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.
Setting up an aquaculture farm
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]
Siting and management guidelines for open ocean aquaculture [PDF, 917 KB]
The Literature review of ecological effects of aquaculture is available to download in 12 separate chapters:
- Contents and introduction [PDF, 4.8 MB]
- Pelagic effects [PDF, 1.9 MB]
- Benthic effects [PDF, 2.6 MB]
- Effects on marine mammals [PDF, 1.6 MB]
- Effects on wild fish [PDF, 1.6 MB]
- Seabird interactions [PDF, 1.9 MB]
- Biosecurity [PDF, 2.3 MB]
- Escapee effects [PDF, 1.6 MB]
- Effects from genetic modification or polyploidy [PDF, 1.8 MB]
- Effects from additives [PDF, 1.5 MB]
- Hydrodynamic effects [PDF, 1.8 MB]
- 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
- 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 email@example.com
Open ocean aquaculture finfish guidelines
Open ocean (beyond enclosed waterways) finfish aquaculture needs to be sustainable. We've been working since 2020 to develop best management practice guidelines for particular elements of aquaculture in the open ocean. These are specifically for:
- marine mammals
- benthic and water quality.
Purpose of the guidelines
The guidelines are non-statutory guidance. They are designed to sit within an RMA (Resource Management Act) context by:
- guiding the preparation of consent applications
- supporting good decision-making (including consent conditions) on applications for aquaculture in the open ocean.
They can also be helpful where councils are at a planning stage for setting relevant policies around open ocean aquaculture.
These guidelines will help in future management frameworks for open ocean aquaculture. As at 2021, there is active reform of the RMA underway. The aquaculture strategy and its related implementation plan aim to advise on options for the best management of open ocean aquaculture in New Zealand.
Aquaculture strategy [PDF, 2.9 MB]
Implementation plan [PDF, 343 KB]
The guidelines will be updated as knowledge grows.
The seabird and marine mammal guidelines
Fisheries New Zealand commissioned literature reviews on the effects of open ocean aquaculture on seabirds and marine mammals:
Offshore aquaculture in New Zealand and its potential effects on seabirds [PDF, 2.5 MB]
Marine mammals and aquaculture, with special emphasis on open ocean waters of New Zealand [PDF, 440 KB]
These provided a starting point for expert authors to develop best practice guidelines. Then peer reviews of the first and second drafts were provided by:
- Aquatic Environment Working Group
Feedback on the first draft was provided by:
- iwi representatives (engaged through Te Ohu Kaimoana)
- environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs)
- government agencies
- industry stakeholders.
Best practices and technologies available to minimise and mitigate the interactions between finfish open ocean aquaculture and seabirds [PDF, 1.1 MB]
Best practices and technologies available to minimise and mitigate the interactions between finfish open ocean aquaculture and marine mammals [PDF, 1.1 MB]
The benthic and water quality guidelines
Fisheries New Zealand commissioned a report focused mainly on benthic effects of open ocean aquaculture overseas. This included several case studies from Norway regarding water quality effects.
Synthesis of environmental responses to aquaculture in dispersive coastal ecosystems based on international case studies [PDF, 1.6 MB]
Following this report, a technical working group was formed. It developed guidelines for benthic and water column effects. It looked at the range of options available for monitoring and management of these effects. Stakeholders from ENGOs, iwi, government agencies, councils, and industry provided feedback on the first draft.
AEBR 278: Best practice guidelines for benthic and water quality monitoring of open ocean finfish culture in New Zealand [PDF, 3.2 MB]
Following stakeholder feedback, we are developing high-level management and siting guidelines for benthic and water quality effects. We plan to release these late 2022.
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.
Protecting aquaculture from biosecurity risks
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org