Sustainable aquaculture

Learn how the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is helping to ensure aquaculture is developed in a sustainable way.

Aquaculture in New Zealand

Aquaculture (farming of aquatic plants and animals) is an efficient system. It has a low environmental impact compared with other ways of producing protein.

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.

New Zealand is internationally recognised for its sustainably produced:

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

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

Approval process for new aquaculture farms

Every new aquaculture farm in New Zealand must have a resource consent. The approval process for a new farm considers its possible:

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

Once approved, councils monitor farms to make sure they continue to meet their requirements.

Guidance on aquaculture's ecological effects

Having a strong scientific understanding of aquaculture's ecological effects ensures that we can manage aquaculture sustainably.

We have guidance on the ecological effects of marine aquaculture.

The Aquaculture ecological guidance package is in 2 parts.

The Overview of ecological effects of aquaculture summarises:

  • ecological effects of farming different species
  • management options
  • monitoring guidance.

The Literature review of ecological effects of aquaculture has more detailed scientific information on ecological effects of marine farming.

Overview of ecological effects of aquaculture [PDF, 4.8 MB]

The Literature review of ecological effects of aquaculture is available to download in 12 separate chapters:

  1. Contents and introduction [PDF, 4.8 MB]
  2. Pelagic effects [PDF, 1.9 MB]
  3. Benthic effects [PDF, 2.6 MB]
  4. Effects on marine mammals [PDF, 1.6 MB]
  5. Effects on wild fish [PDF, 1.6 MB]
  6. Seabird interactions [PDF, 1.9 MB]
  7. Biosecurity [PDF, 2.3 MB]
  8. Escapee effects [PDF, 1.6 MB]
  9. Effects from genetic modification or polyploidy [PDF, 1.8 MB]
  10. Effects from additives [PDF, 1.5 MB]
  11. Hydrodynamic effects [PDF, 1.8 MB]
  12. Cumulative effects [PDF, 2.5 MB]

Ecological effects of main aquaculture species

The Overview of ecological effects of aquaculture reviews the ecological effects of farming 3 species in New Zealand and overseas. See chapters 2 and 3 for reviews of:

  • green-lipped mussels
  • Chinook salmon
  • Pacific oysters.

Groups involved in the research

Groups we worked with on these documents include:

  • the Cawthron Institute
  • the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
  • the Department of Conservation
  • regional councils
  • the aquaculture industry.

MPI's Aquaculture Working Group (AQWG)

The AQWG reviews and provides scientific feedback on research about the effects of aquaculture on the environment. The group includes:

  • fishery managers
  • scientists and researchers from across government
  • research institutes
  • industry
  • universities
  • non-government organisations (NGOs).

Membership is open to people who wish to become active participants.

To find out more about the AQWG, including meeting details, email

Preparing and responding to pests and diseases

MPI is working to protect the growing aquaculture industry, related businesses, and the aquatic environment (including fisheries) from marine pests and diseases.

Vessels are the most likely way that pests and diseases could be introduced into New Zealand coastal waters. However, other activities, including aquaculture, could also introduce or spread unwanted organisms. We're making sure New Zealand is ready to respond to an introduced pest or disease.

Undaria seaweed

Undaria pinnatifida is a seaweed that was accidentally introduced to New Zealand in the 1980s. It is firmly established in many areas, but is classed as an unwanted organism. There are programmes to remove Undaria from Fiordland and the Chatham Islands.

Undaria in Fiordland

Farming Undaria seaweed

Undaria can only be farmed:

  • with approval from MPI, and
  • in selected, heavily-infested areas.

This policy document has information if you want to farm Undaria.

The commercial use of Undaria pinnatifida – an exotic Asian seaweed [PDF, 112 KB]

Use the application form if you want to farm Undaria.

Commercial Farming of Undaria pinnatifida – Application Form [PDF, 202 KB]

Find out more

Public perceptions of New Zealand’s aquaculture industry. 2014 [PDF, 2 MB]

Sustainable aquaculture – A+ NZ Sustainable aquaculture

Review of the ecological effects of farming shellfish and other non-finfish species in New Zealand [PDF, 3.8 MB]

Review of the ecological effects of marine finfish aquaculture: Final report [PDF, 3.5 MB]

Who to contact

If you have questions about sustainable aquaculture, email

Last reviewed: