Fisheries Infosite

Butterfish South-East(Coast) (BUT3)
Maori name
Scientific name
Odax pullus

Physical characteristics

Butterfish have dark olive-green backs with paler undersides. As juveniles they have bronze bodies. During breeding, both sexes have a bright blue stripe along the lower jaw and face. They can grow up to 70 cm in length, but most adults average 45-55 cm.

Life cycle

Butterfish have a maximum age of around 11 years, though it is estimated they might live to 15 years. Spawning occurs from July-March in the Cook Strait, peaking during September-October, and from August-January peaking during October-January in the South Island.


Butterfish are found from North Cape to Snares Island and are most common south of Cook Strait. They inhabit rocky coastlines and seaweed beds, at depths up to 40 m, but most are found within 0-20 m. Butterfish are herbivores that feed on large seaweeds.

Key statistics
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 30/09/2025
2 Quota value and exports are calculated pro-rata to reported commercial catch for the 12 month period to 30/09/2025