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Arrow squid
Nototodarus sloanii, Nototodarus gouldi
Also known as:
Wheketere, Shortfinned Squid, Calamari, Squid, Gould's Squid
LAST UPDATED: 1 October, 2020

The New Zealand arrow squid fishery is based on two related species (Nototodarus gouldi and N. sloanii). Arrow squid have a short lifespan and rapid growth. They generally live for one year, spawn once and then die.

The fishery operates in three main areas of New Zealand (SQU 1T, SQU 1J, and SQU 6T).  Except for the Southern Islands fishery (SQU 6T), for which a separate commercial catch is set, the two species are managed as a single fishery within an overall Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) limit.

The Southern Islands fishery is almost entirely a trawl fishery. The Auckland Island shelf squid are also readily accessible and attractive to trawlers because they can be caught with little finfish bycatch. The squid jig fishery has been negligible for several years now.

Arrow squid is managed by Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ) using the Quota Management System (QMS). FNZ works in partnership with Deepwater Group (a not for profit organisation that works on behalf of fisheries quota owners) to manage and monitor the fishery.

The risk assessment covers nearly 100% of all squid caught in New Zealand.

For more information, download the full Risk Assessment Report.

Independent risk assessment conducted by:
MRAG Asia Pacific
Lead Assessor - Duncan Souter

The risk assessment framework is used to assess the relative environmental risks of Australian and New Zealand wild-caught fisheries on fish stocks and the aquatic environment.

Assessments are undertaken for each species according to multiple ‘units of assessment’ (UoAs). The UoA is a combination of target species/stock and the gear type used by the fishery. Each UoA is assessed against three components for target species, bycatch and ecosystems, and management systems. Each component has a number of performance indicators, which have associated criteria, scoring issues, and scoring guideposts. For each UoA, each performance indicator is assigned a risk score according to how well the fishery performs against the scoring guideposts. The summary of risk scores by UoA is presented in the table below.

An assessment of the future ‘outlook’ over the short to medium-term (0-3 years) is provided against each component. Outlook scores are provided for information only and do not influence current or future risk scoring.

All risk assessments are conducted by an independent third party. The process only takes a few days and includes opportunities for management groups and the government to provide input and peer review.

The information presented on this page is extracted from the independent species Risk Assessment Report.

Fishing Areas
Catch Quantities
Commercial catch allowance 2020/21
Commercial catch 2018/19
Historic catch quantity data
Estimated recreational catch
Estimated customary catch
Fishing Methods
Hook & Line
Fishing Season
Peak season
Off season

Risk Assessment Summary

Most recent assessment
Management areas assessed
The risk assessment comprises three components:
Component 1: Target species
Component 2: Bycatch and ecosystems
Component 3: Management system

Target species

Component 1 of the risk assessment looks at the health of the population of target species including the current fishing effort and estimates a risk of overfishing.

The Ministry for Primary Industries reports that because of the short life span and rapid growth of arrow squid, it is not possible to estimate the biomass prior to the fishing season. Moreover, the biomass increases rapidly during the season and then decreases to low levels as the animals spawn and die. It is therefore not possible to calculate reliable yield estimates from historical catch and effort data for a resource that has not yet hatched, even when including data that are just one year old.

Because there is no assessment that estimates status relative to reference points, the stock does not meet the medium risk scoring guidelines.  Nevertheless, there does not appear to be an immediate sustainability risk to the squid stock.  Efforts are also currently underway to develop a robust, in-season stock assessment methodology, which, if successful, will better position squid against low-risk scoring guidelines.

Bycatch and ecosystems

Component 2 of the risk assessment looks at the risks around bycatch species and other environmental impacts of the fishery.

Based on models using observer and fisher-reported data, arrow squid comprised about 80% of the total estimated catch recorded by observers in this fishery. The only significant bycatch of commercial fish species is barracouta (roughly 8.5% of catch).

The arrow squid trawl fishery has a bycatch of New Zealand (Hooker’s) sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, and seabirds. However, detailed quantitative information is available on both sea lion and seabird interactions in the squid trawl fishery which is sufficient to assess fishery-related mortality and to support a strategy to manage impacts.

Management systems

Component 3 of the risk assessment looks at the risks around the management systems of a fishery.

The Fisheries Act 1996 (the Act) and subsequent amendments provide a binding legislative and legal framework for delivering the objectives of Components 1 and 2.  Sections 10, 11, and 12 of the Act establish the requirements for the decision-making process, and Section 10 further requires the use of the best available information for all decisions. This results in measures and strategies to achieve the fishery-specific objectives. The Act requirement for best available information leads to scientific evaluation in advance of decisions. The Act further requires consultation with such persons or organisations as the Minister considers are representative of those classes of persons having an interest in the stock or the effects of fishing on the aquatic environment in the area concerned including Maori, environmental, commercial, and recreational interests.

Fisheries 2030, the National Fisheries Plan, and the Annual Operational plan provide well defined and explicit long and short-term objectives for the squid fishery.

Summary of main issues

Main issues highlighted by the assessment are:

  • Arrow squid is a highly variable annual stock, which makes conventional stock assessment difficult. No estimates of current and reference biomass are available, although the Ministry for Primary Industries concludes that the stock is unlikely to be below the hard limit reference point.
  • Given the highly variable nature of the stock and the absence of biologically-based reference points, there is no well-defined harvest control rule which would serve to constrain exploitation as the limit reference point is approached.
  • The SQU 6T fishery has a bycatch of New Zealand sea lions which are listed under New Zealand environment legislation as ‘nationally critical’. Interactions in the fishery are subject to a Fishery-Related Mortality Limit (FRML) which triggers the closure of the fishery if reached.  The trawl fishery also interacts with seabirds.
  • The trawl fishery uses gear on or near the bottom which is likely to result in some habitat modification.


The outlook below provides a qualitative judgment about the likely future performance of the fishery against the relevant risk assessment criteria over the short to medium-term (0-3 years).  Assessments are based on the available information for the species and take into account any known management changes.

  • Target species - Improving: Efforts are underway as part of a formal Deepwater Group Fisheries Improvement Plan to develop a robust stock assessment methodology and harvest control rules.
  • Bycatch and ecosystems (SQU1T_Trawl & SQU6T_Trawl) - Improving: Additional analysis of catch composition and impacts on endangered, threatened, and protected species are expected are part of the Deepwater Group Fisheries Improvement Plan for the SQU 1T and SQU 6T fisheries.
  • Bycatch and ecosystems (SQU1J_Jig) - Stable:  Low effort is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Management systems - Stable:  No substantial changes are expected in management system risk scoring.


Please note: The risk assessment is not intended as a definitive assessment of fisheries sustainability. It is not intended to act as a replacement or alternative to formal fisheries ecolabeling programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

For more information, download the full Risk Assessment Report or contact us on hello@openseas.org.nz.

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