Recreational fishers have dramatically increased their catch of snapper and kahawai in the Hauraki Gulf over the past 30 years, a new survey has found.

A Fisheries New Zealand national survey, conducted between October 2017 and September 2018, estimated there were nearly 2 million fishing trips taken across the country.

An estimated 7m individual finfish and 3.9m individual shellfish were caught in this period.

The survey also found the average recreational kahawai catch had more than quadrupled in the Hauraki Gulf in the past 30 years, while the snapper catch had nearly tripled, despite trending down since the last survey in 2012.

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About half of all recreational fishing occurred around the north-east coast of the North Island from the tip of Northland to East Cape.

Southland was the only area in the country where recreational fisher numbers was increasing (by about 14 per cent).

The National Panel Survey, conducted every five to six years, provided a snapshot of recreational fishing activity around the country.

Fisheries New Zealand director of fisheries management Stuart Anderson said the results confirmed the popularity of recreational fishing among New Zealanders.

"We estimate 14 percent of the country's population over the age of 15 years went fishing at least once during 2017-2018.

"We also found recreational fishers caught a large proportion of key recreational fish species such as snapper, kahawai, blue cod, and kingfish.

"There's been little change in the proportion of these fish caught by recreational and commercial fishers since 2012."

The survey contacted more than 30,000 people, and about 7,000 recreational fishers had their fishing outings recorded over a 12-month period.

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Fisheries Inshore NZ chief executive, Dr Jeremy Helson, said the increase in snapper and kahawai catch showed stocks were in great shape and the quota management system was working.

"Like the commercial sector, recreational fishers need to respect the rules and contribute to managing our fisheries resources.

"We appreciate the undertaking of this research as it is important to ensure that we know the impact of recreational fishing and can manage that accordingly."

However recreational fishing group LegaSea spokesman Scott Macindoe said there was no scientific basis to compare today's catch to 30 years ago.

More recent, reliable estimates for 2012 and 2018 showed a 20 per cent reduction in fishing effort, alongside a 23 per cent reduction in snapper catch and 14 per cent of kahawai.

"There are fewer people recreational fishing and they are catching less," Macindoe said.