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:
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Open ocean aquaculture finfish guidelines
Open ocean aquaculture needs to be sustainable and we've been working since 2020 on developing best management practice guidelines for particular elements of aquaculture in the open ocean (beyond enclosed waterways). These are specifically for:
- Marine mammals
- Benthic and water quality (to be published later in 2021).
Purpose of the guidelines
The guidelines are non-statutory guidance. They are designed to sit within an RMA context by guiding the preparation of consent applications as well as 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 have value in any future management framework for open ocean aquaculture. This reflects the point that there is active reform of the RMA currently underway (as at 2021), and that the aquaculture strategy and its related implementation plan clearly signal work 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]
In summary – no matter how open ocean aquaculture is managed, guidelines like these (which will be updated as knowledge grows) will underpin best practice management.
The seabird and marine mammal guidelines
Literature reviews were commissioned on the effects of open ocean aquaculture on seabirds (Connor-McClean et al. 2020) and marine mammals (Würsig, in prep.). These provided a starting point for expert authors to develop best practice guidelines. Following this, the Aquatic Environment Working Group and the Aquaculture Working Group (chaired by Fisheries New Zealand) provided peer review of the first and second draft of this document.
Iwi representatives (engaged through Te Ohu Kaimoana) and stakeholders from ENGOs, government agencies, councils, and industry were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the first draft.
The benthic and water quality guidelines
The benthic and water quality guidelines are still under development. 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 (Keeley 2020).
A technical working group was formed to discuss issues and develop guidelines for benthic and water column effects given the range of options available for monitoring and management of these effects. Stakeholders from ENGOs, iwi, government agencies, councils, and industry were given the opportunity to provide feedback on the first draft. Following stakeholder feedback, we have started developing a summary version of the benthic of water quality guidelines. These are not yet ready for publication because we have not concluded the necessary peer review process for this document.
We are hopeful that they will be published this year.
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 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.
Use the application form if you want to farm Undaria.
Find out more
Who to contact
If you have questions about sustainable aquaculture, email email@example.com