Prior to European arrival in New Zealand fishing was a significant component of Maori subsistence. Fish were taken with nets (some over a mile in length), traps, pots, spears, lures as well as hooks made of wood, bone, shell or stone that were as effective as any modern steel hook.
In the late 1700s, European sealers and whalers began visiting the region bringing metal tools. The superiority of metal quickly became apparent and tools made using stone, wood, shell, and bone were rapidly discarded. However, numerous artefacts were produced by both Maori and Europeans in order to meet the demand from tourists and collectors for souvenirs and artefacts in the late 1800s. Maori culture was, and continues to be dynamic. Maori fishing did not cease when traditional fishing gear was discarded.
Development of deregulated commercial fishing in New Zealand waters in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries resulted in a decline in fish numbers, ranges and sizes, increasing competition for a diminishing resource among commercial, recreational and customary fishers. This publication summarises research into traditional Maori fish-hooks and fishing, the development of commercial fisheries and the subsequent impact on conservation and management of New Zealand's fisheries resources since European settlement and the Treaty of Waitangi in the nineteenth century.