Recreational fishing's impact on protected species and how to help
IntroductionWe're asking recreational fishers to report accidental capture of protected fish, birds, and other marine species. Find out how to make a report and support marine protection.
DOC is working with recreational fishers to understand how recreational fishing impacts protected marine species. You can help by reporting any accidental capture of protected fish, birds or other species.
Accidental capture is not illegal, but it is a legal requirement to report accidental captures. Data you provide is confidential, anonymous, and will not result in any infringements or prosecution.
How to report capture of a protected species
You'll need to know what you've caught to report it. If you need help identifying an animal, try one of our marine identification blogs or download a fisher’s identification guide.
We would like to hear about the catch, even if it is released unharmed.
Once you know what you've caught, let us know by either:
- speaking to staff at a DOC office
- using the Protected Species Catch app.
Download the Protected Species Catch app
You can download the Protected Species Catch app on your mobile phone for faster reporting. You can also learn more about marine health in your region.
The app can be used anywhere in New Zealand by anyone to report an accidental capture.
Get the app:
Or find the app by:
- searching for 'Protected Species Catch' by XEquals
Once installed, follow the steps to anonymously report your catch.
Your privacy and the Protected Species Catch app
This app does not collect any personal information. Your use of the app and any reports you make are anonymous.
The app will only record the area (or closest bay) you select from a list for each report, so your precise location is not recorded.
View your report and others on our map
You can see your and other reports on our online map and view a graph of catch trends. New reports are added a few days after submission.
You can explore catches by category, area or fishing method. Hovering over a catch location shows further details including species, date, and whether the animal was injured.
View the protected species catch map
How your report helps marine protection
With about 650,000 recreational fishers catching nearly 11 million fish and other species every year, even small and infrequent individual events can add up to big losses for conservation. Your report will help us to understand where this could occur and take steps to help.
We hope to reduce accidental catch of marine protected species to zero by 2050. To do this, we need to better understand how and where accidental captures occur. This requires the support of our treaty partner and fishers like you.
We have little empirical data on how many, where, and how protected species are being caught, or which species are most at-risk. But research shows that fishing activities including the use of hooks, pots and set-nets result in the accidental catch of protected species.
Other ways we're working with recreational fishers
2020 independent report
In 2020, we commissioned an independent report to design a framework to work with fishers for better marine protection. It gathered nationwide feedback from over 800 recreational fishers, and interviews with Māori and key stakeholders.
In our national 2020 survey, we found:
- 91% of recreational fishers believe that bycatch is an issue. Most want to actively avoid catching protected species.
- 82% of fishers felt it was moderately to extremely important for DOC to understand protected species bycatch of recreational fishing, and
- 75% are open to confidentially reporting accidental catch
However, less than half felt they had a good understanding of which species are protected. So based on these responses, the pilot program aims to:
- help fishers learn to identify marine protected species
- test data-collection options such as a reporting app, boat ramp surveys and an 0800 phone line
- run a trial to build our understanding of how many marine protected species may be caught.
Based on this report, we launched a national programme alongside iwi, Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and other key organisations. The programme works with fishers to support protected marine species. It began with a regional pilot project in Marlborough Sounds.
Working with fishers in Marlborough Sounds
In December 2020, we launched a pilot program for fishers in the Marlborough Sounds. We asked recreational fishers to anonymously tell us about their experiences with protected species while fishing.
To support this, we set up a regional focus group consisting of Māori and representatives from key organisations with close associations to fishing in the area and marine conservation.
The Marlborough Sounds were chosen as the pilot location due to the responses we received in the survey and the support of iwi and local community groups.
Revitalising the Hauraki Gulf
In June 2021 the Government released Revitalising the Gulf, a strategy for action in response to the 2017 Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari – Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan.
The strategy sets out the actions Government will take to restore the health and mauri of the Hauraki Gulf.
Building on existing work, and alongside tangata whenua, Fisheries New Zealand, councils and community groups, DOC will be involved in implementing the strategy.
Part of the strategy calls for the implementation of a programme to better estimate bycatch in the recreational fishing sector as part of the aim to address the effects of bycatch from fishing.
This aim is part of Management Objective 1.4: Reduce bycatch and fishing-related deaths of non-fish and protected species.
- Management Action 1.4.4: Establish a system to enable reporting of seabird and marine mammal bycatch by recreational fishers in the park.
- Management Action 1.4.5: Implement a programme to better estimate recreational fishing seabird bycatch.
Educating and raising the awareness of recreational fishers about protected species, and developing the new Protected Species Catch app reporting tool, are part of the monitoring programme DOC has been developing to achieve this objective.
DOCs work with marine protected species
To learn more about the work that we are doing to protect marine species, visit our Conservation Services Programme page.