The cornerstone of New Zealand’s fisheries management regime is the federally run quota management system (QMS), which was introduced in 1986. Under the QMS a yearly catch limit is set for every fish stock. A fish stock is a species of fish, shellfish or seaweed from a particular area of New Zealand waters. By controlling the amount of fish taken from each stock, the QMS sets the foundation for ensuring the sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries.

New Zealand law requires catch limits for every fish stock to be set at levels that will ensure their long term sustainability. The Ministry of Fisheries rigorously monitors the amount of fish caught against these limits and financial penalties are enforced if too much fish is caught in any one year. Under this system, the commercial catching rights for 

each of New Zealand’s 636 fish stocks have been split into quota shares which can be freely bought and sold. New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the world to use individual transferable quotas on such a broad scale and across so many fisheries. Allocating quota to individual fishers encourages them to make sure their catch levels are sustainable because they are guaranteed a permanent share of the fishery in the future. This certainty encourages long term sustainability. The QMS has delivered significant benefits – most of the stocks that were overfished before the introduction of the QMS now have sustainable catch limits in place. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world that has an internationally competitive fishing industry that makes use of a natural resource on a sustainable basis.

How can we be confident that our numbers are correct?

New Zealand has sophisticated fisheries research, management, and monitoring systems that work together to make sure future generations of New Zealanders will be able to enjoy and use healthy fisheries. Each year there is considerable investment in research and fisheries assessment. All research and assessment is carefully reviewed by expert scientists, with active participation by fisheries managers and representatives of environmental and commercial fishing interests. The commercial fishing industry pays for a significant proportion of this research. The results of this research are freely available on the Ministry of Fisheries website which can be viewed by following the link below.