The process for exporting seafood
The requirements on this page are for meat products. Seafood is all fish and fish products, including:
- bivalve molluscan shellfish.
Export requirements vary for seafood, depending on your destination market. We’ve created a step-by-step process so you can see what’s involved.
Meet New Zealand requirements for seafood exports
New Zealand legislation and operating requirements.
Comply with New Zealand legislation and food standards
You need to meet requirements and all relevant food standards and regulations. Legal requirements are set out in the:
- Animal Products Act 1999
- Food Act 2014
- Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
If you process fish and seafood in New Zealand, you must manage risk to make sure you're providing safe and suitable food. Your operating requirements depend on what type of seafood processing you do and where it's done (for example, at sea or on land).
In most cases, you'll need a registered and verified risk management programme (RMP). Secondary processors of seafood going to a market that does not require an export certificate can, in some cases, be done under either an RMP or a food control plan – but you're advised to check destination requirements.
Processors carrying out limited processing at sea may instead register under a regulated control scheme (RCS). Note that:
- Seafood that is processed on an RMP vessel or a limited processing vessel can be exported directly. All other seafood must go through a land-based processor.
- Bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS) are a high-risk product and must be sourced from classified growing areas operating under an RCS and then processed for export in RMP premises.
- RMPs can be developed using codes of practice for processing of seafood product or rendering.
Follow the rules for your type of business
The processing section on this website has details about the requirements for different types of processors and operators.
Land-based processors and storage depots
Other processors and operators
Get your programme, scheme, or plan verified
You must register and get your RMP or RCS verified each year. MPI verification services verifies operators. You need to work with them to make sure your seafood complies with all the requirements and that you're following your RMP or RCS.
Email MPI verification services at VSTechnicalTeam@mpi.govt.nz
Verifying a food control plan
If you operate under a food control plan, the verification process is different.
Use correct fish names
Exporters of fish and fish products need to meet the labelling and naming requirements of the export destination country. Fish products must also follow the labelling requirements set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Storage and transport requirements
Operators who store or transport seafood before it is exported must meet specific requirements, depending on their market.
Check destination requirements for seafood exports
Overseas market access requirements and requirements for your market.
About Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs)
As a seafood exporter, you're responsible for knowing and meeting the requirements of your destination country. You can find most of the requirements in documents called OMARs – Overseas Market Access Requirements. OMARs differ between countries and products. They set out requirements for all operators in your export chain. These could be, for example, processors, storage providers, and transporters.
Some markets have more demanding requirements than others. It's worth checking the requirements before deciding where you want to export to.
You need to apply to MPI to read seafood OMARs because they're password-protected.
Search for your OMAR
When you have your password, you'll be able to read the OMARs. For seafood, you need to look at the OMARs for animal products.
Check all the requirements in the OMAR
Read the OMAR for your destination market thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all the requirements.
If your export destination has an OMAR, you'll likely need an 'official assurance'. This is also known as an export certificate. You'll need this before you can send your seafood. Official assurance is the New Zealand Government's assurance to the destination market that your product meets the standards set out in the OMAR.
You apply for an export certificate through E-cert. (Information about E-cert is covered in steps 4 and 5 of exporting seafood).
Tip: It's helpful to establish a working relationship with an import agent in your destination market. They can confirm any other requirements you may need to meet – sometimes OMARs don't contain all requirements.
Other information you should check
Besides the OMAR, there may be other documents that have information about your market.
Guidance offered by FYIs can help you with exporting concerns or issues. You may need your OMAR password to read some FYIs.
OMAR notifications will give you the latest updates for your destination market.
Check if mercury certification is needed
Some markets require official assurance about the level of mercury in seafood. Our guide has everything you need to know.
Exporting to a market with no OMAR
You have to work directly with your importing agent to find out about certification and other requirements if there's no OMAR for your export destination. If an import permit is required, the permit will outline the requirements.
Note that if there is no OMAR, it could mean your product is prohibited from being sent to that country.
Some destinations that don't need official assurances may instead require a free sales certificate (FSC), or a free sales statement (FSS).
Find out if your premises need to be approved
Some countries require premises to be approved, or 'listed', before you can export your products. 'Listing' is a procedure agreed between governments for ensuring that a country's market access requirements are met and products are produced in premises approved to export to that country. Your OMAR will tell you if you need to be listed, and the process to follow.
Are you using wood packaging?
If you use wood packaging products – other than paper – for your export product, check that your wood packaging meets the phytosanitary requirements of the destination market. Most markets require you to treat your wood packaging to make sure it's free of pests and diseases.
Register as a seafood exporter
How to register and list of registered exporters.
How to register
You can do this online.
Notes about registering
- You'll need to pay a registration fee each year.
- Registration applications are assessed according to requirements set out in section 54 of the Animal Products Act 1999.
- If you don't register with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), you can use the services of an exporter who is already registered.
If you have questions about registering as a seafood exporter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our list of registered exporters
When your application has been processed and approved by MPI, you will be added to our list of registered exporters. This list is available to the public.
Register for E-cert
About E-cert and how to register.
Animal products E-cert is what MPI uses to issue official government assurances for animal products, including seafood, that are exported from New Zealand.
At each step of the production process, operators need to add information to E-cert. At the end of the process, the exporter uses E-cert to apply for official assurance or an export certificate.
It is mandatory to use E-cert for some markets and strongly recommended for all others.
E-cert is password protected and new exporters and operators need to apply for access.
How to register
To use E-cert, your company must be one of the following:
- a registered exporter under the Animal Products Act 1999
- a business with a registered Risk Management Programme
- an export-approved premise
- acting as an agent for another company that is registered as one of the above.
You need to get company access first, then add access for individuals.
Apply for a seafood export certificate, if needed
Using E-cert and how to request approval to get your certificate.
If the destination market for your seafood requires an export certificate (or official assurance), you need to apply for it through E-cert. You have to register to access E-cert. We explain how to register for E-cert in the previous step.
When you're registered, you can log in and use the system.
The information and declarations you, or the operators you work with, have entered about the production of your seafood products confirm that they comply with requirements.
Training and help using AP E-cert
Guidance resources to help you understand the exporting process, certification, and how to use AP E-cert.
AP E-cert demonstration
Walk-through a demo to learn how to raise an export certificate in AP E-cert.
Request approval of your certificate
Once the export certificate application has been raised in E-cert, email your nearest MPI signing office or your verifier to arrange approval of the export certificate.
09 909 2701
Bay of Plenty
04 894 0926
03 943 1777
Getting your export certificate
When MPI is satisfied that your seafood products comply with all requirements and standards, we issue the official assurance (export certificate) through E-cert.
The official assurance can be provided for your consignment in various ways. Check the OMAR of your destination country and the Official Assurances Specification to work out what you need.