Introduction to fish and seafood harvest, processing and sale

Find out about the food safety requirements you need to meet if you grow, harvest, process, store, or sell fish and seafood in New Zealand.

Types of seafood

Seafood includes fish and shellfish, such as:

  • finfish
  • crustaceans
  • cephalopods
  • echinoderms
  • molluscs
  • gastropods.

Also classed as seafood is a type of shellfish known as bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS). BMS have a shell in 2 hinged halves or valves. They include:

  • clams
  • cockles
  • geoducks
  • mussels
  • oysters
  • pipi
  • scallops
  • tuatua.

What you need to do

You'll need to know the legal requirements for your specific business activity. You should check whether you need to operate under:

  • a risk management programme (RMP), or
  • a regulated control scheme (RCS), or
  • some other requirements.

Check the requirements for your specific business activity

You only need to follow the requirements for the activity you're doing.

Our roadmap gives an overview of all legislation and regulations relevant to seafood.

Roadmap for seafood legislation [PDF, 1 MB]

Using codes of practice

Some activities require you to operate under a risk management programme (RMP). For some, there are codes of practice that you can use. Some businesses find it easier to use one of these to set up an RMP. For seafood processing, there are codes of practice for:

  • rendering
  • cold and dry stores
  • further processing.

Rules and information for specific seafood activities

Remember, you only need to meet the requirements that apply to your specific seafood processing activity.

Bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS)

You must meet requirements if you grow, harvest, process, store, or transport BMS commercially:

  • from marine farms
  • from land-based fish farms
  • that you harvested from the wild.

The requirements you need to meet are:

  • food safety requirements under the Animal Products Act 1999
  • requirements under the Regulated Control Scheme for BMS (BMS RCS).

Regulated Control Schemes (RCSs) are imposed by the government to manage food-related risks.

Fish farming and aquaculture

If you supply farmed fish (or shellfish or other seafood) for processing, there are other requirements that you must meet.

Land-based seafood processing

Land-based fish processing premises can carry out primary and/or secondary processing of seafood on land. The requirements you must meet depend on whether you:

  • do primary or secondary processing
  • process seafood for the New Zealand market or for export.

Limited processing fishing vessels (LPFVs)

If you operate an LPFV, there are restrictions on the fish and fish product you can process on your vessel. The processed fish product may be:

  • exported without further processing, or
  • processed at a land-based fish processing premises.

Regulated control scheme (RCS) for LPFVs

LPFVs must also meet the requirements under the regulated control scheme (RCS) for LPFVs.

Inshore fishing vessels

Inshore fishing vessel operators harvest fish and other seafood. Visit this page for information on the requirements.

RMP vessels processing seafood at sea

RMP vessels carry out fishing and primary and/or secondary processing of seafood at sea. Fish processed on RMP vessels may go directly from the vessel to New Zealand or export markets without further processing.

Find out about the requirements for RMP vessels processing seafood at sea

Guidelines for specific seafood risks and activities

Seafood guidelines are developed to help seafood operators manage certain seafood-related activities or risks.

For example, the Seafood Operational Code describes good operating practice for seafood processing operations, and the Listeria guidance documents describe how operators can minimise Listeria contamination in read-to-eat seafood.

Seafood guidelines

Check other rules that may apply to you

Make sure you also find out about:

Seafood legislation

Animal Products Act 1999 – NZ Legislation

Food Act 2014 – NZ Legislation

Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Related orders and regulations

Related orders and animal product notices

Get the latest updates

Receive MPI media releases, email alerts, newsletters, and consultation updates.

Subscribe to MPI

Who to contact

If you have questions, email

Last reviewed: