Fisheries Infosite

Fishery - Southern Blue Whiting


Key statistics
Recreational significance Low
Customary significance Low
Environmental importance High
Reported commercial catch1 (tonnes)
Quota value estimate2 (NZ$m)
Exports estimate2 (NZ$m)
1 Reported commercial catch is calculated for the 12 month period to 30/09/2020
2 Quota value and exports are calculated pro-rata to reported commercial catch for the 12 month period to 30/09/2020
Related links

Image drawing for Southern blue whiting (SBW)





Southern blue whiting is a schooling species generally confined to sub-Antarctic waters over depths of 250–600 m. Although dispersed for much of the year, during spawning SBW form aggregations that are the focus of the commercial fishery. Four spawning areas have been identified; Bounty Platform (SBW 6B), Pukaki Rise (SBW 6R), Auckland Islands Shelf (SBW 6A), and Campbell Island Rise (SBW 6I).

Southern blue whiting is a schooling species found mainly in sub-Antarctic waters at depths of 250–600 m. Although dispersed for much of the year, southern blue whiting aggregate to spawn in August-September and these aggregations are the focus of the commercial fishery. Southern blue whiting have highly variable recruitment with large but infrequent year classes often dominating the population.

Four separate stocks have been identified in New Zealand waters:

• Bounty Platform (SBW 6B)
• Pukaki Rise (SBW 6R)
• Auckland Islands Shelf (SBW 6A
• Campbell Island Rise (SBW 6I)

Each stock is scientifically assessed independently and has a stock-specifc Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which is set by the New Zealand Government.

As the southern blue whiting fisheries all occur at approximately the same time of year it is not possible for the fleet to fish all stocks in any one year. As a consequence the commercial fishery focuses on the SBW 6B and SBW 6I stocks which have the largest TACs. Over 95% of the southern blue whiting caught in New Zealand is taken in the SBW and SBW 6B fisheries.

Southern blue whiting makes a high quality surimi product and approximately one third of the southern blue whiting catch is exported in this form to Japan and to the USA. Most of the remainder is exported in a largely unprocessed form to Asia where it is used to make fish balls, fish cakes and other products. There is also a small amount of fillet product produced by domestic vessels, most of which is exported to Australia. Over 10,000 tonnes of southern blue whiting product was exported in 2008 with an export value of approximately NZ$22 m.

There is no customary non-commercial or recreational fishing for southern blue whiting.