The future of commercial fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand


Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi

This report was prepared after a request from the Prime Minister in late 2019. By drawing on local and international research and experience, and highlighting best practice examples, we aim to inspire innovative thinking and changes in fisheries management in 2040 and beyond.

The report aims to identify ways we can fill knowledge gaps, increase our understanding of the marine environment, and ultimately take a more holistic approach to fisheries management.

The evidence base for this report includes scientific and peer-reviewed literature, government, research, and technical reports, working papers, and personal communications. The report does not attempt to cost solutions nor to prioritise them at a detailed level.

The report outlines detailed recommendations in seven themes, which represent the conversations in our panel meetings.

We describe the challenging context in which commercial fishing takes place and lay out the many stressors faced by the marine environment. To help understand how to make progress in this contested area, we try to capture the complexities of commercial fishing in 2020.

Finally, we outline ideas and innovations that could help us fish smarter in the future, and end with an aspirational vision to challenge old thinking and encourage new.

A man stands on the deck of a fishing vessel looking down at a trawl net filled with silvery fish

Southern blue whiting (Micromesistius australis pallidus) fishery. Image credit: Neil Bagley/NIWA.


Dive into the science of commercial fisheries with our full report. You can either download the PDF or scroll to explore the web version – both have the same content.

For those who would prefer to paddle their feet before taking the plunge, our shorter ‘Key messages’ is also available for download.

If you would like a hard copy or a pdf suitable for printing, please get in touch

The future of commercial fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand – Web version

Juliet smiling in a rainjacket in the pouring rain

Foreword from the PMCSA

Juliet reflects on our foray into commercial fisheries.

Close up of rock lobsters in a crayfish pot


To support movement towards 100% sustainably managed oceans, reflecting our aspirations for commercial fishing in 2040. Alongside the recommendations we provide considerations for supporting their implementation.

Close up of rock lobsters in a crayfish pot

Expert panel and reference group

Meet our expert panel, a diverse group convened by Juliet to guide the preparation of this report. Read our terms of reference and acknowledgements.

a pā kahawai or trolling lure fish hook made with iridescent blue pāua shell


We briefly introduce the history and current state-of-play for commercial fishing and ocean research, highlight key work that we build upon, outline motivations for improving the sustainability of the commercial fishing industry, and describe the guiding frameworks and exemplars for this project. We also note the definitions for some key technical terms and note out-of-scope topics.

Sediment near Okura by Geoff Reid NZ

Challenges for the marine environment

To provide context, we describe the range of non-fishing stressors acting on the marine environment, including climate change, land-based impacts, diseases and invasive species, plastic pollution, and their cumulative effects. We then provide an evidence synthesis on how commercial fishing challenges the marine environment, focusing on the ecosystem.

Choppy ocean

The regulatory space is complex

We outline the complexity of the regulations in the marine domain and demonstrate the resulting challenges at local, national, and international levels.

Close-up of hoki

Commercial fisheries in 2020

We provide a brief overview of the key tools used for fisheries management in Aotearoa New Zealand, synthesise the evidence on the state of our commercially fished stocks, highlighting data and information gaps as well as contested information, and describe various initiatives underway in the sector.

Nate Smith of Gravity Fishing holds a large fish onboard his vessel

A future focus: Science, technology and innovation

We take a future focus and introduce innovative ideas and scientific solutions to address sustainability issues in the commercial fishing sector.

A fishing vessel off the coast of Coromandel at sunset

Vision: Imagining a different future for fishing in Aotearoa in 2040

We present an imagined future – not a prediction, but a provocation to envisage a different way of harvesting from our oceans, which draws on some exciting research ideas.

Image of fish swimming inside the tiaki precision seafood harvester net underwater

Case studies

Explore the variety of case studies showcasing new technology, research initiatives and innovative approaches to marine management.

A wooden fish hanging ornament with the words 'gone fishing' painted on it

Glossary and appendices

A glossary of te reo Māori terms, technical terms and abbreviations used throughout the report. Appendices to accompany the main report content.

Stripy parore fish swim near the seafloor, surrounded by tall kelp

Resource portal

A collection of useful links to key reports, references and resources.

Science and commercial fisheries

A documentary by independent filmmaker Shirley Horrocks, featuring panel members and other scientists.

This is part of Shirley’s ‘Science &’ series documenting the work of the OPMCSA. See more of Shirley’s films

Released on: 22 March 2021

Last updated: 22 March 2021

Fish news

Government responds to the fisheries report

Last week the government formally responded to The Future of Commercial Fishing report. Minister Parker announced the formal response to the report at the Sea into the Future conference, where Juliet was also a speaker.

Stripy parore fish swim near the seafloor, surrounded by tall kelp

Something fishy’s going on in the Office

This month we are starting work on an exciting new project in the office looking at how science can contribute to keeping Aotearoa New Zealand at the leading edge of global fisheries management.