Overfishing means catching too many fish. It also includes taking too many shellfish or crayfish.

Many new migrants to New Zealand do not realise that there are laws to restrict the number of fish you can catch or the number of shellfish you can collect from the beach. Four people were in court last week for taking too many cockles from a beach in North Canterbury. Cockles are found buried in sand or mud. They are bivalves (have 2 shells), the shell is slightly red in colour and almost round in shape. The daily limit in that area is 150 cockles. The four people had collected 10,548 in total. They did not know there was a limit. They were fined $8,000 and their two cars were confiscated – taken by the Crown and will be sold.

The law says that anyone taking too many shellfish, crayfish or other fish will lose their fishing equipment and any other gear they used. This could include a boat or a car which was used to get to the beach.

People who collect paua need to know about the minimum size. It is important that undersized paua are left on the rocks so that they can reproduce when they are big enough. In some areas, the limit is 6 and they must be a minimum of 125mm in length. There are minimum sizes for most other fish also.

Different areas have different limits. Sometimes, this is written on a board at the beach. It is better to get a brochure from the Ministry for Primary Industries. You can download a copy from their website at mpi or get their free app for your smart phone.

If you see someone illegally fishing, you can call the Fisheries Officers 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24).


• restrict – put a limit on the number, a maximum (e.g. swimming pool is restricted to 300 people at the same time)
• buried – under the sand
• limit – maximum (e.g. speed limit)
• confiscated – taken from the owner by the court
• Crown – government
• reproduce – have babies
• minimum – must be 125mm or bigger
• brochure – pamphlet, small booklet (in this case- 6 pages)
• poacher – a person who catches fish, birds or animals which do not belong to him or her


Use the verbs collect or take for shellfish. We do not catch shellfish.

Use your dictionary to find other common words beginning with over- (meaning too much) or under- (meaning too little).


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