Supporting Local Fisheries Management

GBI voluntary fishingLocal communities typically have a passion for their local coast and its resources. They also have a depth of knowledge about their area. Can local communities engage in local management? Should they? Or is this the domain of Government bodies. In this section we explore these questions and provide some examples of voluntary projects both here and overseas.


Great Barrier Islands

A group of locals on Great Barrier Islands have teamed up with the Local Community Board to create a voluntary fishing code. They have long been concerned about the decline in local fishing stocks.  A report based on interviews of local people has recently been completed. The link follows below.

GBI voluntary fishing code report



A New Zealand wide initiative has been set in motion by the NZ Sport Fishing Council and LegaSea lobby group in the recreational fishing sector. The program is information and web based. They are challenging the NZ recreational fishing sector to adopt five principles all aimed at benefiting the fishery and fishers. See the link to this site below.

Fishcare web site

The Five Principles are:

  • Fishing techniques (reduce harm to fish)
  • Handling and releasing (how to avoid damage to released fish)
  • Utilisation (respecting the resource by fully utilising fish caught)
  • Impact (reduce impact on other sea life)
  • Safety (improve safety for fishers)

Another interesting and positive example of a voluntary program is Free Fish Heads, promoted by TV fishing shows' Matt Watson. This programs matches people who have fish heads and carcuses to discard, with people who want to utilise this part of catch resource. In making this connection the program aims to increase awareness of how various cultures utilise fish and at the same time teach respect for the resource. This can lead to conservation of fish stocks via less wastage. The program works via a smartphone app that connects the fisher with people who want to use the head and carcuses for food.

Freefishheads web site


Supporting Customary Management

As a result of Treaty of Waitangi Settlement we have a range of tools that can come under local control via your local iwi and hapu. It is well worth becoming familiar with these tools in the Fisheries Act and see what you can do to support your local hapu. See our section on Supporting Customary Management.


Try A Little Kindness

This is a story from the Florida Keys about the famed Tarpon gamefish which is now threatened by overfishing. The story begins with a local dock owner coming to the aid of a distressed and injured Tarpon. What happened next is a fascinating story ending in a voluntary no fishing area, where over time thousands of people get the chance to meet a Tarpon face to face. Go to the web site link below to get the full story and have a look at the video. 

This story shows how a small voluntary no fishing area became good for the fish, the local economy and loved by the community.  

Robbie's Dock - The Story of Scarface  

Another way to influence local fisheries management is to engage in MPI's various fisheries planning processes. MPI maintains a web site of consultation processes where it is seeking input from the public, MPI Consultation page.

It is also possible to formulate a local fisheries plan and seek support for it from MPI via special regulations. The Kaipara Harbour community went through a very thorough community process to produce this report Kaipara Harbour Fishing for the Future





Supporting Traditional Management

FF Rahui2There are few places, if any, on the New Zealand coastline that don't have a long history of Maori settlement and involvement with the Sea. With that involvement comes a knowledge base, Matauranga Maori, encompassing customs and management strategies. Traditional rules and practice, often referred to in Te Reo Maori as Tikanga, easily align with western conservation values if people care to engage in an open and generous manner. If approached respectfully, Maori will almost always be willing to guide people through the journey of learning about Te Ao Maori, (the world of Maori).

Via the Treaty of Waitangi there are regulations within the Fisheries Act designed to support local hapu and iwi practicing customary management. In doing so this also supports marine protection and local fisheries management. Individuals in the community and conservation groups can engage with hapu to support some of these initiative where it is seen as appropriate by both parties. 

There are some good examples of traditional or customary management happening around the country. 

Maunganui Bay Rahui

FF rahui work1Bay of Islands group Fish Forever putting signage up at Maunganui Bay RahuiIn the Bay of Islands, the two hapu Ngati Kuta and Patukeha ki te Rawhiti, have established a no fishing area, or rahui, via the Fisheries Act Sec 186a temporary closure rule. The Bay of Islands community marine conservation group Fish Forever supported the hapu with providing and erecting signage, building a web site, and conducting monitoring and reports. Fish Forever are keen to see a network of full no take reserves established for the Bay of Islands. As part of that goal they have fully supported the rahui. Fish Forever saw that there was and remains an important job to educate the public at large about the hapu's project and vision to restore Maunganui Bay.

The Maunganui Bay Rahui web site

The Maunganui Bay Rahui Application (Ngati Kuta me Patukeha O te Rawhiti Hapu, Fisheries Act Sec 186a), (word version)


Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve and Mataitai

Whangara maraeNgati Konohi value the education and learning of their young people, and partner in significant research projects with Doc and other research organisations.Whangara is home to several families of the hapu Ngati Konohi. Their marae and beach on the coast east of Gisborne is the setting of the 'Whale Rider' movie. This marine reserve and mataitai area were established in 1999.  The hapu saw the marine reserve as vital to restoring the mauri of the area. The mataitai, which borders the marine reserve, was envisioned as a management area where the ample spill over of sea food species from the marine reserve could be managed in an appropriate and carefully controlled customary manner. That process is underway today. The Ngati Konohi people are very proud of what has been achieved.


To study in more detail the Ngati Konohi story go to our Case Study section to the Te Tapuwae O Rongokako marine reserve page

Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai

The third case we would like to highlight is the partnership between the University of Otago, the hapu of the Otago Coast and Ngai Tahu Runanga. We suggest you explore the many interesting resources on their site. You find a long list of publications about the work they have done and things they have learned from going down this road together ranging from how to build the partnership between community and hapu to the extensive ecological studies they have undertaken on their coast.

The Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai web site

Your Backyard

Of course there are many other examples of communities being involved with traditional management initiatives and you may want to search out more examples. However we urge you to also go and have a cup of tea with your local hapu and find out for yourself how you might support their kaupapa (the project or vision) with your mahi (work or effort). 

If you haven't already, be sure to read the other sections on this site that address various aspects of working with Tangata Whenua:

The Treaty of Waitangi and Marine Reserves

The Fisheries Act and Customary Management ToolsThe Fisheries Act and Customary Management Tools

In the Library Social Science and Community Engagement document download list

and our Library section Traditional Management

FF Rahui work3Rahui signage at Maunganui Bay Bay of Islands Rahui created by local hapu Ngati Kuri and Patu Keha


Benthic Protection Areas

NZ ProtectedAreasV2 600 849Benthic protection areasSince 2007, 1.2 million sq km of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) seabed (4 times the size of NZ landmass) has been closed to trawling and dredging. This includes seamounts and hydrothermal vents. This was proposed by the fishing industry in response to the publication of the MPA policy released in 2005. Part of the deal with the government was that further MPA proposals for the EEZ outside the 12nm territorial sea would be put on hold until 2013. With this date been and gone, it remains to be seen if further protection will be initiated in the deep sea. It is expensive and difficult to get information on our deep sea's ecosystems and the size of the EEZ is very large indeed. The long delay in reforming the Marine Reserve Act to enable jurisdiction outside the 12 mile limit has also slowed this process.

There are resources about the Benthic Protection Zones on both the DoC and MPI web site below.
DOC on Benthic Protection Zones

MPI on Benthic Protection Zones

Important note: Benthic Protection Areas do not meet the MPA policy standard as they only protect the benthos and not the adjoining pelagic ecosystems. In the case of the Campbell Island and Bounty Island marine protected areas, the already existing benthic protected area had a ban on dredging and danish seining placed over the top, meeting the type 2 marine protected area standard.

Further Reading

Proposed Marine Protected Areas Bill Discussion Document
Fisheries (Benthic Protection Areas) Regulations 2007

A very valuable technical report on using decision support modeling software to evaluate the conservation gains vs fisheries loss of the Benthic Protection Zones and other possible arrangement of reserves. Leathwick et al Novel Methods of Design of Offshore MPA's

Have a look at the slide show below of some of New Zeland's offshore Sea Mounts 


Fisheries Act Customary Tools

Maunganui Bay RahuiThe Fisheries Act Sec 186a Rahui at Maunganui Bay, Bay of IslandsMaori, as the original indigenous people of New Zealand, have a traditional relationship with the sea encompassing spiritual, cultural and practical management aspects. These traditions have a long history in New Zealand and before that with their Polynesian ancestors. In the 1990's the NZ Government negotiated the 'Sealord Deal' which settled the commercial interest in New Zealand's fisheries with Maori. Following the Sealord deal provision was made for Maori to retain access to certain customary fishing practices in the form of regulations amended to the Fisheries Act 1997.  

The rights and obiligations of Maori in the Fisheries Act apply to 'estuarine and littoral coastal' areas where traditional relationships with the sea can be proven. These traditional relationships can include food source, spiritual or cultural basis. These tools are designed to give effect to the obligations stated in the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Claims Settlement Act 1992. (Sealord Deal) to develop policies to help recognise use and management practices of Māori in the exercise of non-commercial fishing rights. There is no mention of ecosystem protection in these fisheries management tools yet some hapū have utilized these tools with a holistic ecosystem approach. A great example is Te Oko O Tangaroa, the Tangaroa Suite of Ngāti Konohi of Whāngarā. In designing their local marine protection Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve (1999) and a mataitai area. See our Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Case Study example.  


Toitū te marae a Tāne
Toitū te marae a Tangaroa
Toitū te iwi
If the world of Tāne (all living things on land) endures
If the marae of Tangaroa (the lakes, rivers and sea) endures
The people will endure 

Below is a quick summary of customary fishing tools. Customary fishing tools created by the Fisheries Act 1996 have the potential to meet the MPA protection standards, a threshold based on biodiversity protection is evalucated on a case by case basis.

Section 186 Temporary closure (Rāhui)

A temporary closure of one or more fished species for up to 2 years per application. In the 2011 Ministry for the Environment MPA indicators report no rāhui met the protection standard.


A customary marine managed area, governed by a committee nominated by tangata whenua and approved by the Minister of Fisheries. The committees role is to advise and provide reccomendations to the minister relating to:

  1. The species of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed that may be taken;
  2. The quantity of each species that may be taken;
  3. The dates or seasons that each species may be taken;
  4. Size limits relating to each species to be taken;
  5. The method by which each species may be taken;
  6. The area or areas in which each species may be taken.


(via the Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations 1998) have the following effect:

  • Excludes commercial fishing (though can be permitted through regulations);
  • Does not exclude recreational fishing;
  • Does not require fishers to obtain permits or prevent non-Maori from fishing;
  • Does not prevent access to beaches or rivers not on private land;
  • Allows for bylaws for fishing to be made.

NZ has a total of 33 Mātaitai in the South Island and 10 in the North Island covering approximately 367 km2 of marine environment as of February 2014. As of February 2014 only one Mātaitai met the MPA protection standard (type 2) – the 77 km2 Te Whaka O Te Wera Mātaitai, adjoining the Ulva Island Marine Reserve in Patterson Inlet, Stewart Island

A briefing paper on Customary Mangagement by Vince Kerr prepared for the Department of Conservation provides more detail on Mataitai area and the possibility of how they can work alongside marine reserves and achieve conservation gain through development of their by-laws (rules for Mataitai). 

Rohe Moana MapPatuharekeke Rohe Moana MapPatuharekeke Case Study

Patuharekeke are a Hapu who hold mana moana on the south side of the Whangarei Harbour, they have a registered a rohe moana via the Fisheries Act Customary regulations and their Kaitiaki are active in managment and restoration issues affecting their rohe. Currently they are involved in Treaty Claims work, a series of Resource Management cases and a very significant investigation and restoration project with the Mair Bank pipi beds and resource. On their web site they have information that can be downloaded which is worth exploring. Patuharekeke web site

Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai Case Study

Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (TMK) means ‘guarding the customary food gathering areas,’ but it also signals a wider agenda of sustainable environmental management through the application of kaitiakitanga (Māori environmental stewardship).

TMK is a partnership project between Nga Tahu, Otago University and the hapu of the Otago Coast. They are well established and are doing planning work monitoring and educational projects. We highly recommend the Te Tiaki Manhingakia web site. It has a much fuller description of the customary tools and what can be achieved and there is a lot of material there about what they have achieved, how they have done it and there monitoring and research programme

More Infomation

Check out our collection of documents which you can download from our Library section Traditional Management.  

MPI Customary Management tools web page

MPI List of Sec 186a and 186b Temporary Closures

MPI List of Taiapure Areas

MPI List of Mataitai and maps

The Legislation

Fisheries Act 1996, Sections 174-185 & Section 186 A & B

Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998

Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1999

Marine Parks, Special Legislation and Other Tools

061 Mimiwhangata Paparahi Boatshed Pts dsc 0724An aerial photo of the complex reef habitats at Mimiwhangata Marine Park, photo by Roger GraceThis web site is primarily focused on marine reserves and the processes involved in creating an effective network of marine reserve or high level protection areas. The enormous benefits of doing this are well established both here and overseas. A positive feature of setting the ambitious goal of an effective network of high level protection, is that it will support all other aspects of management due to the protection it provides for species, ecological function, genetic diversity, behaviors, age classes structures, a long list really. And there are many other management objectives and strategies which people will legitimately want to pursue. This section attempts to outline what they are and what they can contribute to our current challenges and opportunities regarding the sea around us.

There is a very large range of legislation and management tools for use within our coastal area.  On our Library page Legislation and Policy we have a table with notes listing the various pieces of legislation involved. 

Here are some examples of  'other tools'.

Marine Protected Areas 

DOC gap map1The current policy document is entitled Marine Protected Area Policy and Implementation Plan. Covered in this document is the definition of 'protection standards' which sets out where a line can be drawn between tools or management actions which can demonstrate significant marine biodiversity benefits versus others that can not, and exist for the purpose of some specific management purpose. Within this content examples of using the various tools are explored. 

In order to evaluate what is needed to add to or achieve an effective network of marine protected areas, DoC carried out a study to analyse and map, at a broad NZ coastal area scale, representative habitats as suggested in the policy document. The detailed report and series of maps can be downloaded on a DoC website page, Broad Scale Gap Analysis on MPA in NZ, (DoC, 2011). This report provides an analysis of which coastal habitats in the New Zealand Territorial Sea are currently represented in protection areas meeting the MPA Protection Standard. This study was based on sparse information for some regions and a very broad scale. However it is an important start point for the systematic planning that is required to achieve the MPA goal. 

Note on the MPA Policy: as a Government policy document, its purpose is to guide - not to be confused with legislation which is binding on Government Departments and the Courts. 

DOC gap map2For a further and very valuable discussion of legislation and policy, and where we should go in these areas, we recommend The Environmental Defence Society book by Kate Mulcahy, Raewyn Peart & Abbie Bull,  "Safeguarding our Oceans: Strengthening marine protection in New Zealand", (2012). This book reviews New Zealand’s current marine protection framework, developments in other countries, and international best practice. It identifies weaknesses in New Zealand’s current approaches in the context of its international obligation to achieve a representative network of marine protected areas. The report then provides recommendations for the design of new marine protection legislation, which is essential if New Zealand is to effectively manage its oceans.The book is available to download in separate chapters. 

The Department of Conservation has a detailed information page on its web site that is also a good general source of MPA information; 'Other Marine Protection Tools'

Marine Parks and Special Legislation

NZ has one marine park at Mimiwhangata created in 1983 utilising regulations under the Fisheries Act. This Marine Park excludes commercial fishing and has some recreational fishing limitations. The now current Fisheries Act 1996 does not give powers to create marine parks, so today they can only be created by special legislation. Examples are the Sugarloaf Islands Marine Protected Area Act 1991 and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000. Each marine park has different rules. Today, two out of the three marine parks meet the MPA protection type 2 standard as they prohibit commercial fishing as well as amateur dredging, Danish seining, and bottom trawling, among other measures.

Mimiwhangata and the Hauraki Gulf Parks are very important examples of past efforts to achieve marine protection and are detailed in our Case Studies section. These two examples, in very different ways and circumstances, illustrate that there is great potential in creative one-off solutions using Special Legislation to support a local or region planned effort. At the same time as is the case in both of these examples there is always the potential that the actually biodiversity and ecological goals are over shaddowed by other processes such as utilisation of resources, percieved competition for marine space or use of management tools which are not sufficently targeted to achieve the biodiversity objectives. A recurring theme also in these discussions is the need to streamline costs and the importance of any intitiative being consistent with and achieving Regional and National biodiversity protection goals.

Other examples of the use of Special Legislation are the Fiordland and Kaikoura Mangagement Strategies, (see Case Studies Section). These are examples of user group driven MPA forum processes resulting in management areas established via Special Legislation. 

Recreational Fishing Parks

Tutukaka parkMap of proposed Tutukaka Coast Marine Park (red line)This concept has been around in New Zealand for quite some time but there have been very few created. There is significant interest in the concept as recreational fishing occurs in nearly all of New Zealand's coastal environment.  Currently, in the proposed Marine Protected Areas Bill (which has had its introduction to Parliament delayed, not explained by Government), there is a section which creates a legal designation for Recreational Fishing Parks. Originally there were two such Parks proposed, one in Marlborough Sounds and one in Hauraki Gulf. The concept and particulars are described in the Government's 'A New Marine Protected Areas Discussion Document'

In Northland there are proposals being looked at: one has been analysed by a team of consultants and is an interesting case study. Here are two documents to review on the Tutukaka Coast Proposal. 

Tutukaka Coast National Marine Park

A Review of the Tutukaka Coast completed by the ME Consulting Team

The jury is out on the value of the recreational fishing parks. Without any doubt our recreational fishing resource and its future health is important culturally and economically. However where there is conflict with commercial fishing this will have to be resolved and the role of high level protected areas, marine biodiversity restoration  protection goals and strategies within any spatial arrangement will need to be appreciated. 

Customary Fishing Tools

The practice of Traditional Management through the use of the Fisheries Act based customary tools will play an increasingly important role in our coastal area. We refer you to these pages to explore these tools further.


Supporting Customary Management




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