These sections outline New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment.

Supply Chain

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to ensuring supply chain integrity within the seafood industry.


These sections outline New Zealand's approach to the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

Customary fishers.

Customary fishers have a pivotal role to play in all aspects of fisheries management, both as Treaty partners and as experts skilled in fisheries management.
The Treaty of Waitangi is considered New Zealand's founding document and was signed in 1840 by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand and the British Crown. The signing of the Treaty guaranteed Maori full rights to their lands, forests and fisheries. However, these guarantees as they relate to fishing were not given effect until after agreement was reached between Maori and the Crown in the Fisheries Deed of Settlement in 1992.
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Tangata Whenua is the term used to describe the Māori people of a particular locality, or as a whole as the original inhabitants of New Zealand.
Te Ohu Kaimoana is a statutory organisation dedicated to future advancement of Māori interests in the marine environment. Its role is to allocate to mandated iwi organisations fisheries assets held in trust through the 1989 and 1992 Māori Commercial Fisheries Settlement, provide governance oversight of the settlement assets managed centrally and provide an advisory service to its iwi constituents.
This section provides an overview of how New Zealand specifically provides for and manages customary fishing for both commercial and non-commercial use. Further details about the New Zealand fisheries management system and environmental conservation can be found by clicking on the Related Sections.

Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki have a pivotal role to play in customary fishing.

Customary non-commercial fishers can undertake fishing for customary communal purposes in particular rohe moana when authorised to do so by a Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki appointed for that area. Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki can determine whether a customary fisher can exceed the amateur catch limits in any authorisation. There are different processes and accountability regimes that lead to the appointment of Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki in the North Island from the South Island. In the North Island a Tangata Kaitiaki may be recommended by and accountable to a whanau group, or a hapu or an iwi. In the South Island Tiaki Kaitiaki are recommended by and accountable to iwi. Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki are approved by the Minister where there are no objections from tangata whenua. The Ministry also consults with Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Kaitiaki (as experts skilled in customary fishing and wider fisheries management) on any aspects of fisheries management that is being considered for change in their rohe moana.

The 1992 Fisheries Deed of Settlement recognised that Maori traditional fisheries included both commercial and non-commercial use of fish.

The Settlement provided for commercial use by providing that Maori received 10% of quota for those species introduced into the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986 and 20% of quota for any new QMS species after September 1992, along with $150M to allow Maori to purchase a 50% Share in Sealord. Maori, through iwi, now own approximately 33% of all quota across the country.

The Settlement also provided that the Crown would enact regulations recognising and providing for customary food gathering and the special relationship between the Tangata Whenua and places of importance for customary food gathering. It stipulated, however, that such food gathering must not be commercial in any way nor involve commercial gain or trade.

Under the Settlement the Crown must also consult with Maori through their representative bodies on any significant changes to statutes and practice for fisheries or the wider marine environment that could impact on the rights, assets and interests the Crown recognised through the 1992 Deed of Settlement. Any development in such management must advance the agreements between the Crown and Maori in the Fisheries Deed of Settlement.

Customary non-commercial fishing regulations have been developed as a result of the 1992 Fisheries Deed of Settlement with the agreements in that being legislated in the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act and linking requirements in the Fisheries Act.

The goal of customary fishing regulations is ultimately to support compliance for sustainability purposes, specifically:

  • Ensuring the fisheries are available for future generations
  • Utilising the fishery to sustain cultural practices
  • Supporting Government partnership with Tangata Whenua
  • Preventing abuse of natural resources

It was recognised in the preamble of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992 that the Government would introduce legislation empowering the making of regulations recognising and providing for customary food gathering and the special relationship between the Tangata Whenua and places of importance for customary food gathering. It stipulated, however, that such food gathering must not be commercial in any way nor involve commercial gain or trade.

There are currently a number of regulations that provide for customary non-commercial fishing. These include:

  • Regulation 27A of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986 – this is a transitional regime
  • Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations 1998 for the North Island and the South Island Customary Regulations 1999. Under the regulations measures can also be put in place in certain circumstances to provide for customary harvest by excluding or restricting commercial fishing activities.
  • Pataka – which allows for storage of fish to be used for communal activity at a later time. The actual fishing activity can be undertaken by a commercial fisher provided the fisher operates under a customary authorisation and separates the catch from commercial catch.

The regulations require Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki to report customary non-commercial catch.

All commercial fishing in New Zealand is covered by fisheries legislation and the Quota Management System.

That means that Māori fishers taking fish for commercial use must follow the same rules as any other commercial fisher, regardless of whether the quota or catch entitlements are owned by Māori interests.

“Customary food gathering” means the traditional rights confirmed by the Treaty of Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992, being the taking of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed or managing of fisheries resources, for a purpose authorised by Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki, including koha, to the extent that such purpose is consistent with tikanga maori and is neither commercial in any way nor for pecuniary gain or trade.
Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998
Customary non-commercial regulations provide for customary harvest and management regimes.
Set up by the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry that makes recommendations on claims brought by Māori relating to Government actions which breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. Over time, various investigations have been undertaken by the Tribunal into the impact of proposed or extant legislation on Maori fisheries and aquaculture interests. This has resulted in subsequent legislation, settlements, protocols and (in some cases) additional regulations for particular areas or fisheries.
Government obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi are to involve Tangata Whenua in fisheries management decision making to ensure any proposed change advances the agreements in the 1992 Fisheries Deed of Settlement, deliver 10% of quota in the original fish stocks introduced into the QMS and 20% of new quota to Maori through iwi provide for and protect customary communal fishing rights.
The Government ensures it delivers on its obligations to Tangata Whenua by implementing its partnership obligations, establishing and maintaining effective relationships, developing frameworks and processes to implement the 1992 Fisheries Deed of Settlement, and ensuring contemporary grievances are not created.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is currently referenced from Fisheries New Zealand (Ministry of Primary Industries) Customary Fishing Information Manual 2009 (downloadable below). The content was reviewed by Te Ohu Kaimoana.

Page last updated: 29 May 2019
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