Setting up a land-based fish farm

Find out what the requirements are to set up land-based aquaculture and how to get a fish-farm licence from Fisheries New Zealand.


This process covers commercial aquaculture above the mean high-water mark, including:

  • marine and freshwater species (fish, shellfish, and seaweed)
  • farming in tanks, ponds, cages, pens (including in freshwater canals)
  • farming on land using seawater or brackish water (pumped in from the sea or circulated around the farm)
  • aquariums.

If you want to farm species above the high water mark (to sell), you must get a fish-farm licence from Fisheries New Zealand.

Setting up a marine farm (like a mussel or oyster farm) and finfish sea cages below mean high-water mark follows a different process.

Find out how to set up a marine farm

Find out which species can be farmed

You can apply to farm any species listed under the:

Notice Specifying Fish Species Which May Be Farmed

If you want to farm a species that is not on the list, you must apply to us to have the species listed.


Requirements to establish a land-based farm

To set up a land-based farm, you need:

  • resource consent from the regional council, or a letter from council advising if consent isn't needed
  • to notify the fish and game council in the area where the farm will be located
  • the right to occupy the site
  • to register as a client with FishServe
  • a fish-farm licence issued by Fisheries New Zealand.

Resources to help you with applying

Follow the steps below or download our detailed guide to getting approval for a fish farm.

Guide to applying for a fish-farm licence [PDF, 182 KB]

Example of a fish farm licence [PDF, 271 KB]

Follow the steps to get approval

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Step 1: Get resource consent

Before applying for a fish-farm licence, you must get resource consent from the relevant regional council or unitary authority. This may include consent to establish a farm, install pipelines under the foreshore, or take and discharge water.

Contact your regional council or unitary authority to find out:

  • what consultation and information is required
  • what application forms you need to complete
  • application fees.
Step 2: Notify a fish and game council

When you apply for consent to take or discharge water, you must give written notice of your application for consent to a fish and game council in the district where the:

  • farm will be located
  • water will be released.

Fish and game councils have the right to make written submissions to the director-general of MPI about your application within 21 days of notification.

Step 3: Register with FishServe

Register as a FishServe client

To set up an aquaculture farm you must be registered as a client with FishServe. FishServe provides aquaculture administrative services (such as collection of fees) on behalf of MPI.

To register, download and complete the relevant FishServe registration form:

The application for client registration can be submitted at the same time as your application for a fish-farm licence.

Step 4: Apply for a fish-farm licence

Prepare your application

For a new fish-farm licence, download and complete this form.  

Application for fish-farm licence [PDF, 180 KB]

Prepare the required supporting information (listed in the Guide to applying for a fish-farm licence), including:

  • copies of resource consents to take and discharge water
  • evidence that Fish and Game were notified 
  • evidence of your right to use the land for the fish farm (for example, a copy of the lease agreement or ownership papers)
  • a list of species you want to farm and where you will get stock from
  • plans of the farm site and layout
  • a farm biosecurity plan
  • the application fee of $2,008.20 (including GST). 

To amend, renew, or transfer an existing licence

To amend or renew a licence, use this form:

Application form to amend or renew a fish-farm licence [PDF, 171 KB]

To transfer a licence, use this form:

Application for fish-farm licence [PDF, 180 KB]

Submit your application

Send your completed application form and any supporting documents to

Or post to:

Aquaculture and Fisheries Permitting team
Fisheries New Zealand
Private Bag 14
Nelson 7042

Stocking your farm

You can't take species from natural waters (for example, the sea, lakes, and rivers) to use as broodstock on a fish farm. Stock must come from another land-based fish farm, a marine farm, or a licensed fish receiver.

For freshwater species, contact the Department of Conservation (DOC) to find out if approval is needed to release the species on the farm. If moving stock between any islands, you will need an approval from DOC.

Moving freshwater species – DOC

To stock your farm with salmon, you need authorisations from DOC and Fisheries New Zealand. You also require authorisation from Fisheries New Zealand for movement of salmon on and off the farm after it is stocked. 

Moving and releasing stock from your farm

To release stock to the natural environment you require approval from Fisheries New Zealand or the Department of Conservation, depending on the species and location.

If you want to release stock into:

Manage biosecurity risks

The most efficient way to protect your farm and the environment from pests and diseases, is to have an on‑farm biosecurity plan.

Read our Biosecurity guidance for fish farmers 

What if I don't plan to sell the fish?

You don't need a fish-farm licence if you are growing or harvesting fish which aren't for sale (for example, if you have a research farm that doesn't sell the fish). However, you may need to register as a fish farmer. 

For more information, email

To cancel a fish-farm licence

Email your request to cancel (with your fish-farm licence details) to

Find out more

Freshwater Fish Farming Regulations 1983 – NZ Legislation

Who to contact

For more information on land-based commercial fish farming, email

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