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New Zealand aquaculture practices

Discover more about New Zealand's sustainable and efficient aquaculture, nutritious seafood, and a world-leading food safety system.
Lines of aquaculture farm buoys floating on still water on a blue sky day
© Aquaculture New Zealand

New Zealand’s aquaculture industry is well placed to help meet some of this demand and to do so sustainably. New Zealand has a strong record for sustainable and efficient aquaculture, nutritious seafood, and a world-leading food safety system.

Sustainable management of natural resources New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has developed under extremely strict environmental regulations, which means great care has been taken when putting it in place, ensuring its effects to the environment are minimal and well understood.

  • NZ Resource Management Act is the main law governing how people interact with natural resources.
  • NZ Coastal Policy guides councils in their day-to-day management of the coastal environment.
  • NZ Fisheries Act gives commercial, recreational, and customary fishers access to resources while ensuring fish stocks are managed sustainably.
  • NZ Wildlife Act outlines the protection and control of wild animals and the management of fish and game (such as Fish and Game Councils, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves)
  • NZ Biosecurity Act prevents or manages risks from harmful organisms, like pests and diseases.

Indigenous knowledge The expansion of the aquaculture industry in New Zealand is heavily focused on partnerships with Māori. Māori are recognised to have customary rights over the usage of water space in New Zealand, this is in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi, which recognises that Māori practiced local forms of stock translocation and aquaculture type activities well before European settlement in Aotearoa.

Seafood exports New Zealand exports seafood to 81 countries, with annual sales of around $650 million (Ministry for Primary Industries, 2021).

infographic of NZ aquaculture industry at a glance, from NZ Government Aquaculture Strategy to 2025, page 19Click to expand

New Zealand currently exports three main seafood species:

  • New Zealand Greenshell™ Mussels
  • King/Chinook salmon
  • Pacific oysters

These species are grown in New Zealand’s coastal waters and sheltered harbours. As New Zealand has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) (approximately 15 times the land area of the country) and longest coastlines in the world (9th longest) and an abundance of marine plankton, it is a perfect location for growing, not only shellfish, but fin fish and seaweed as well. With all this potential there is plenty of room for growth.

Infographic of Sustainable Growth Pathway, Ministry of Primary Industries, NZClick to expand

Innovative aquaculture management It has been well recognised in New Zealand that aquaculture is a growth sector. With a local population who are well connected to their moana (ocean) and their kai moana (sea food) it provides, as well as a drive to boost regional employment opportunities, New Zealand is well placed to make aquaculture growth a priority moving forward.

In 2019, the Government released a strategy for developing New Zealand aquaculture. New Zealand has a goal of reaching $3 billion in annual sales by 2035 and has a vision to be globally recognised as a world-leader in sustainable and innovative aquaculture management across the value chain.

Sustainable certifications The aim for the aquaculture industry in New Zealand is to make the industry more to continue to lead the world as a sustainable, productive, resilient, and inclusive industry.

The ‘A+’ programme delivered by Aquaculture New Zealand helps to enact a level of regulation to recognise the hard work done by farmers to meet these goals and to continually improve practices.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Many aquaculture companies in New Zealand also choose to use other certification programmes to validate their sustainable practice (such as Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, and Best Aquaculture Practice certifications).

For example: Seafood Watch Best choice – farmed salmon from New Zealand

In New Zealand the growth of the sector is not always about having more farms and more production. To ensure that this industry develops in a sustainable way there are very strict environmental regulations and controls to expand farm space. Growth is not only focused on scale, but also producing more value from what is already produced. That could come in the form of high value extracts new products (e.g. Mussel oil) or in the form of creating revenue from waste (e.g. pet foods).

Focus on value and innovation At the top of New Zealand’s South Island there are a number of industries that have been focusing on creating products from waste streams, for example, NZKS and their omega programme or recycling mussel floats. This value chain makes the operations of these companies more sustainable and also increases profit margins and ultimately contributes to the growth of the industry nationwide.

Scientists at Cawthron Institute and Plant and Food Research in Nelson are working on creating value from our aquaculture industry in a range of new and innovative ways, some examples include collagen production, sunscreen from algae and pharmaceuticals from mussels that help with joint therapy.

Cawthron Marine Toxins (1:58)

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

How about you?

  • Can you give some examples of science-based aquaculture practices your country does well? Add them in the comments area below.
  • Do you know about other interesting products that can be made from seaweed, algae, or shellfish?


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