Special permits

Special permits can allow certain activity that would usually be restricted under the Fisheries Act. Find out about special permits for fisheries, how to apply for one, and what activities they allow.

Reasons why a special permit may be granted

MPI can issue special permits under Section 97 of the Fisheries Act 1996 to authorise taking aquatic life for the purpose of:

  • education
  • investigative research
  • management or eradication of unwanted aquatic life
  • gear trials like innovative trawl technology
  • use of alternative fishing methods by a disabled person for sport or recreation
  • any other purpose as approved by the Minister for Primary Industries.

A special permit can be issued only for a fixed period of time. If a special permit is approved it does not provide any expectation that a future special permit or other right under the Act will be granted.

Special permits are not for Customary fishing

To get permission to fish in a Customary management area, you'll need to contact the tangata kaitiaki/tiaki (guardians) for that area.

Activities which a special permit allows

If you hold a special permit, it could allow:

  • fishing in an area that is closed under regulations
  • the taking of undersize fish
  • the use of restricted fishing gear.

Activities are restricted

Special permits are used to override sections of the Fisheries Act. People can apply for them, but they're only granted if the requested activities suit the principles of the Act. This means that special permit holders can do restricted activities (for a fixed period of time), as long as it fits with the Act's purpose. For example, a special permit can't be used as an alternative way to gain commercial access to fish or other aquatic life.

How to apply

Follow the steps to apply for a special permit.


MPI will charge you for the costs of assessing and processing a special permit application. The hourly rate is $133.88 (including GST, or $116.42 excluding GST). MPI will send you an invoice after a decision is made. Most applications take between 6 and 20 hours to process.

Amending a special permit

As your project progresses, you may find your original proposal no longer fits with the work you're doing. If you need to amend or update the conditions of your special permit, submit a new proposal or ask the Spatial Allocations Team for an amendment. You don't need to use a form to amend your permit – you can just supply the information. MPI will assess your request and advise you of the decision in the same way as in Step 4.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about special permits or the application process, email Specialpermits@mpi.govt.nz

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