finfish species not listed below.
|Finfish Species||Min length (cm)||Max daily limit
|Min mesh size
for nets (mm)
|Blue cod – South East area||30||30||–|
|Blue cod – North Canterbury||30||10||–|
|Flatfish (except Sand flounder)||25||30||100|
|Salmon (Otago Harbour)||45||2||100|
|Seven gilled shark||–||1||100|
|Spotted black groper||–||No take||100|
|White pointer shark||–||No take||100|
Shellfish are taken when they cannot freely return to the water – for example, when they are placed into a catch bag or similar. At no time while gathering may you be in possession of more than your daily limit.
|Shellfish Species||Daily limit per fisher||Min size (mm)|
|Kina (sea eggs)||50||none|
(Season: 1 Mar to 31 Aug)
– Yellow foot
(Season: 15 Jul to 14 Feb)
|All others (combined) •||50||none|
^ During the open season dredge oysters can be harvested by dredge and the use of underwater breathing apparatus. Both the daily limit and minimum size of 58mm applies. Hand gathering dredge oysters: there is no restriction on either size or season for dredge oysters that are hand-gathered (includes shore picking and free diving, does not include diving using underwater breathing apparatus.) The exception is the waters of the Chatham Islands where the dredge oyster minimum size of 58mm applies.
+ Limited provision allows a diver on a vessel to gather extra bag limits of oysters and scallops for up to 2 other people acting in a dive safety capacity. Note: This only applies to taking scallops and oysters.
• This is a combined, mixed-species bag limit. It applies to all shellfish species not specifically named above and includes all crabs, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, whelks, barnacles and freshwater crayfish (koura).
Daily bag limits
Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) on any one day.
Spiny rock lobster minimum size
Measure the tail width in a straight line between the tips of the two large (primary) spines on the second segment of the tail. If you are unsure of the sex, use the 60mm measurement.
Packhorse lobster minimum size
Measure the tail length along the underside in a straight line from the rear of the calcified bar on the first segment to the tip of the middle fan of the tail. Must have a tail length of at least 216mm (male and female).
Additional rules and protections
There are rules and protections for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover: protected types, gathering methods, pot construction and use. For more details check the:
No fishing is allowed, this includes Marine Reserves.
- Akaroa Marine Reserve
- Flea Bay (Pōhatu) Marine Reserve
- Hikurangi Marine Reserve
Marine reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
The area between Marfells Beach (west of Cape Campbell) and the Conway River (which sits south of the Kaikōura township), extending 4 nautical miles offshore (see map) is closed for the collection of shellfish and seaweed – excluding rock lobster and scampi.
This is part of MPI's emergency response to the 14 November Kaikōura earthquake.
- It applies to shellfish and seaweed species until 5 pm on 20 November 2017.
- The closure excludes scampi (Metanephrops challengeri) and rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii).
- Collecting shellfish or seaweed in the closed area is an offence.
Map: The affected area of the earthquake-related closure
Set netting restrictions
Set netting is prohibited offshore to 4 nautical miles along the east coast of the South Island from Clarence to South Point. However, exemptions apply. You can use set nets:
- in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and inlets except for the Avon-Heathcote estuary
- for flounder between 1 April and 30 September in the Pigeon Bay, Akaroa Harbour, Lyttelton Harbour and Port Levy areas around Banks Peninsula.
Flat fish (flounder) set nets must be:
- 9 meshes or less deep.
- Have a monofilament diameter equal to or less than 0.35mm.
- Have a minimum mesh size of 100mm.
- Be anchored at each end.
- Not exceed a total length of 60m.
Other areas where set or drag netting is restricted or banned
- Kaiapoi and Waimakariri rivers – set netting restrictions
- Lake Ellesmere – set netting restrictions
- Catlins Lake – no set netting or drag netting
- Otago Harbour – set netting restrictions.
An area of special significance to an iwi or hapū, where additional rules and restrictions are in place.
Download the rules brochures:
Find out more on the NZ Legislation website:
Areas where tangata whenua manage non-commercial fishing through bylaws:
Rapaki Bay - Banks Peninsula
Koukourarata - Banks Peninsula
Otakou - Otago Harbour
Food safety warnings
Warnings are issued when shellfish are unsafe to eat because of contamination with biotoxin.
Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can help us by providing:
- the location
- vehicle/trailer registration number
- boat name
- description of the person
When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.
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