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Elephant fish were introduced into the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986. The commercial fishing year for elephant fish is 1 October to 30 September the following year.
From the early 2000’s elephant fish were included in the Adaptive Management Programme (AMP). This enabled the fast-tracking of substantial increases to commercial catch limits. Recreational interests strongly objected to catch increases under the AMP.
All AMPs ended on 30 September 2009, however the catch increases granted under the AMPs were retained.
From the mid 1950s to the 1980s commercial landings of elephant fish were commonly around 1000 tonnes per annum. Most of this catch came from waters off the east coast of the South Island.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s fisheries developed off the south and west coasts of the South Island. MPI compliance reports show that discarding of elephant fish from commercial vessels is common practice. The level of discarding currently occurring is unknown.
Elephant fish are an important catch for shore based and small craft fishers around the South Island.
Elephant fish mature between 3 and 5 years of age. Maximum age is not able to be reliably estimated but appears to be between 9 and 15 years.
Mature elephant fish migrate to shallow inshore waters in spring to spawn. Resulting recruitment is highly variable, this results in large variations in catches between years.
Females are known to spawn multiple times per season, laying two eggs on each occasion. This relatively low fecundity, that is common to all elasmobranchs, makes elephant fish prone to over-fishing.
At the end of each spawning season the adults are thought to disperse and become difficult to catch, although juveniles remain in shallow waters for up to 3 years. During this time juveniles are vulnerable to incidental trawl capture, but are of little commercial value and generally not retained.
Despite concerns about the numbers of juveniles captured and returned to the water, release mortality is unknown.
Table 1: Total Allowable Catches (TACs), Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACCs) and allowances for elephant fish, in tonnes (t).
|Fishstock||Recreational allowance||Māori customary allowance||Other mortality||TACC||TAC|
The main method used to manage recreational harvest of elephant fish are a maximum daily bag limit and the minimum mesh size limit for nets. There is no MLS for elephant fish caught by commercial fishers.
TAC review Elephant fish 3, July 2018