Capture of protected species in New Zealand recreational marine fisheries


Abraham, E. (2021). Capture of protected species in New Zealand recreational marine fisheries. Final report for project BCB2019-07, prepared for Department of Conservation, Wellington. 39 p. Retrieved from


Incidental captures of marine protected species in recreational fisheries occur throughout New Zealand, but there have been few systematic studies of this bycatch to date. Recent boat ramp surveys of recreational fishers and a national phone survey (National Panel Survey) included questions about protected species bycatch for the first time, providing data about capture incidents of seabirds in 2017–18.

This study used data from the 2017–18 surveys to derive estimates of seabird captures from boat-based line fishing in New Zealand. It provides capture estimates for different regions, corresponding with Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs), and distinguishing between line and longline fishing. Survey data were also used to calculate the overlap of recreational fisheries and seabird distributions for two species that are vulnerable to fishing impacts, black petrel and flesh-footed shearwater.

Seabird capture estimates varied across FMAs and by fishing method, with the highest number of estimated captures in line fishing. For line fishing, there was an estimated total of of 12 571 (95% c.i.: 10 944 to 14 356) captures in 2017–18. Of this total, there were 10 568 (95% c.i.: 9043 to 12 202) estimated captures in FMA 1, in northeastern North Island. This combination was the only FMA-method stratum with a mean estimate of over 1000 captures. The high estimate reflected both the high estimated fishing effort and the high estimated capture rate within this FMA. In comparison, there were a total of 86 (95% c.i.: 18 to 214) estimated captures for longline fishing across all FMAs. The total estimated captures, across all the estimated fishing was 12 656 (95% c.i.: 11 037 to 14 438).

In view of the scarcity of data available, the present study also reviewed the variety of data sources that collect information of protected species captures in recreational fisheries. Recommendations based on this review include the use of citizen-science platforms and crowd-sourced information to augment existing data collection efforts. Ensuring the consistent reporting of protected species captures is crucial for improving our understanding of the potential impacts of recreational fisheries on seabirds and marine mammals in New Zealand waters.