South-East area fishing rules
Recreational fishing rules for the South-East area, including closures, restrictions, and other important notices.
New restrictions on pāua
On 12 December 2019, the recreational limit for pāua changed in Canterbury, Marlborough, and Nelson.
The daily bag limit for pāua has been reduced to 5, and the accumulation limit to 10 pāua or 1.25kg of minced meat. This applies to both black-foot and yellow-foot pāua.
These changes are in the Canterbury (PAU3) and Nelson/Marlborough (PAU7) fisheries.
Note, the shellfish closure in Kaikōura and South Marlborough area from Marfells Beach to the Conway River remains.
Due to the earthquake of 14 November 2016, fisheries in the Kaikōura and Cape Campbell regions are closed:
- Collection of shellfish and seaweed is prohibited between Marfells Beach and the Conway River out to a distance of 4 nautical miles.
- This closure does not apply to rock lobster, scampi or octopus. These may be gathered in this area.
Find out more
Details of closures, including maps of the closed areas, are in the box called 'Closures and restrictions'
What you need to know
This area, includes the east coast of the South Island between Clarence Point near Kaikoura, down to Slope Point, Southland, and extending out 200 nautical miles to the Chatham Islands. Note, it excludes a small area around Kaikōura, which has different rules.
All recreational fishing – including potting, netting and all other fishing methods – is covered by rules. Remember, if you're a recreational fisher, selling any fish or shellfish you catch is illegal.
Ways to check the rules
This page has a summary of:
You can also check rules in our brochures, use the free NZ Fishing Rules app, or text us. You'll also see signs about rules at many fishing spots.
Get a brochure
Download the free NZ Fishing Rules app
Or free text "app" to 9889 to be sent the links to your phone. Once installed, the app will work without an internet connection.
Use our free text service
Send a free text to 9889 with the name of a species.
For example, text "blue cod" or "pāua" to 9889. You'll be sent legal bag and size limits for that species by return text.
In the South-East area there is a combined daily bag limit of 30 finfish per fisher, consisting of any combination of the species listed on the following table. Individual species limits must not be exceeded.
Additionally there are individual limits, over and above the combined bag, for groper/hapuku/bass and kingfish. These have a combined daily limit of 5 (max 3 kingfish).
There is no limit on finfish species not listed below.
Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for finfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.
|Finfish Species||Min length (cm)||Max daily limit
|Min mesh size
for nets (mm)
Blue cod – South East area
Blue cod – North Canterbury*
|Flatfish (except Sand flounder)||25||30||100|
|Salmon (Otago Harbour)||45||2||100|
|Seven gilled shark||–||1||100|
|Spotted black groper||–||No take||100|
|White pointer shark||–||No take||100|
* The North Canterbury area runs from the south bank of the Waimakariri River to the mouth of the Conway River.
Shellfish are taken when they cannot freely return to the water – for example, when they are placed into a catch bag or similar. At no time while gathering may you be in possession of more than your daily limit.
Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for shellfish within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.
|Shellfish Species||Daily limit per fisher||Min size (mm)|
|Kina (sea eggs)||50||none|
(Season: 1 Mar to 31 Aug)
3 (combined total)
(Season: 15 Jul to 14 Feb)
|All others (combined) •||50||none|
^ During the open season dredge oysters can be harvested by dredge and the use of underwater breathing apparatus. Both the daily limit and minimum size of 58mm applies. Hand gathering dredge oysters: there is no restriction on either size or season for dredge oysters that are hand-gathered (includes shore picking and free diving, does not include diving using underwater breathing apparatus.) The exception is the waters of the Chatham Islands where the dredge oyster minimum size of 58mm applies.
*** Map of the Canterbury pāua restrictions [PDF, 1.3 MB]
Get a brochure [PDF, 2.2 MB]
+ Limited provision allows a diver on a vessel to gather extra bag limits of oysters and scallops for up to 2 other people acting in a dive safety capacity. Note: This only applies to taking scallops and oysters.
• This is a combined, mixed-species bag limit. It applies to all shellfish species not specifically named above and includes all crabs, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, whelks, barnacles and freshwater crayfish (koura).
Remember there may be bag and size limit restrictions for rock lobster within some areas. Check the closures and restrictions section for more information.
Daily bag limits
Maximum of 6 rock lobster (both species combined) on any one day.
Spiny rock lobster minimum size
Measure the tail width in a straight line between the tips of the two large (primary) spines on the second segment of the tail. If you are unsure of the sex, use the 60mm measurement.
Packhorse lobster minimum size
Measure the tail length along the underside in a straight line from the rear of the calcified bar on the first segment to the tip of the middle fan of the tail. Must have a tail length of at least 216mm (male and female).
Additional rules and protections
There are rules and protections for gathering rock lobster/crayfish that cover: protected types, gathering methods, pot construction and use. For more details check the:
New restrictions on pāua
The recreational limit for pāua is changing in Canterbury, Marlborough, and Nelson.
The daily bag limit for pāua is being reduced to 5, and the accumulation limit to 10 pāua or 1.25kg of minced meat. This applies to both black-foot and yellow-foot pāua.
These changes take effect on 12 December 2019 in the Canterbury (PAU3) and Nelson/Marlborough (PAU7) fisheries.
Please note the shellfish closure in Kaikōura and South Marlborough area from Marfells Beach to the Conway River remains closed as per below.
No fishing is allowed, this includes marine reserves. Follow the links to view maps of the reserves on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website:
Marine reserves are managed by DOC.
Kaikōura earthquake-related closure
The area between Marfells Beach (west of Cape Campbell) and the Conway River (which sits south of the Kaikōura township), extending 4 nautical miles from shore is closed to the gathering of shellfish and seaweed – excluding rock lobster, scampi, and octopus.
The closure applies to both recreational and commercial fishers, and is necessary to help the recovery of these fisheries.
- It applies to all shellfish and seaweed species.
- The closure excludes scampi (Metanephrops challengeri), rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii), and octopus (Pinnoctopus cordiformis).
- Gathering shellfish or seaweed in the closed area is an offence and you could be fined up to $100,000.
Marlborough and North Canterbury fishing areas
The marine environment in the shellfish and seaweed closure area is damaged after the earthquakes, and it’s going to take several years to recover. The loss of fishing grounds between North Canterbury (Conway River) and Marlborough (Marfells Beach) has caused an increase in fishing pressure on the neighbouring areas.
If you are gathering kaimoana in Marlborough and Canterbury, do your part to help keep these fisheries sustainable by:
- Limiting your catch by taking less than your bag limit and just enough for a feed.
- Changing your fishing method or area if you are only catching small fish or shellfish.
- Taking special care to return an underside fish and shellfish immediately and with minimum harm.
- Check local rules for updates every time you go fishing – download the NZ Fishing Rules app.
- Report suspicious or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24).
Map: The affected area of the earthquake-related closure
Set netting restrictions
Set netting is prohibited offshore to 4 nautical miles along the east coast of the South Island from Clarence to South Point. However, exemptions apply. You can use set nets:
- in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and inlets except for the Avon-Heathcote estuary
- for flounder between 1 April and 30 September in the Pigeon Bay, Akaroa Harbour, Lyttelton Harbour and Port Levy areas around Banks Peninsula.
Flat fish (flounder) set nets must be:
- 9 meshes or less deep.
- Have a monofilament diameter equal to or less than 0.35mm.
- Have a minimum mesh size of 100mm.
- Be anchored at each end.
- Not exceed a total length of 60m.
Other areas where set or drag netting is restricted or banned
- Kaiapoi and Waimakariri rivers – set netting restrictions
- Lake Ellesmere – set netting restrictions
- Catlins Lake – no set netting or drag netting
- Otago Harbour – set netting restrictions.
An area of special significance to an iwi or hapū, where additional rules and restrictions are in place.
Download the rules brochures:
Find out more on the NZ Legislation website:
Areas where tangata whenua manage non-commercial fishing through bylaws:
Rapaki Bay - Banks Peninsula
Koukourarata - Banks Peninsula
Timaru (Tuhawaiki, Te Ahi Tarakihi and Waitarakao mātaitai)
Lyttleton Harbour/Whakaraupō Mātaitai Reserve
Moeraki – Tikoraki/Tawhiroko and Turaka Waka areas are closed to the gathering of pāua
Food safety warnings
Warnings are issued when shellfish are unsafe to eat because of contamination with biotoxin.
Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can help us by providing:
- the location
- vehicle/trailer registration number
- boat name
- description of the person
When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.
It is illegal to buy, sell or swap recreationally caught seafoodThese are offences against the Fisheries Act which can result in fines up to $250,000.
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