National survey of recreational fishers

We've been surveying recreational fishers across New Zealand to help build a picture of what they catch. Find out about the survey and how it works.


We've been surveying recreational fishers on their fishing activity in New Zealand's ocean waters since 1 October 2017. The survey finished on 30 September 2018.

The survey will help us to better understand and manage recreational fishing and fishing activity in important shared fisheries.

Keeping your information private

All information collected will be kept private, and only used for strengthening how we manage New Zealand fisheries. We won't share people's secret fishing spots – we just needed to know where they fished and if they caught anything.

Timeline of the survey

The survey ran for one year, from 1 October 2017. The results and analyses are due mid-2019. We do this survey every 5 to 7 years as part of a wider piece of research with the National Research Bureau (NRB) and NIWA (the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research).

Results of the previous survey (run in 2011 and 2012) were published in 2014.

How is the National Panel Survey run?

Each person on the panel is regularly sent a text to ask if they went fishing. Keen fishers are asked more often than occasional fishers.

If a panellist replies to the text saying that they've been fishing, an interviewer from the National Research Bureau (NRB) calls them at a suitable time to get more details.

Interviewers record the catch of each species in each area. That information will be scaled up to the national catch by all fishers using standard statistical methods.

The panel survey uses the world's best practice methods, and its results are confirmed by other surveys that NIWA does. NRB completes the survey.

Making sure we get accurate results 

To support the panel survey, NIWA staff were at popular boat ramps between North Cape and East Cape on about 60 days in 2017. Interviewers asked fishers if they'd like to participate. If so, they asked what they caught that day, and measured the size of fish caught.

NIWA also used low-flying aircraft on those days to count the number of boats on the water. This information is combined to estimate the total day's catch in that area.

Researchers will now calculate the catch of each species in each area using the:

  • panel survey results
  • information from the boat ramps
  • boat count data.

By comparing these estimates of important species in the north, Fisheries New Zealand will be able to measure the accuracy of the survey. In 2012, these methods gave similar results for fish species commonly caught in northern New Zealand.

For more information on the research that NIWA carries out on recreational fishing download this pamphlet:

Related pages

Who to contact

If you have questions about the survey, email

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