Introduction to seafood processing
If you are a primary or secondary processor of fish, the legal requirements depend on whether you process on land or at sea. Fish farmers also have food safety obligations. Use this section as a guide to the requirements for growing, harvesting, processing, storing and selling seafood.
What is seafood?
Seafood is fish and fish material, including finfish, crustaceans, cephalopods, echinoderms, molluscs and gastropods.
Bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS)
BMS have a shell in two hinged halves or valves and include clams, cockles, geoducks, mussels, oysters, pipi, scallops and tuatua. Because BMS have unique food safety requirements, they're dealt with separately.
Meeting the requirements
All seafood businesses must meet legal requirements. The requirements will depend on your business activity. Read the pages relevant to your business to find out the specific requirements. Here's a brief summary.
- Roadmap for seafood legislation [PDF, 1004 KB]
- Animal Products Act 1999
- Food Act 2014 (you must comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, and some businesses must have a food control plan (FCP) or comply with the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974).
Operating under the Food Act
The Food Act 2014 came into force on 1 March 2016. The Act applies to all new food businesses that started from that date.
Existing businesses (registered under the Food Act 1981 or Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 before 29 February 2016) are making the transition between 2016 and 2019. Find out when your type of business has to start operating under the Act.
Legislation relating to the Animal Products Act 1999:
- Animal Products Regulations 2000
- Animal Products (Regulated Control Scheme – Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Regulations 2006
- Animal Products (Regulated Control Scheme – Limited Processing Fishing Vessels) Regulations 2001
- Animal Products (Regulated Control Scheme – Contaminant Monitoring and Surveillance) Regulations 2004
- Animal Products (Exemptions and Inclusions) Order 2000
- Animal Products (Specifications for Products Intended for Human Consumption) Notice
- Animal Products (Specifications for Products Intended for Animal Consumption) Notice 2014
- Animal Products (Contaminants Monitoring and Surveillance) Notice
- Animal Products (Definition of Primary Processor) Notice 2000
- Animal Products (Specifications for Limited Processing Fishing Vessels) Notice 2005
- Animal Products (Specifications for Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Notice 2006
Regulated control scheme (RCS)
Some seafood businesses must comply with an RCS, imposed by the government to manage food-related risks. These include:
Risk management programmes (RMPs)
Many businesses operate under RMPs. Some businesses find it more efficient to implement an RMP using one of these industry-agreed codes of practice (COPs):
- Processing of seafood products COP
- Rendering COP
- Cold and dry stores COP
- Further processing COP.
Find out about RMPs.
Seafood guidelines are developed to help seafood operators manage certain seafood-related activities or risks. The Listeria guideline, for example, describes potential problems for fish processing operations and how operators can minimise Listeria contamination.
These guidelines are developed by the New Zealand Seafood Standards Council, in consultation with MPI and the seafood industry. Seafood operators can choose to adopt all, some or none of the guidelines.
Use these summaries to identify your type of operation, then go to the relevant webpage to learn more about the regulatory requirements. You may also need to consult the Exporting, Managing risk, Fish names – labelling, Fees and charges and other pages.
Bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS)
If you grow, harvest, process, store or transport BMS for commercial purposes on marine farms or land-based farms or harvest from the wild, you must meet food safety and other regulatory requirements. The requirements are different for growers and harvesters, operators and processors, including the BMS Regulated Control Scheme (BMS RCS).
Land-based seafood processing
Land-based fish processing premises do primary and/or secondary processing of seafood on land. The requirements you must meet depend on:
- whether you undertake primary or secondary processing
- whether you process seafood for the New Zealand market or for export.
Although the regulation of fish farms is initially a Resource Management Act requirement, there are still food safety requirements that fish farmers need to meet.
Limited processing fishing vessels (LPFVs)
If you operate an LPFV, there are restrictions on the fish and fish product you can process on board your vessel. The processed fish product may be:
- exported without further processing, or
- processed at a land-based fish processing premises.
Inshore fishing vessels
Inshore fishing vessel operators harvest fish and other seafood. You must comply with the Food Act and meet other specific 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 rendering fish materials to produce fish oil or fish meal for animal consumption.
Find out the requirements for labelling fish with the correct name for the New Zealand market or for export markets.
Find out the requirements for depots that hold fish or BMS.
Make sure you also find out about the general food safety requirements you may need to meet.
Read about requirements under the Fisheries Act and related legislation.
Keep up to date
It’s important to keep up with any new or revised seafood information, including requirements, consultations, strategies and other content changes.
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