The seafood industry as a whole is achieving growth and the opportunities are significant. New Zealand has one of the world’s most advanced systems for sustainable fisheries management and many firms are trying a range of activities in the search for further profitability and expansion. With additional investment and improved consumer marketing skills the seafood sector has significant capacity to grow. Māori interests hold a significant proportion of the seafood industry (around 50% of the fishing quota) and have a substantial role to play in the future of New Zealand’s seafood industry.

New Zealand controls the world’s fourth largest fishing zone, covering around 430 million hectares. New Zealand exported seafood to 108 countries in 2010 - broadly speaking Western markets accounted for half and the growing Asian markets the other half. Mussel exports were the single largest earner this past year, at $221 million, followed by rock lobster at $213 million, hoki at $188 million and squid at $104 million. Opportunities also exist to use by-products from fish processing and marine extracts for dietary supplements, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.

Seafood is New Zealand’s fifth largest export contributing around $1.35 billion annually. Wild capture fisheries production was up 2.4 percent to 442,000 tonnes in the year to 30 September 2011 and export earnings from wild-capture fisheries were up by $22.9 million (up 1.9 percent), to $1.22 billion. Earnings from exports of farmed fish and shellfish were up 24.2 percent ($60.1 million) to $308.7 million, driven off a volume increase of 11.9 percent (up 4,900 tonnes). New aquaculture legislation and an increased hoki catch allowance have helped position New Zealand’s seafood industry for continuing growth.

Increasing productivity is being achieved through consolidation into fewer, larger operations and adoption of technology that replaces labour. There are five major (+$100m) firms in the wild catch sector and a range of secondary firms.

The challenge is to increase value in a volume constrained environment. Asia and Australia are identified as opportunities going forward where the big mover is rock lobster, together with snapper and paua. It looks likely that there will be a surging demand from Asia as seafood is very important in the Asian diet and as their economies grow and standards of living rise, New Zealand has an opportunity to serve that market.

Several strategic directions have been identified for the seafood sector in New Zealand including further investment into branded consumer products that would help New Zealand grow its share of value‐added markets, exporting more fish in a live/fresh higher quality un‐damaged form which requires improved catch technology and systems, consolidation of in-shore fisheries and a collective program branding New Zealand as a sustainable supplier of seafood that would support growth in high value western markets. The production of higher value species including salmon where New Zealand has huge capacity is considered a significant opportunity and potential new salmon farm sites in the Marlborough Sounds are considered a project of national significance.

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd works on behalf of the New Zealand seafood industry.  The industry is made up of about 2500 participating enterprises, including fishermen and aquaculturists and family-owned, publicly listed and joint venture seafood companies, fisheries management organisations and retailers.

The three leading research providers to the seafood sector are Plant & Food Research, NIWA and the Cawthron Institute.

NIWA has 88 partnerships with Maori throughout New Zealand and a wide range of research projects into the taking, growing, culturing and restoration of species such as eels or freshwater koura or cultures such as seaweed culture. Plant & Food Research carries out aquaculture and seafood harvesting technologies research and fish breeding programmes. Plant & Food scientists are dedicated to delivering high quality seafood to consumers and are focused on sustainable fish production and processing systems as well as working with nutraceutical companies to identify natural marine compounds with potential health promoting properties.

A process for successfully managing Maori fishing interests under the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims Settlement Act) was advanced by the establishment of Te Ohu Kaimoana - The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission in 1992.

He toka hāpuka ki te moana, he kaihua ki uta.
A rock in the sea where hapuka abound, a tree where birds are speared on land.