New fishing catch limits to come into force in April

A number of new fishing catch limits introduced on Friday aim to make sure the country's fish resources are sustainable.

Changes to the catch limits of 14 fish stocks were announced by Fisheries New Zealand, along with the introduction of a full year-round closure to harvesting shellfish at Cockle Bay/Tuwakamana on Auckland’s east coast.

Fish stocks are reviewed twice a year, in April and October, to see if any changes to catch limits are needed.

"If the science tells us more fish can be sustainably caught, then we increase the catch limits, says Emma Taylor, Fisheries New Zealand director of fisheries management.

"However, if this information shows the opposite, we look to reduce the catch limits to help rebuild stocks."

She said new science suggested packhorse rock lobster populations had increased in recent years, meaning more could be sustainably harvested. However, a decrease in catch limits for flatfish and yellow-eyed mullet took into consideration "factors on the marine ecosystem that may affect productivity, such as habitat degradation or pollution".

"Of the 14 stocks reviewed, catch limits will increase for five stocks, four will decrease, and five remain unchanged," Taylor said.

The Cockle Bay closure will come into effect on May 1, "which is when the beach would have previously opened under the current seasonal closure that is in place".

The following will change from 1 April 2021:

  • Giant spider crab in the Chatham Rise, South East Coast, and Southland/Southern offshore islands (GSC 3, 5, & 6A) – increases to catch limits reflecting the increased abundance of stock.
  • Red rock lobster in Gisborne (CRA 3) and Wellington/Hawke’s Bay (CRA 4) – catch limits will decrease to ensure the stocks remain sustainable.
  • Red rock lobster in Northland (CRA 1) and Canterbury/Marlborough (CRA 5) – no change to limits as stocks are currently at sustainable levels. These will continue to be closely monitored.
  • Packhorse rock lobster nation-wide (PHC 1) – a moderate catch increase. Information shows this stock is doing well and more can be sustainability harvested.

Catch limits to the following will come into effect on 1 October 2021:

  • Blue cod in the Chatham Islands (BCO 4) – A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set for the first time. The commercial catch limit will remain unchanged.
  • Elephantfish at the West Coast and top of the South Island (ELE 7) – no change to catch limits.
  • Flatfish at the East Cape, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Taranaki (FLA 2) – catch limits will be decreased due to sustainability concerns if fully fished.
  • Dark ghost shark at the East Coast of Northland, Auckland, and the Bay of Plenty (GSH 1) – A TAC has been set for the first time. Available information suggests there is an opportunity for increased utilisation. As such, a small increase to the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) has also been made.
  • Giant stargazer (STA 1) in Waikato, Auckland, Northland, and Bay of Plenty – A TAC has been set for the first time. The commercial catch limit will remain unchanged.
  • Yellow-eyed mullet in Waikato, and the West Coast of Auckland and Northland (YEM 9) – a decrease to the catch limits to ensure sustainable management an respond to environmental impacts on the fishery.