New Zealand leads the world in managing its fisheries resources in a sustainable way, a situation for which the Quota Management System is largely responsible.


Historically, controls on the level of New Zealand fishing were based around limiting the number of boats allowed to fish, controlling their fishing methods (types of nets and lines etc.) and limiting the fishing seasons. By the early 1980s, however, there were essentially too many boats chasing too few fish and many species of commercial fish were declining below sustainable levels.

In an attempt to reverse this trend the Quota Management System was introduced in 1986.

Principles of the Quota Management System

The aim of the system is to manage and conserve major fisheries stocks at sustainable levels and to improve the efficiency and profitability of the New Zealand fishing industry.

One of the lynchpins of this philosophy is the notion of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

Under Maximum Sustainable Yield a fish stock is deemed to be most productive at between 30% and 59% of its unfished size. The thinking here is that a decrease in population reduces competition for food and results in a younger and faster-growing population. In effect, the fish stock is able to regenerate itself at a faster rate.

Above the upper limit of the MSY range, a fish stock will regenerate at less than the optimum rate. Below the lower limit of the range, the fish stock will be too low in numbers to recover adequately from fishing.

The Quota Management System, then, seeks to maintain fish stocks at maximum sustainable yield levels.

Total Allowable Commercial Catch

A fish stock can be defined as a particular species in a particular area. For the purposes of the QMS, areas within the New Zealand Economic Fishing Zone are known as Quota Management Areas (QMAs).

Each year government and industry assess the various fish populations and set a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for each species in each QMA. The TACC limits fishing of the various fish stocks to sustainable levels i.e. it aims to ensure that enough fish remain to breed future populations.

In areas where significant non-commercial fishing exists this is taken into account and a portion of the total allowable catch is set aside before the TACC is calculated.

Individual Transferable Quota

In 1986, when the Quota Management System was brought in, instruments called Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) were allocated to individuals and companies on the basis of catch history.

Each ITQ entitles its holder to a certain share of the yearly TACC for a particular fish species in a particular area.

ITQ are property and can be sold or leased. However, ITQ may only be owned by New Zealanders or New Zealand-owned companies.

Trading in ITQ is regulated to prevent monopolies occurring and limits exist as to how much quota any one person or company can own.

A Success Story

On the international stage the Quota Management System is hailed as a success. New Zealand has largely avoided the detrimental fish stock collapses that have plagued fisheries elsewhere in the world and has achieved recognition for its achievements in the long term sustainability of its fishing industry.

To get a glimpse of some of the problems associated with commercial fishing check out this video.

Understanding the NZ Fishing Quota Management System, 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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