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Commercial Fishing

Our seafood industry sustainably harvests about 600,000 tonnes from wild fisheries and aquaculture each year. The value of this harvest ranges from $1.2 to $1.5 billion per annum, of which the aquaculture industry contributes about $200m per annum. Seafood exports consistently rank as New Zealand’s fourth or fifth largest export earner. 

There are about 130 species targeted commercially in the New Zealand exclusive economic zone (the EEZ). Seventy percent of fish caught in our wild fisheries is taken in deepwater fisheries. The major species are:

  • squid
  • hoki
  • ling
  • oreo dories
  • orange roughy
  • silver warehou

Important inshore and shellfish species include spiny rock lobster, paua, and snapper.

For more information on species fished in New Zealand, visit:

The Quota Management System (QMS)

The majority of the species of importance to commercial fishers are managed under the quota management system (QMS). The QMS was introduced in 1986. To date there are 97 species groupings in the system which are divided into 629 individual management units. Catch limits have been set for each of these management units.

The introduction of the QMS together with the establishment of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has resulted in significant changes to the fishing industry in New Zealand. Commercial ownership and use of our fisheries resources is now controlled by New Zealanders. Investment has increased by New Zealand companies in fishing vessels and processing facilities. 

New Zealand companies also have fishing interests outside our EEZ. For more on this, visit the International pages of this site:


Aquaculture initiatives occur both on land and in the marine environment. Marine aquaculture occurs generally in the calm embayments of the coastal marine area such as the Firth of Thames and the Marlborough Sounds. The main marine aquaculture activities in New Zealand are the farming of Greenshell™ mussels, Pacific oysters, and king (or quinnat) salmon. A number of species are farmed on land. 

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Updated : 3 September 2015

Deck of a commercial trawler.