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.

Fishing rules.

The legal right to fish and obligations for accurately reporting fishing actvities in New Zealand are tightly controlled.
New Zealand's fishing rules cover everything from vessel registrations and quota allocations to catch reporting requirements and compliance obligations.
The seafood industry is held accountable for accurately reporting their catch, balancing their catch against harvest allocations, ensuring they hold valid fishing permits and registering their vessels. Oversight and enforcement is provided by the Government.
All rules pertaining to commercial fishing in New Zealand are mandated by a number of key pieces of legislation. The Fisheries Act 1983 laid the groundwork for the Quota Management System (QMS). The Fisheries Act 1986 heralded the introduction of individual transferable quota, or ITQs. The Fisheries Act 1996 further refined New Zealand's fisheries management system by separating harvest rights and ownership of quota rights. These created the QMS in its current form.
This section provides an overview of the New Zealand fishing rules, their establishment and how the commercial fishing industry operates within this framework. More information on the Quota Management System and associated commercial requirements can be found by clicking on the Related Sections, Deeper Reading or downloable PDF features.

To comply with the New Zealand fishing rules, Vessel Operators, Permit Holders and Licensed Fish Receivers must ensure they have the right to fish and then accurately report their fishing activities. They all have legal registration and reporting requirements they must meet.

Vessel Operators must be in possession of a valid Fishing Permit. Fishing Permits are issued for a period of 5 years and authorise the taking of fish for commercial purposes (conditions may apply). The Government then requires all Vessel Operators to complete catch effort and landing returns for every vessel. These returns include details about catch location, time/date of the trip, fishing methods, quantity of catch and the landed state.

Permit Holders must have a valid Vessel Registration for every vessel that takes fish for commercial purposes. All commercial fishing vessels must be flagged to New Zealand and comply with all New Zealand fisheries and maritime regulations. A Permit Holder must provide monthly returns for all vessels.

Fishing Permits and Vessel Registrations must be available for inspection by a Fisheries Officer.

Any fish taken in New Zealand’s fisheries waters for commercial purposes must be landed in New Zealand to a Licensed Fish Receiver (LFR). These LFRs must be registered with the Government and must adhere to very specific legal requirements with regards to documentation. LFRs report all landings they receive from each Permit Holder. They are also required to complete annual stocktakes of inventory and annual audits.

Fisheries New Zealand provides the governance and enforcement of the fishing rules within the seafood industry. Civil and criminal penalty regimes apply. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, penalties range from suspensions of fishing permits to imprisonment.

Frontline enforcement is conducted by Fisheries Officers – any officer in command of a vessel or aircraft of the New Zealand defence force or any New Zealand police officer is equally deemed to be a Fisheries Officer. Fisheries Officers can issue infringement notices, prosecute those involved and seize boats and equipment used in fishery-related offences.

Fisheries New Zealand also places personnel onboard vessels for the purposes of fisheries research, management and enforcement. They are an important part of ensuring compliance with the fishing rules and collecting information for further investigations.

Each year, the Government conducts more than 1,000 commercial vessel inspections and plans more than 11,500 observer days at sea.
Penalties for serious offending under the Fisheries Act range from up to five years imprisonment, fines up to $500,000 and forfeiture of all equipment including vessels and fishing gear and forfeiture of quota shares.
Fishing Rules Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points from this section. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Fishing Rules Section Detail Report
To learn more about the legislative framework, rules of the Quota Management System and conformance measures applied to the commercial fishing industry, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
Dissemination of catch data in the New Zealand seafood industry
Download a chart summarising how catch data is reported, collated and distributed.
The rights-based framework provided under the Quota Management System helps commercial fishers to comply with catch limits and is therefore inseparable from sustainability. More details about New Zealand's framework for sustainable management of fish stocks can be found under "Managing for Sustainability".
The New Zealand government employs a cost recovery model, which seeks to pass on some of the associated costs of funding the Quota Management System to the seafood industry. Cost recovery levies are mostly charges to quota holders. In 2015-16, the industry paid over $24m NZD in government levies for fisheries related conservation, research and enforcement services. Failure to pay the cost recovery levy can lead to quota being caveated and associated permits and licenses suspended.
Within boundaries, the Fisheries Act 1996 allows for devolution of certain services to an Approved Service Delivery Organisation (ASDO). Since 1999, Fishserve has provided both contracted and ASDO services to the Government, including the registry, data management and fisheries services necessary to support the administration of the QMS. The Government maintains ultimate accountability and has in place a regulatory penalty regime which it may impose for any breach of standards and specifications for this work. In the history of its operations, FishServe has never been penalised under the regulations for a breach of standards.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is referenced from the OpenSeas Section Detail Report (downloadable above).

The OpenSeas report was prepared by a technical expert, with demonstrable knowledge and experience in the topic at hand. An internal fit-for-purpose review was conducted by the OpenSeas Programme Director, which may have included external scientific or operational expertise.

An external scope and accuracy review was conducted by the relevant regulatory agency(ies) for the original report (i.e. New Zealand Government departments).

The report authors were responsible for revising the report in line with recommendations from reviews and retains final responsibility for the report content.
Section Detail Report Author:
Stephanie Jordan
Business Analyst
Page last updated: 2 January 2023
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