World class and growing
New Zealand's recreational fisheries are world class. Within minutes of our major cities, people can go and gather a feed of shellfish, or catch rock lobster (crayfish), snapper or blue cod.
This is part of our New Zealand heritage.
But we have a growing population. As our towns and cities grow, more and more people take seafood from the seas nearby; and more and more go to holiday or live in popular seaside spots like the Marlborough Sounds, Coromandel or Bay of Plenty.
About a million people each year go recreational fishing in New Zealand, including many who dive or gather shellfish from our beaches. This effort tends to be concentrated in our popular weekend and holiday spots.
Photos taken in the 1950s and 60s sometimes show recreational fishers with huge catches of fish.
Hauls like this, along with intense fishing by commercial boats in the 1960s and 70s, badly affected some inshore fisheries.
Most are now recovering. Commercial catches were reduced in the 1980s, and some recreational limits have been reduced more recently.
But improving the state of our important inshore fisheries remains a challenge for fisheries managers.
Recreational catches are managed by a range of rules. Some set out how many fish a person can take each day. Others set minimum size limits, or limit the fishing methods that can be used.
The rules help make sure there are enough fish to go around. They are made to be simple, and usually apply to a wide geographic area.
But with lots of people chasing fish in popular coastal areas, there can be shortages. This happens particularly with species that stay in the same area, like shellfish, rock lobster, and blue cod.
For instance, in the Tasman/Marlborough area, we know there are enough blue cod to breed and keep up the overall population. But in more popular parts of the Sounds, fishers may find it difficult to catch a legal-sized blue cod.
Fishing pressure can also affect the sustainability of some popular species on a broader scale. Where this happens, rules are changed to reduce the numbers of fish caught.
Snapper fisheries on Northland's west coast have been slowly rebuilding after intense commercial fishing in the 1970s. These are important fisheries for both recreational and commercial fishers, and the government wants them to rebuild faster. So it has recently reduced commercial catch limits in the area, and reduced recreational bag limits from 15 to 10 snapper per day.