Fishing during COVID19 lockdown: what the experts say

Fishing during COVID19 lockdown: what the experts say

[Updated April 4]

With the COVID Level 4 alert being activated at 11:59pm on March 25, there are a number of questions around fishing/boating, and whether these are permitted activities during the lock-down.

A State of Emergency was declared on the 25th March 2020, therefore the simple answer is NO

We should only be leaving our homes for essential trips, such as purchasing food and supplies such as medicines. "You only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential food supplies, essential medical supplies or medical treatment. Otherwise, please stay at home," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said earlier today. All state-owned boat ramps have also been closed. The Ministry of Health further reiterated the ban on fishing on April 4 with the issuing of a Health Notice, outlining that recreation and exercise does not any water-based exercises or other activities that may expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.

All official updates regarding the national COVID19 alert system and national lockdown can be found at

Other recent announcements from relevant parties are listed below:


From Ministry of Health
April 4

The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has issued a Health Notice that provides additional guidance on the rules around the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to ensure its success and help move the country out of lockdown as soon as possible. 

The Notice sets out: 

  • Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement. 
  • Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained. 
  • Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services. 
  • A child can leave the residence of one joint care-giver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint care-giver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement. 
  • A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if: 
    • One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or 
    • Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person. 

“Most New Zealanders are doing the right thing. In the first week of being at Alert Level 4 we have seen high rates of compliance,” Dr Bloomfield said. 

“The best way to ensure the success of the lockdown is for everyone to play their part. That means staying at home, maintaining physical distancing when outdoors and washing your hands.”
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomes the guidance and said Police’s primary goal is to ensure people understand the importance of staying home. 

“The vast majority of New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of what they can and can’t do under the Alert Level 4 restrictions, and by and large people are doing a tremendous job,” he said. 

“We want people to stay safe, but if a small number of people persist in deliberately flouting the restrictions, Police will have the discretion to warn or, if necessary, to arrest. 

“The Health Notice makes it clear what types of outdoor exercise and recreation people shouldn’t do. Outside of that, we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk exposure to injury or require search and rescue services.   

“The public should not notice any significant change to policing as we continue to prioritise high visibility reassurance to the community, and a continued focus on day-to-day Police work. 

“I have recently set a clear expectation of our staff on how we Police in the current environment.  We have today updated our operational guidelines to staff, to help them Police with confidence and certainty,” Commissioner Coster said. 


From NZ Police
March 27


From Coastguard New Zealand
March 24

Coastguard New Zealand is asking people not to go out on the water today or during the lockdown period to avoid putting themselves or Coastguard volunteers in harm’s way.

“Last year Coastguard volunteers responded to more than 3,700 calls for help, proving that regardless of planning and preparation, people can’t always rely on their own steam to get home,” says Coastguard New Zealand CEO, Callum Gillespie.

“As individuals we need to recognise that our actions can have an effect on others,” he adds.
“We have had a lot of calls and messages from the public asking if they’re able to go out on the water during the lockdown period, the answer is no. Should you get into difficulty, you will quickly want help from Coastguard volunteers and staff, requiring them to leave self-isolation and come together to help you.”

“Please don’t put yourself or others at risk, stay off the water and out of harm’s way as we unite against Covid-19.”


From Coastguard Northern Region
March 26

There's been a lot of questions and comments about whether you can head out on the water or not. We all love the water, and we understand the frustrations out there. From Coastguard’s perspective, if a boatie, yachtie or kayaker gets into trouble out on the water then our volunteers have to leave their self-isolation, potentially putting themselves and their families at risk.

A state of emergency has been declared, which means Police have powers to stop people who aren't self-isolating (we've seen this at a few boat ramps already today). This isn't a holiday, it's a serious situation.

Although we strongly advise people not go out on the water and to follow the Government self-isolation advice, we are still operating (including reduced, but still 24/7, staffing in our Operations Centre). If you do decide to go against Government advice and head out, please, PLEASE keep in contact with Coastguard. We're focused on search-and-rescue and don't have prosecution powers. You can keep in touch via your local VHF channel, by calling *500 on cellphone or via the Coastguard app.

Although we recommend you stay home, we would much rather hear from someone heading out on the water, than not.

From Fish & Game
5:10pm, March 24

The Government’s clear intention at this stage is that fishing and hunting are prohibited during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. If and when we receive other advice from the Government we will change our position.
Therefore, Fish & Game New Zealand are urging all anglers and hunters to do the right thing and stay at home while New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

"Unfortunately, being at Level 4 means that anglers and hunters aren’t able to do the pursuits that they love," Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

"The advice we have is that at Alert Level 4 anglers and hunters should not undertake activities that expose them and others to higher levels of risk. We are also advised that DOC huts and campsites are closed as they do not meet minimum separation requirements."

New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) is asking people to stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where they could get lost or require search and rescue. NZSAR want to ensure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need. Fishing and hunting, even close to home, inherently carry a degree of risk and it is important for anglers and hunters not to further burden our emergency services and healthcare system. Staying in and around home is simply the right thing to do.

"It is heart-breaking to not be able to spend time in the outdoors, especially as for many of us this is our main way to destress, but we all have our part to play to beat COVID-19," Mr Taylor says.

"The point of the next four weeks is to kill the virus in New Zealand so that life goes back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s stay home for four weeks then we can get outdoors and back into angling and hunting."

The Level 4 lockdown period is scheduled to end prior to the start of the game bird season, and if we are all responsible during the next four weeks the game bird season is on.

We ask for your patience while we piece together the complexities of what we are facing. In particular, we will have further advice on pegging day as soon as possible.

It is our intention to give anglers and hunters ongoing updates on our Facebook page and website.


From Surf Lifesaving New Zealand
March 26

Surf lifesaving leaders say “stay out of the water” following late rescue callout pre-lockdown
Surf lifesavers were called out to a swimmer in trouble on a remote stretch of the Raglan coast just hours before the country moved to the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown.
In response, lifesaving officials have re-emphasised their advice to kiwis to stay out of the water while the COVID-19 emergency continues.
All surf lifesaving patrols in New Zealand have been discontinued till further notice as part of the COVID-19 response moving to Level 4 – a move SLSNR Chief Executive Matt Williams says is a “no-brainer.” Williams says surf lifesaving clubs will clearly not be able to provide lifeguards under the self-isolation requirements, “but equally, we expect to see very few people at the beaches, apart from residents who we are advising to stay on land and not go for a swim or take part in any other water-based activities.”
Williams says surf lifesaving emergency callout squads will remain on readiness should an on-water incident occur. “But they will be limited to when they are officially tasked by the Police, and surf lifesaving response times will not be as rapid as in normal times. It’s very important for the public to understand that if they do enter the water and get into trouble during this Level 4 period, it will be harder for lifeguards to respond quickly enough to save their life.
“So like other emergency authorities we urging all people to stay out of the water.”
Williams hopes the recent experience in Australia where crowds at Bondi beach were cleared by authorities and beaches were closed to the public would not be replicated in New Zealand to any extent. “But that requires the public to act sensibly and in the best interest of their communities over the next few weeks while we are at Level 4.”
He advised members of the public to check on the Safeswim website ( for updates on any change to beach availability.

25 March 2020

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