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Crayfish - our treasure, our taonga

Crayfish are a prized catch and important ecologically so it is critical we protect the fishery from over-exploitation.

Our ability to catch a feed of crayfish varies, depending on where you live, suitable crayfish habitat, and how much commercial effort is concentrated in your area.

Nationally in 2011-12 the recreational catch of crayfish was estimated at 185 tonnes. This compares to a commercial harvest of 2752 tonnes in the same year.

Credit: Ian McLeod
A good chunk, 34%, of crayfish harvested by recreational fishers were taken from waters around the lower half of the North Island. Diving is the most popular method, at 68%, while potting accounts for 29% of catch.

Minister's decision

On 19 March the Minister announced his decision to increase commercial catch limits in the Otago crayfish area, and retain all other catch limits. The Minister's 2015 crayfish decision can be read in full here.


Earlier process

On 20 January the Ministry for Primary Industries issued proposals for the future management of five of our crayfish stocks between Southland and Northland. 

We were given only18 working days to respond. The submission deadline was 17th February 2015.

A comprehensive response has been submitted to the Ministry. You can read the full crayfish submission here. An easy to read one page crayfish submission summary is available here.

Brief submission points

Management of five crayfish stocks has been reviewed, Crayfish 1 (CRA 1), CRA 3, 5, 7 & 9.

Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries has been urged to take a more active role in managing our crayfish stocks.

The size and abundance of crayfish needs to be increased to ensure the public's recreational and customary needs are met, to mitigate the risks associated with low stock levels, and to sustain the fishery for future generations.

The license granting commercial fishers the ability to take undersized crayfish in selected areas must be revoked. If the fishery is as healhty as they make out, they don't need to take the small ones!


Not so long ago crayfish were one of the most plentiful species found on our rocky coasts.

As demand and prices have risen crayfish have been fished heavily in most areas of New Zealand.

Our crayfish (red rock lobster) stocks need to be restored to, and managed at, abundant levels.

Abundance means there are sufficient numbers and sizes, and a broad age range of crayfish in our marine ecosystem. 

Maintaining our marine ecosystem and abundance is important because it means crayfish can thrive and the public has reasonable access to rock lobster.

It also means the fishery is better able to provide for the reasonably foreseeable needs of our children and theirs.

In our view there is a commercial bias in the management advice given to the Minister for Primary Industries from the National Rock Lobster Management Group.

Our public interests and wellbeings are largely ignored or passed over with a cursory paragraph or two in management papers.

This creates a sense of disengagement, which is amplified by the truncated submission timelines offered to us by fisheries managers.

This year (and last year) the submission period is limited to only 18 working days.

This is insufficient time to read the proposals and understand the science, summarise the contents, get feedback from supporters and then formulate a response to each scenario.

Publicising the process and encouraging feedback uses up resources and eats into the 18-day deadline too!

  • Let's get political

Fisheries decisions are political. If enough people submit and advocate that the Minister needs to protect and rebuild our crayfish stocks then we are more likely to see Nathan Guy become more active and risk averse when managing our fragile fisheries.

  • Increase abundance

Increasing abundance in our crayfish stocks would yield many benefits for the Minister and New Zealanders, including:

    • Improved marine environment, with more diversity and robust fisheries
    • Increased real-time catch rates for commercial fishers
    • Increased size and abundance of rock lobster available to non-commercial interests
    • Reduced conflict between various interest groups
    • Simplified and more credible management processes, inclusive of stakeholders’ input.


  • Management decisions comply with the Act

The purpose of the Fisheries Act 1996 directs the Minister to manage fisheries sustainably, to both enable people to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing, and to maintain the potential of the fishery to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.

Crayfish management

Nathan Guy, the Minister for Primary Industries, administers the Fisheries Act and manages our fisheries on behalf of the nation's interests.

The National Rock Lobster Management Group (NRLMG) develops management proposals and provides advice to the Minister. This group consists of people from Te Ohu Kaimoana, the NZ Recreational Fishing Council, the NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

When crayfish stocks are reviewed discussion documents are issued and stakeholders, including commercial, Maori, environmental and recreational fishing interests, are invited to submit in response to the proposals.  

The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council has an experienced fisheries management, science, policy and legal team that engages in the various management processes.

On behalf of the Council LegaSea provides public-friendly information about a variety of processes that are important to the sustainable management of our crayfish stocks for future generations.

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