These sections outline New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment.

Supply Chain

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to ensuring supply chain integrity within the seafood industry.


These sections outline New Zealand's approach to the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

Workplace health & safety.

All fishers in New Zealand are required to comply with legislative rules and standards to keep them and their peers healthy and safe in the workplace.
A guiding principle of New Zealand's workplace health and safety system is that workers and others in the workplace should be given the highest level of protection against harm to their health, safety, and welfare from work risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
The health and safety requirements set out in New Zealand legislation and regulations apply to every vessel that takes fish commercially in New Zealand waters.
Maritime New Zealand administers the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and is the regulator under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for commercial fishing vessels.
This section provides an overview of New Zealand's legislation and operational aspects to ensure the health and safety of fishers at sea. More information on how the health and safety legislation is implemented, as well as broader worker protections can be found by clicking on the Related Sections, Deeper Reading or downloable PDF features.

The New Zealand Government has placed duties on the seafood industry to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in the business.

Health and safety requirements for the seafood industry are described in two main Acts of Parliament. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is the workplace health and safety legislation. The seafood industry must also comply with the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and its Maritime Rules for activities at sea.

In broad terms, the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and the Maritime Rules focus on the safety of the vessel and navigational safety, while the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 focuses on the health and safety of the people on board.

Maritime Rules require operators of commercial fishing vessels to have an effective safety management system in place. Safety management systems cover:

– safe operating parameters
– the qualifications and training of the vessel’s crew
– vessel maintenance
– emergency procedures
– some health and safety considerations
– continuous improvement

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, business operators also have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonable practicable, the health and safety of workers and other persons involved in the business. When it comes to managing risks at sea, they are responsible for identifying risks and hazards, putting in place controls to eliminate or minimise risks and hazards, keep applying these controls and periodically reviewing them.

Safety systems used in the commercial fishing industry must be certified by the Government and undergo independent auditing.

Depending on the nature of the commercial operation (such as the size of the vessel, where it fishes, how many crew it has, etc), there are 5 safety management system types:

– Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS)
– Safe Operational Plan (SOP)
– International Safety Management
– Safety Case
– Specified Limits Permit.

About 60% of New Zealand commercial fishing vessels use the MOSS system. The remainder generally use an SOP. Only under very rare circumstances would a New Zealand commercial fishing vessel use the other systems.

The MOSS system covers most commercial fishing operations in New Zealand. Under MOSS, each vessel must have a Maritime Transport Operator Plan (MTOP), which is a written description of the maintenance and safety system to manage any safety risks for both the vessel and its crew. Business operators must also ensure all requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act are incorporated into their MTOP or in a separate Health and Safety Plan to complement it.

There are 572 fishing operations, comprising 735 vessels, that use MOSS.

The SOP is a safety management system that provides a practical set of safety requirements for smaller commercially-operated specialist vessels and their operations. An SOP must include the operator’s details, the vessel particulars, safety equipment list, manning, training, risk management, emergency and safe operational procedures, maintenance and survey requirements. The SOP also identifies the responsibilities of key personnel working on the vessel.

There are 148 fishing operations, comprising 186 vessels, that use the SOP system.

Domestic fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in New Zealand with a high average injury and fatality rate relative to other commercial sectors. There were 21 serious harm incidents and 2 fatalities in 2017/18.
New Zealand Government
Maritime New Zealand Annual Report 2017/18
Every commercial fishing vessel must have a Government approved safety management system.
Workplace Health and Safety Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points from this section. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Workplace Health and Safety Section Detail Report
To learn more about how New Zealand fisheries are managed, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
Health and Safety responsibilities
Download a Continuous Improvement Model for health and safety on commercial fishing vessels highlighting the various responsibilities, checks and improvements required by New Zealand law.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is New Zealand's interpretation of the 'Robens approach'. This remains the preferred method for legislating workplace health and safety across many Commonwealth jurisdictions, including Australia and the UK.
Maritime New Zealand has a range of tools and interventions available when non-compliance with rules is identified. These range from education and advice to investigations, license suspensions and prosecutions. Maritime Officers, who provide frontline enforcement of both the maritime and health and safety legislation, have wide ranging powers, including the power to detain vessels should the safety of any person be at risk.
Maritime New Zealand has set a target to reduce maritime sector fatalities and serious harm injuries by 25% by 2021. Maritime New Zealand and the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen recently launched a joint campaign focusing on six risk areas for fishers at sea: fatigue, manual handling, safety on deck, winches, uncovered machinery and intoxication. The most up to date information on current initiatives can be found on the Maritime New Zealand website.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is referenced from the OpenSeas Section Detail Report (downloadable above).

The OpenSeas report was prepared by a technical expert, with demonstrable knowledge and experience in the topic at hand. An internal fit-for-purpose review was conducted by the OpenSeas Programme Director, which may have included external scientific or operational expertise.

An external scope and accuracy review was conducted by the relevant regulatory agency(ies) for the original report (i.e. New Zealand Government departments).

The report author was responsible for revising the report in line with recommendations from reviews and retains final responsibility for the report content.
Section Detail Report Authors:
Darren Guard and Shalaine Jackson
Guard Safety Limited
Page last updated: 2 January 2023
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