Species Focus - Blue Cod (Parapercis colias)

Blue cod are found only in New Zealand and are an inshore domestic fishery.

Blue CodThe major blue cod commercial fisheries in New Zealand are off Southland and the Chatham Islands, with smaller but regionally significant fisheries off Otago, Canterbury, the enclosed Marlborough Sounds and Wanganui. Blue cod tend to be more abundant and larger in size south of Cook Strait.

This species is highly valued by all sectors and is the most popular finfish species for many areas of the South Island. The non-commercial catch of blue cod is taken almost exclusively by line fishing. Commercially, most blue cod are caught using cod pots, although there is also a small amount of bycatch from inshore trawling.

Tagging surveys indicate that blue cod tend to be resident to a home area and are therefore susceptible to local depletion. This is apparent within the Fiordland and Marlborough Sounds and Paterson Inlet (Stewart Island).

Status of the stocks

For all blue cod QMAs, recent commercial catch levels and current TACCs are considered sustainable.

Surveys using pots and handlines are completed annually to monitor the relative abundance of populations in selected areas between the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland.

Current management issues

The drop in the number of blue cod in the Marlborough Sounds, caused by recreational fishing, is the most pressing management issue. There are some signs that such local depletion could become an issue at Kaikoura, Motunau and parts of Foveaux Strait. Given the ease of access and increasing retail value of blue cod, poaching may also become a management issue within the fishery.

Recreational fishers often catch undersize cod. Any time a fish is caught on a hook there is a risk that the fish will die, even if returned to the sea. If fishers use larger, circle hooks (6/0 or larger), or barbless hooks, the number of smaller blue cod that will die will be reduced, simply because they can’t swallow that size hook.

This year MFish consulted with the community over how to deal with this issue.

Blue cod distribution

Blue cod distribution and management areas.

Blue cod catch limits and allowances

The Minister of Fisheries has closed the enclosed Marlborough Sounds and Tory Channel to all recreational blue cod fishing from 1 October 2008 to 1 October 2012. Elsewhere the combined commercial catch limits for all blue cod stocks has been set at 2,681 tonnes for the 2007/08 and 2008/09 fishing year.

Non-commercial allowances for recreational and customary catch, or other sources of fishing-related fish deaths, have not yet been set for any blue cod stocks. Instead, catch is controlled by daily bag limits and minimum legal size limits.

Blue cod measuring at least 30 cm can be taken by both recreational and commercial fishers. In the Central and Southland FMAs the minimum size is 33 cm.

The daily bag limit for blue cod varies from 10 in Patterson Inlet (Stewart Island), 20 in Fiordland to 30 in the Otago/Southland fisheries.

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Updated : 31 July 2008