Sustainable aquaculture

Learn how MPI is helping to ensure aquaculture is developed in a sustainable way.

New Zealand aquaculture

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

The New Zealand aquaculture industry produces some of the world's best seafood. We export to 81 countries with annual sales of around $500 million. New Zealand is internationally recognised for our sustainably produced salmon and New Zealand Greenshell™ Mussels.

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

Government support for sustainable aquaculture

Aquaculture is a growing industry in New Zealand that benefits regional and national economies. The industry provides jobs for over 3,000 kiwis in regional New Zealand where opportunities may otherwise be limited.

The New Zealand Government supports well-planned and sustainable aquaculture growth. An essential part of this is making sure growth:

  • takes place within acceptable environmental limits
  • respects other uses and values of our natural resources.

Planning and approval of aquaculture

Every new aquaculture farm must have a resource consent to operate in New Zealand. The planning and approval process for a new farm considers its potential environmental, social, economic and cultural effects. Once approved, councils monitor farms to make sure they continue to meet specified conditions.

Guidance on aquaculture's ecological effects

We need scientific understanding of aquaculture's ecological effects to plan for and manage sustainable aquaculture.

MPI has guidance information available on the ecological effects of marine aquaculture. It was produced in collaboration with the Cawthron Institute, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Department of Conservation, regional councils, the aquaculture industry, and others. 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 and 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

Aquaculture production in New Zealand is dominated by 3 species: green-lipped mussels, Pacific oysters and Chinook salmon. The Overview of ecological effects of aquaculture reviews the ecological effects of farming these species in New Zealand and overseas (see chapters 2 and 3).

Find out about farming:

Science review group

MPI has a science group that looks into the effects of aquaculture on the aquatic environment.

The Aquatic Environment Working Group (AEWG) reviews and provides scientific feedback on research on the effects of aquaculture and fishing on the environment. The group includes fishery managers, and scientists and researchers from across government, research institutes, industry, universities and non-government organisations. AEWG meetings are open to the public.

To find out more about the AEWG – 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, but 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 unwanted

Undaria pinnatifida is a seaweed that was accidentally introduced to New Zealand waters in the 1980s. It is firmly established in many areas, but it 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 be farmed only with approval from MPI in selected, heavily infested areas.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about sustainable aquaculture, email

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