PRINCIPLE 4 – Equal size limits for all

The situation

Management inequities enable commercial fishers to profit from catching and selling fish that recreational fishers must return to the sea.

That’s because they have a smaller minimum size limit.

Examples where this is occurring is with snapper, crayfish, scallops and kingfish.

Why you

Our fish are being caught and sold to overseas supermarkets before you are even allowed to take them home to feed your family!

Size limits on fish should be set for biological reasons to ensure sustainability. They should never be used to give priority to commercial fishers over non commercial fishers.

Over time, the effects of fishing with different size limits and depleted stock sizes sees an unfair reallocation of fish from recreational to commercial interests.

The reality is that the commercial catch of small fish is keeping the stock size small and is denying recreational catch opportunities.

LegaSea’s solution

LegaSea is calling on your support to Tip the Scales, from blatant commercial priority to fairness and equality when it comes to size limits.

As a start the recreational minimum size limits ought to apply to commercial catch. Protecting young fish will have long-term benefits for the fishery.

Protecting small fish is a priority.

If some fishing methods are not selective enough to avoid catching and killing large amounts of small fish they need to be banned. Area restrictions or method controls may be required.


It is no longer tolerable for the differential size limits to prevail in fisheries such as snapper, scallops, crayfish and kingfish. These so called ‘concessions’ are spurious; they are nothing more than MPI sanctioned mechanisms to protect commercial interests from competition in the form of recreational fishing. The Fisheries Act contains a large number of management tools for managing fishing effort. Using minimum legal size (MLS) to offer advantage to private, commercial interests at public cost is becoming more widely understood and recognised for what it is, and therefore more repugnant.


1. Standardise, across all sectors, the MLS for all fish stocks and set them for biological and stock management outcomes rather than using it as an allocation tool. The default policy is to increase MLS to the highest current size.

Avoiding catches below the minimum legal size (MLS) is the duty of all fishers. The selection of fishing methods and areas are critical to minimising sub – legal catch.

One of the reasons for removing trawl beyond the 100m contour is that the method is unselective and biased to catch small fish.

In three rock lobster fisheries commercial fishers are allowed to take crayfish smaller than the recreational minimum size limit.

The Minister and Ministry for Primary Industries consider the benefits to commercial fishers of taking sub-legal crayfish warrants maintaining the concession, even though the original reason for implementation no longer exists.

This is a clear demonstration of the addictiveness of allowing access to small fish – it quickly becomes a valuable component of catch and is defended to the detriment of recreational fishers and the nation.

LegaSea advocates for rebuilding our depleted fisheries to much higher abundance levels. To achieve this rebuild we need to reduce the exploitation rate, that is, the number of adults we take out of the fishery every year.

The exploitation rate in the northeastern snapper fishery is estimated to be around 11 to 15%. Lowering the exploitation rate to 8% and rebuilding the fishery is expected to increase the numbers of older fish in the population.

When that occurs it may be necessary to minimise mortality on these older fish – we haven’t really brought this into close enough focus to know if such a strategy would offer a benefit to the stock.

Shaun WilsonPrinciple 4 – Equal size limits for all