Contribute here
Get updates by email


Snapper - our favourite fish

Snapper is an iconic species.

Snapper is the most popular recreational species in the country, especially for fishers from the top of the South Island to Cape Reinga.

Nationwide in 2011-12 recreational fishers caught and kept over 4.5 million snapper. This compares to 1.1M kahawai and 682,500 blue cod in the same fishing year.

For management purposes snapper is divided into six stocks nationwide.

Snapper 1 (SNA1) is the largest for both commercial and non-commercial harvest, next are SNA8 on the North Island’s west coast, SNA 2 between the western Bay of Plenty and Wellington, and SNA 7 at the top of the South Island.

With the limited information available, none of the snapper stocks are at or above the default management target of 40% of its estimated original, unfished size.

The SNA1 stock has rebuilt to, and now exceeds, the 1997 management target of 22% of original stock size (in some areas).

Snapper around Hawkes Bay, Wellington, the North Island west coast and top of the South Island is assumed to be slowly rebuilding, but without data it is a major assumption.

Management target

In 2008 the Ministry of Fisheries (now MPI) issued a Harvest Strategy Standard that defined default management targets for our fisheries.  

The 40% target for snapper conforms to international standards.  Prior to 2008 the target was 20-22%.

We have a long way to go to reach the 40% target.

We can all contribute to the rebuild by reducing wastage, reducing the numbers of small fish being killed due to fishing and protecting important seabed habitats so finfish have a place to shelter through all their life stages.


Despite snapper being the most popular recreational catch and an important commercial species, active management of the stocks is irregular.

The last review for each snapper stock occurred in the following years:

Stock Year of review
Snapper 1 (SNA 1) 2013
Snapper 2 (SNA 2) 2002
Snapper 3 (SNA 3) Not reviewed since 1986 QMS introduction
Snapper 7 (SNA 7) 1997
Snapper 8 (SNA 8) 2005
Snapper 10 (SNA 10) Not reviewed since 1986 QMS introduction

Also, there is inequality when comparing the minimum size limits (MLS) that apply in some areas.

All commercial fisheries have a minimum legal size limit (MLS) of 25cm.

This compares to a 30cm MLS in Snapper 1, and 27cm or 25cm in other regions. (Check official rules before fishing in an area.)

Given the introduction of new, smarter trawl technology there is no reasonable excuse for the commercial sector to continue to target and kill fish under 30cm with bulk harvesting methods such as trawling and Danish seining.


Foreign fishing

Japanese catch records and observations made by New Zealand naval vessels indicate significant quantities of snapper were taken from New Zealand waters from the late 1950s until 1977.

There is insufficient data to quantify historical Japanese catch tonnages for each snapper stock, but it is assumed the catch was substantial.



Our precious fisheries resources are being wasted every day. Millions of small fish, mostly immature, are killed and discarded each year.

We cannot rebuild the fishing and manage for abundance while this level of juvenile mortality continues.

One common cause of this unnecessary waste is the use of unselective and indiscriminate fishing methods such as trawling.

Significantly reducing the amount of waste will enable our snapper stocks to rapidly rebuild to international best practice levels.

More abundant fisheries will most likely reduce conflicts between sectors.

We will all benefit from having access to abundant and sustainable fish stocks, and future generations can enjoy world-class fisheries.

  • Ban old-world bulk harvesting methods such as trawling and Danish seining from within the 100m depth contour, until better selectivity and reduced waste can be demonstrated.
  • Implement measures to achieve a rebuild in our snapper fisheries to international best practice standards of 40% of unfished biomass.
  • Identify areas that need protection from fishing, so juvenile fish can grow to a productive adult size.
  • Reduce wastage by fishing smarter to reduce the numbers of small fish killed due to commercial and non-commercial fishing.
  • People have lots of good ideas to share on how to conserve fish. LegaSea calls for investment into resourcing a meaningful process whereby the public can research and consult, and develop ways to conserve fish to accelerate the rebuild of our snapper fisheries.

Snapper management

Nathan Guy, the Minister for Primary Industries, administers the Fisheries Act and manages our fisheries on behalf of the nation's interests. Ministry officials provide management advice to the Minister and carry the functions as directed by the Minister.

When fish stocks are reviewed proposal papers 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 snapper fisheries for future generations.

Table 1: Total Allowable Catches (TACs), Allowances and Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACCs) for each snapper stock. (in tonnes, t)

Stock Total Allowable Catch (t) Customary Maori (t) Recreational (t) Other sources of fishing related mortality (t) Total Allowable Commercial Catch (t)
Snapper 1 8050 50 3050 450 4500
Snapper 2 450 14 90 31 315
Snapper 3 --- --- --- --- 32.30
Snapper 7 306 16 90 --- 200
Snapper 8 1785 43 312 130 1300
Snapper 10 --- ---- --- --- 10
Totals 10591 123 3542 611 6357.30
Key: --- indicates no allowance or allocation has been made.
Latest LegaSea snapper news latest legasea snapper news
SOS - Save Our Snapper, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions


Join us on Twitter Find Us on Facebook  

Latest news

Fish smart around seabirds
National recreational catch info
Official Info Act request - snapper
LegaSea / NZSFC Snapper 1 policy
free fish heads
rod and reel
Salt Fly Fish
wave dancer snapper charters
think creative
the fishing website
nz fishing news
itm fishing show
chesters plumbing
snapper 1 policy
Click on the image to go the NZ Sport Fishing Council website