Introduction to aquaculture and its management

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic plants and animals. Farms can be marine or land-based. Find out how we manage aquaculture development in New Zealand.

Aquaculture in New Zealand

The New Zealand aquaculture industry produces some of the world's best seafood. New Zealand exports to 81 countries, with annual sales of around $650 million.

Aquaculture has a low environmental impact compared with other ways of producing protein. New Zealand is internationally recognised for its sustainably produced:

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

Our clean water, sheltered harbours, and abundant plankton are perfect for aquaculture – and we've got plenty of room for growth.

Aquaculture Strategy

In 2019, the Government released a strategy for developing New Zealand aquaculture.

The aim is to make the industry more:

  • sustainable
  • productive
  • resilient
  • inclusive.

How we manage aquaculture

To manage aquaculture in New Zealand, we:

  • advise the government on aquaculture issues
  • develop and manage aquaculture law
  • implement the Māori aquaculture settlement
  • provide information and support for food safety issues.

Aquaculture legislation

Māori commercial aquaculture claims settlement

Aquaculture food safety requirements

Our role in guiding sustainable aquaculture

To ensure that aquaculture in New Zealand is sustainable, we:

  • guide sustainable aquaculture development through an aquaculture strategy and action plan
  • assess new marine farms for their effect on recreational, customary, and commercial fishing
  • prevent unwanted pests and diseases in aquatic environments
  • manage land-based aquaculture (including movements of aquatic organisms on and off farms).

Sustainable aquaculture

Protecting aquaculture from biosecurity risks

National environmental standards for marine aquaculture

The national environmental standards for marine aquaculture (NES-MA):

  • provide consistent regulations to manage existing marine farms around New Zealand
  • will make sure marine farms meet best environmental practice.

National environmental standards for marine aquaculture

Planning and approving new aquaculture

The New Zealand Government supports well planned and sustainable aquaculture growth. It's committed to helping industry achieve its goal of $1 billion in annual sales by 2025. It's essential that aquaculture growth:

  • happens within acceptable environmental limits
  • respects other uses and values of our waterways and marine environment.

To make sure this happens, the planning and approval process for a new marine or land-based farm looks at its potential:

  • environmental effects
  • social effects
  • economic effects
  • cultural effects.

Marine aquaculture development is primarily managed by regional councils under regional coastal plans.

Land-based aquaculture (for example, in tanks) is managed by:

  • regional councils, through regional plans
  • district councils, through district plans
  • MPI, through fish farm licences and authorisations to move stock on and off farms.

The regional plans help councils:

  • identify areas where applications for aquaculture development are appropriate
  • assess applications.

How to get started in aquaculture

The process for getting started in aquaculture depends on the type of farm you want to set up. Find out about:

Resource consent needed

You'll need resource consent from the relevant council for any new aquaculture development. You can find out more about this process on the pages that explain how to set up a farm.

Guidance for councils on marine aquaculture management

To get approval to set up a marine farm, applicants must have a coastal permit (a type of resource consent) from their council. We have guidance to help councils:

  • assess applications for resource consent for marine aquaculture
  • understand their options and requirements when managing aquaculture
  • understand how to assess the effects of aquaculture on fisheries resources.

Aquaculture planning and consenting [PDF, 1 MB]

Managing demand in the coastal marine area [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Aquaculture regulation-making power [PDF, 766 KB]

Re-consenting aquaculture [PDF, 846 KB]

Mechanisms for managing allocation of coastal space [PDF, 1.7 MB]

Guide to assessing the effects of aquaculture activities on fisheries resources [PDF, 779 KB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about aquaculture and its management, email

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