Best Guide to Sustainable Seafood

Best Guide to Sustainable Seafood: simply ask, “Is it from New Zealand?”
Under New Zealand’s world-leading fisheries management regime, the QMS (quota management system), there’s no need to guess or ponder what fish is sustainable. If any fish stock was threatened or at unsustainable levels, the New Zealand government would reduce the TACC (total allowable commercial catch) to zero – and it would no longer be on sale your seafood store or supermarket.

So if you want to know which fish is ‘safe’ then just check if it’s New Zealand seafood.

New Zealand’s hoki fishery has just been re-certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and was the first fishery in the world to gain this exacting qualification.

In 2007 the Minister of Fisheries allocated more than $4 million to securing sustainability certification for New Zealand’s entire fisheries. This demonstrates the government’s high level of confidence in the QMS and the long-term sustainability of our fisheries.

New Zealanders can be justifiably proud of the reputation that our seafood has for being sustainably managed.

“So it’s that simple. If you want a guide to choosing sustainable seafood – just ask one easy question: is it New Zealand seafood? ”
Have you seen the Great Fish Guide? This informative wallet-size card is a must have when doing your weekly shop or visiting your local fish retailer. For more information on the Great Fish Guide »



New Zealand takes pride in the fact that both its hoki stocks are among the best managed stocks in the world.

At the beginning of the 2009/2010 fishing year (1 October 2009), the New Zealand Minister of Fisheries announced that the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of the nation’s two hoki fisheries for the upcoming fishing year (2009/2010) has increased by 20,000 tonnes – more than a 20 percent increase over the previous year. This marks the successful rebuilding of the Western stock, which required catch reductions, a painful process that was undertaken with full support by quota owners in the New Zealand seafood industry in order to keep the fisheries healthy and sustainable.

Industry views the decision as a tremendous validation of a long-term strategy to keep the hoki fisheries economically and environmentally sustainable. Beginning about a decade ago, the New Zealand government and seafood industry made the difficult decision to cut the quota and to shrink the fleet in order to preserve the long-term viability of the hoki fisheries. The catch increase decision is the result of those years of prudent and disciplined management.

Hoki facts
The Basics
Hoki is managed ecologically and sustainably. It is regularly assessed and monitored by the New Zealand government agency, the Ministry of Fisheries.
It is not and has never been over-fished. This is verified by independent science (see below).
There are two major hoki stocks in New Zealand, one to the west of the country, and the other to the east. Both remain above the limits set by the Ministry of Fisheries to ensure sustainability.
The best scientific information available – a 2009 stock assessment by the Ministry of Fisheries – found both stocks are within sustainable target levels.
The stocks will naturally fluctuate in size driven by the number of new fish entering the population. As they have done in the past, fisheries managers manage these fluctuations by adjusting catch limits.
When assessments earlier in the decade showed declines in the hoki stock, the New Zealand government took action to implement lower catch limits to allow it to recover. As a direct result of that action the 2009 stock assessment showed the hoki fisheries are healthy, increasing in size and have responded well to prudent management. In response to these conditions, the Ministry of Fisheries is considering raising catch limits this year.
In marked contrast to the reckless claims of environmental activists, the hoki stock is among the most responsibly and successfully managed in the world.
Most of the area where hoki live has not, and never has been, fished for hoki. Less than 10 per cent of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has ever been trawled. A total of 30 per cent of the EEZ has been closed to trawling in perpetuity by law to protect benthic (seafloor) ecosystems.
Methods to mitigate by-catch of seabirds and mammals have long been used in the hoki trawl fishery. The level of accidental by-catch of protected species in the hoki fishery is low. In recent years mitigation efforts focused on seabirds has resulted in a clear decline in by-catch.
Read the June 2009 New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries press release on hoki.

Fisheries Management Facts
Fisheries in each hoki stock are managed under separate catch limits, based on scientific assessments, reviewed annually and with adjustments to catch limits to ensure sustainability.
The New Zealand Minister of Fisheries is responsible under the Fisheries Act to ensure that all New Zealand’s fisheries are responsibly managed.
There are significant natural fluctuations in hoki stock sizes due to changes in the numbers of young hoki produced each year. Catch limits are adjusted in response to fluctuations.
In 2007, both stocks were re-certified by MSC as being sustainably managed – recognising that the western stock needed to be rebuilt in size for greater surety, which has now been done.
Catch limit reductions are used to promote rebuilding and are a regularly employed tool in effective fisheries management which needs to be flexible to respond to the natural environment. It is not a response to over-fishing. Neither of the two hoki stocks has been over-fished.
What the Science Says
Fisheries management is a complex challenge. However, there is a significant and ongoing amount of research carried out around New Zealand fisheries and also specifically relating to hoki. Where New Zealand fisheries have been assessed or studied, the conclusions are generally very, very good.

Read the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries 2009 stock assessment.

You might like to look at this research by Dr Worm et al, released in July 2009.

From Dr Worm and Prof Hilborn’s media release:

It’s good news for several regions in the U.S., Iceland and New Zealand. “These highly managed ecosystems are improving”, says Hilborn.

According to the authors’ analyses, Alaska and New Zealand have led the world in terms of management success by not waiting until drastic measures are needed to conserve, restore and rebuild marine resources.

The research shows that New Zealand is singled out as an area where eco-systems have never been overfished and are effectively managed. The research clearly shows that New Zealand has successfully managed its fisheries for ecological sustainability – and this is exceptional.

New York Times wrote about the Worm/Hilborn research in the article Study Finds Hope in Saving Saltwater Fish.

“A summary of recent papers comparing the performance of fisheries management around the world – how does New Zealand stack up?”, Adam Langley (9 September 2009) 90kB
This paper provides a synopsis of four recent publications that compare and contrast the effectiveness of fisheries management among the world’s countries/EEZs. The publications include a review of fisheries management regimes relative to the UN code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; a journal paper that publishes the results from that relate to the implementation of the Ecosystem based fisheries management; and two additional publications that use (somewhat) differing criteria to assess the fisheries management regimes among all or most of the world’s EEZs. It is a brief summary of each paper with particular emphasis on the results pertaining to New Zealand and the performance of New Zealand’s fisheries management regime relative to other (developed) countries.

The publication of these studies also coincides with the paper titled Rebuilding Global Fisheries (the link is above – Worm Hilborn et al) that rated New Zealand marine areas as second equal with Alaska as the healthiest in the world. (It is important to note that this rating is the highest possible…not the ‘best of a bad bunch’as some NGOs described it.)

Hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae) is New Zealand’s most important commercial fish species. It lives mainly in the middle water depths and is taken by trawling, usually at depths of around 300 – 600 metres.
Hoki Fishery
Hoki are found throughout New Zealand waters, but the main catching grounds are off the West Coast of the South Island, in Cook Strait, and on the Chatham Rise.

New Zealand’s hoki fishery is managed by strict quotas which allow only a set amount of hoki to be taken commercially each year. This Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) was increased to 110,010 metric tonnes for the 2009/10 fishing year.

For more information on the management and sustainability of hoki please download:

Management of New Zealand hoki 131kB
Hoki Exports
Total exports of hoki in the year ended December 2009 were worth $NZ 152 million.
The major markets for hoki are Europe and Australia taking around 70 per cent of the total export. The Asian nations are other important markets.

Virtually all hoki is exported as frozen fillets, frozen blocks of fillets and minced meat.

Hoki Meat Quality
Hoki flesh is moist, white and delicate, with few bones. It flakes easily and is excellent for forming into fish block. It is also well suited to further processing into a wide range of consumer presentations. In fact in New Zealand and many other countries, it is New Zealand’s sustainable hoki in your McDonalds Fillet’o’Fish.
For meal ideas using hoki, check out the Recipes on Greatest Meal on Earth website.


New Zealand Sea Lions

New Zealand squid fishing vessels that operate in the area around the Auckland Islands – a group of sub-Antarctic islands south of New Zealand – sometimes encounter New Zealand sea lions. Accidental capture of these large marine mammals does occur, however the industry has worked hard over recent years, and has successfully reduced the incidence of sea lion mortalities significantly.

These creatures are considered threatened because of their low number of breeding sites (rookeries), which makes them vulnerable to biological threats such as disease.

While it has been proven that fishing does not threaten the sustainability of the population the industry is focused on ensuring that their activities mitigate any sea lion mortalities. Innovations in trawl gear, restrictions on fishing near the sea lions’ rookery, and crew training have all been tactics used to reduce sea lion mortality as a result of fishing.

Sea lion facts – here is what is known:

  • New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri, also known as Hooker’s sea lion) occur primarily in the sub-Antarctic region, with a few animals present in southern parts of the South Island and a breeding colony in Otago.
  • The total mature population has been estimated between 5,000 to 20,000 individuals with a median of 7,800 (excluding pups).
  • Sea lions are gazetted as a threatened species under the Marine Mammals Protection Act because they have a restricted breeding range and in 2010 were upgraded to ‘Nationally Critical’ by the Department of Conservation after a decline in pup numbers at the breeding colonies in the Auckland Islands.
  • The main colonies are on the Auckland and Campbell Islands.
  • Small numbers of sea lions are accidentally killed in trawl fisheries, with most interactions occurring in the squid fishery around the Auckland Islands (part of the SQU 6T Quota Management Area).
  • Population modelling under Government direction, using an extensive set of data from annual monitoring of the breeding colonies, shows that fisheries bycatch constitutes little risk to the sea lion population*.
  • Changes in the sea lion population size are largely related to processes other than fishing mortalities, including bacterial epidemics and natural variation in breeding and survival.

Squid fishery facts – here is what is known:

  • The squid fishery is one of New Zealand’s most important and valuable fisheries.
  • In 2009 almost 38 000 tonnes of squid were exported, with a value of over $75 million.
  • Fishing effort in the SQU 6T fishery is restricted to limit sea lion mortalities.
  • Rules for managing fishing effort are tested against a detailed population model.
  • All vessels in the SQU 6T fishery use an approved “Sea Lion Exclusion Device” (SLED) in their trawl nets.
  • SLEDs contain a grid which excludes sea lions from the trawl cod end, and an escape hole which allows sea lions to swim out of the net.
  • The use of SLEDs has been very effective in reducing the number of sea lions landed dead on fishing vessels.
  • Underwater cameras on SLEDs on trawl nets have captured footage of a sea lion and fur seal exiting the net safely.
  • Ministry of Fisheries observers monitor a high proportion (38% in 2009) of trawls in the SQU 6T fishery.
  • Research which aims to assess the survival of sea lions following their escape from trawls has proved scientifically challenging, and is ongoing.
  • It is not feasible to use the jigging method for catching squid off the Auckland Islands, as it is unsafe in the extreme weather conditions of the area.
 Credit: Penny Royal, Deepwater Group Ltd

*Breen, P.A., Fu, D. & Gilbert, D.J. (2008). Sea lion population model projections and rule evaluations for Project IPA200609, Objective 4. Final research report for Ministry of Fisheries project IPA200609, Objective 4, Revision 1
24 July 2008.


Education and Resources

As one of New Zealand’s major export industries, the seafood industry is committed to informing and educating both industry members and the general public about seafood issues.

Hot Topics
If you are interested in general information about many aspects of the seafood industry, you can check out Hot Topics, which provides answers to some frequently asked questons.

Industry Training
The New Zealand Seafood Industry Training Organisation (SITO) facilitates education and training for people within the seafood industry. For detailed information, click here.

Classroom Resources
The resource kits are for the use of teachers, to support classroom education in fishing science and technology. These files require Adobe Acrobat reader; to download it go to

NEW – What’s the Catch? free online resource
‘What’s the Catch?’ is a FREE, fun and engaging online educational resource for students ranging from years 7 – 11. It has been developed for the New Zealand curriculum and is a cross-curriculum resource (social sciences, English, maths).

Comprehensive teacher’s notes and student instructions on how to use the game are online.

Link to What’s the Catch here or visit the webpage

Starters & Strategies focus on Seaweek 2010
Starters & Strategies is a teacher’s magazine. In the issue for Term Four, 2009, there is a focus on Seaweek 2010 which supports curriculum levels year 2-4+. Seaweek in the classroom is about encouraging students to think about the consequences of degrading the marine environment and thinking of ways to take positive action.
Seaweek 377kB
Starters & Strategies focus on New Zealand Kaimoana
In the issue for Term Three, 2008, there is a focus on New Zealand kaimoana which supports curriculum levels 3-4+ in Health and Physical Education, Social Sciences and English. It is a web research project based around The Greatest Meal on Earth website

New Zealand Kaimoana 206kB
Starters & Strategies focus on Seaweek 2009
In the Starters & Strategies issue for Term Four, 2008, there is a focus on Seaweek 2009 which supports curriculum levels year 1-8+. Seaweek in the classroom is about encouraging students to think about the consequences of degrading the marine environment and thinking of ways to take positive action.
Seaweek 201kB
Te Mâra Moana : The Living Sea

This resource kit were developed in the late 1990s and cover New Zealand’s seafood industry from its earliest days of traditional Mâori fishing through to the present, when trawlers fish our deep sea waters. They look at the life cycles of different fish species, fishing techniques and harvest methods, and discuss the importance of ensuring the sustainability of the ocean’s resources. Below is the kit for use in Mâori language immersion classes.

The first in a series of resources about fish and fishing, Te Mâra Moana: The Living Sea supports level 2 and 3 of the science and technology curriculum. Subjects covered include: goldfish; snapper; how fish swim; rock lobster; paua; trawling; Global Positioning System; Mâori fishing; processing & packaging; conservation and mussel farming.

Te Mâra Moana : The Living Sea 1.1MB
Te Mâra Moana : a resource for Te More/Te Weu
Te Mâra Moana:a resource for Te More/Te Weu is for use in Mâori language immersion classes.

Te Mâra Moana : a resource for Te More/Te Weu 924kB
This page contains activites for students targeted to NCEA Level 3 Achievement Standards 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4. Click here for activities.

Conservation Through Co-operation – Southern Seabird Solutions

Southern Seabird Solutions is an alliance of New Zealand and international interest groups who are working together to solve the incidental capture of albatrosses and petrels during longline and trawl fishing.



Information Centre – Frequently Asked Questions
The Information Centre is asked a wide range of questions on a daily basis about the New Zealand seafood industry, and the seafood industry in general. Here are some of the more common questions asked, and answered.

Exporting seafood
How do I go about exporting seafood or fish products?

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) website has useful information.

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise also offers useful advice to exporters.

School projects

I’m doing a school project on fish/the fishing industry, can you help?

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Information Centre is mainly concerned with the providing information services to the New Zealand industry, as we are funded by an industry levy. However the Council’s website has some useful “Hot Topics” and the Greatest Meal on Earth website has lots more information about New Zealand seafood. We also have resources developed in the late 1990s for the use of teachers, to support NCEA Level Three economics education in fishing science and technology.

Your local public library or school library will have book and journal resources that may help you (for example Index NZ), and staff there will be able to find resources suitable for your level of study.

Teachers should also contact the School Library Service of the National Library who may be able to provide other resources.

Domestic and international seafood consumption figures
Where can I find out more about seafood consumption figures?

You can view the 2007 Colmar Brunton survey commissioned by the NZ Seafood Industry Council here. The survey covers recreational fishing and fish consumption.

The figures below have been taken from outside the Council and constitute the best information available to date. Estimates of domestic consumption are not always accurate because it is very difficult to count how much people are eating.

You can check out our statistics page for more detailed information.

FAO, and OECD figures rely on “apparent consumption”, where domestic consumption is calculated as “Total production, less meal/fishmeal and other non-food unfit for humans, less exports, plus imports.”

FAO consumption figures are here. Note that the FAO statistics for NZ over a number of years (25-27 kgs), are much higher than the figure we quote (18kgs – from our publication Seafood for Health). See also graphs on consumption here.

Statistics New Zealand conducts a number of surveys including the Household Economic Survey (HES) – a survey of private household expenditure. It surveys fish (including wetfish, shellfish, crustacea), and is useful to show how much private households are spending on fish in general. It doesn’t break down the survey by species. Statistics New Zealand’s Retail Trade Survey may also be useful.

Fish stock assessment figures
Where can I find out about assessment figures for fish stock sustainability?

This information is available at the Ministry of Fisheries website. It is a summary of the assessments of the sustainability of current TACCs and recent catch levels and the status of the stocks for the last fishing year. Each summary stock assessment is linked to the detailed stock assessment and research results.

New Zealand fish processors
Where can I get a list of New Zealand fish processors?

The NZ Food Safety Authority site has some information on its website – the listings for market access to the US and EU cover most of the NZ processors.

Other animal product lists on the NZFSA web site are here.

You could also try the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council’s Exporters directory.

Fish identification

How do I identify a particular fish?

The NZ Seafood Industry Council have published the Guidebook to New Zealand Commercial Fish Species. See the Shop for further information.

The Te Papa “Fish Team” can help you with this. They say: “If you find an unusual or rare fish, or simply one you would like to have identified, we are happy to do this for you, and if the specimen is important we will give you a copy of one of our books in exchange for the specimen. We prefer to receive frozen specimens so we can record important information on colours before the fish is preserved.”

More details and contact information is available at the Te Papa website.

Nutrition values
What are the nutritional values for a particular fish or seafood?

You can view nutrition values for food products on the Greatest Meal on Earth website.

The Plant & Food Research New Zealand Food Composition Database contains information on the nutrient content of over 2600 foods commonly prepared and eaten in New Zealand.

Fish Exporters in New Zealand
Where do I find out who exports seafood out of New Zealand?

For a list of New Zealand fish exporters see our Exporters Directory.


Information Centre

Some general information is readily available on this website. For example, you are able to get up-to-date statistics about the New Zealand seafood industry in the Fact File and information on 45 key species in the species section. If you are not able to find the information you are looking for please contact the Information Centre.

Information Centre

The Seafood Industry Council’s Information Centre is the key provider of fisheries science, aquaculture, trade, marketing and fisheries law information in New Zealand.

The Information Centre subscribes to more than 125 journal titles and holds more than 4,500 books – all related to the New Zealand and international seafood industry, fisheries science and related fields. Industry members may visit the collection in person or contact staff for assistance. New additions to our collection are listed on the latest additions page.

Industry levypayers may borrow books and receive photocopies or digital copies of journal articles. Members of the public wanting to obtain items from the Council’s Information Centre should request an inter-library loan through their nearest public library. Students and staff at tertiary institutions should also be able to request interloans through their institutions’ libraries.

Information Centre Catalogue
Search the Information Centre’s collection – find details for every item in our collection, including thousands of books, articles and other resources covering fisheries-related topics in both NZ and internationally.
Database searches
Information Centre staff can search the comprehensive in-house catalogue for 18,000 journal articles, reports or books on your topic of interest.

In addition to our own resources, we also have access to the collections of other New Zealand libraries and overseas sources. Experienced staff can carry out a literature search on your behalf and locate items as required. Charges apply on some services. Contact us for further details regarding charges.

Export statistics and Exporter Directory
Did you know that mussels are New Zealand’s largest export earner?

The Information Centre has access to New Zealand seafood export data and can produce customised reports in print or electronic format. This is a “price on request” service and charges will vary depending on the nature and size of the report. Data for reports can be sorted by species, product form and market. We also offer an annual subscription to the latest monthly export reports. For more information on these services, see subscription statistics.

Top 10 export species and markets can be found in the Fact File.

The Exporter Directory can be used to locate New Zealand seafood exporters.

Legislation service
The legislation service is for those who wish to keep abreast of new fisheries legislation. The service supplies printed or electronic copies of acts, regulations, Gazette notices and any other relevant legislation with an impact on the New Zealand commercial fishing and seafood industries.

For more information visit the legislation service page.

Email updates
Information Centre staff can create customised email search alerts on your topic of interest. Tables of contents for many recent fisheries and seafood journals can be emailed to you. The Information Centre also alerts the industry to new books, articles, reports and websites that have been recently added to our in-house catalogue. You can contact the Information Centre to request any of these items.

Collection Policy

The Information Centre provides library and information services to New Zealand’s seafood industry.

Its specialised collection of journals, books and electronic resources covers the latest developments in fisheries management, fisheries science, aquaculture, trade, marketing, fisheries law, processing and product development. We also collect resources in broader subject areas as appropriate to support New Zealand Seafood Industry Council staff in their work – for example environment, economics, and general reference works such as dictionaries, atlases and nautical charts.

The Centre’s resources are a working collection and they therefore need to be accurate and up-to-date. This involves liaison with Seafood Industry Council staff in the areas of Science, Policy, Trade and Information and Industry Training to assess the usefulness of journals, books, databases and electronic resources.

The Centre’s clients are scattered throughout New Zealand and the Centre aims to continue to improve its level of service to those clients including easier access to the collections. In light of this electronic resources are often preferred over print and more resources are becoming available in electronic form only.



Aquaculture is the cultivation of fish, shellfish or aquatic plants, in natural or controlled marine or fresh-water environments. Shellfish are grown using either suspended long-line rope culture, inter-tidal trays or baskets or on-shore tanks, while fish are grown in sea-cages and on-shore tanks.

Some forecasts suggest that aquaculture will account for 50 percent of global seafood production in the next two decades.

Farming activities

GreenshellTM mussels currently dominate New Zealand’s aquaculture activities followed by King Salmon and Pacific oysters. Paua (abalone) farming for meat and pearl is a growing industry.

The high quality of New Zealand’s coastal waters and the abundance of plankton, along with the prevalence of sheltered harbours and inlets create ideal conditions for shellfish aquaculture.

The Marlborough Sounds is New Zealand’s most important mussel and salmon farming area with other key farm sites located in Golden Bay, the Coromandel, Stewart Island and for oyster, the far North.

You can find out more about GreenshellTM mussels, salmon and paua and their respective farming industries in the Species section.

A strong future
The New Zealand aquaculture industry is worth about 320 million dollars annually with domestic consumption accounting for around 40 percent of sales

There are a number of other species in New Zealand waters that show potential within the aquaculture industry including turbot, kingfish, eels, rock lobster, sea horses, geoduck clams, and some seaweeds and sponges.

New Zealand’s aquaculture production has risen considerably over the past decade and the sector now employs nearly 30 percent of the total seafood industry workforce. It has the potential to provide many more jobs for regional economies and the continued careful management of our unpolluted, plankton-rich coastal waters will be pivotal to this.

Strategic direction
New Zealand’s aquaculture products already have a great reputation at home and overseas. But to achieve its full potential the industry must identify and overcome any barriers that might inhibit its growth.

To this end the New Zealand Aquaculture Strategy was commissioned and completed by Aquaculture New Zealand, with assistance from the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, in 2006. The main reason for developing the strategy is to lay down a structured path for sustainably developing growth of this exciting industry.

The New Zealand Aquaculture Strategy 1.2MB
Establishing and operating a marine farm
A guide to establishing and operating a marine farm in New Zealand has been developed by the New Zealand government. It helps new marine farmers with information regarding the setting up and operation. Read the Marine Farmer Guide »


Catch methods

Twenty-five years ago two-thirds of New Zealand’s mid and deepwater fisheries lay largely undeveloped, while aquaculture was a far off dream of marine farm pioneers. It’s a very different picture today.

Around 650,000 tonnes of seafood are harvested from New Zealand’s coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zone each year. Almost 63 percent of this harvest is mid and deep-water fish, 12 percent is pelagics, 10 percent is inshore species and 15 percent is from aquaculture.

Following are the definitions of the different New Zealand fisheries and the types of fish found within them. The catching methods on the left give you more detail about how the species in each of the fisheries are caught.

“Aquaculture” – the inshore farming of certain species – is also described here but for more detail see Aquaculture »

Crustaceans and Shellfish
Depth: Inshore waters
Fishing Method: Dredging, potting and diving
Fish caught: Spiny rock lobster (crayfish), paua (abalone), scallops, oysters, clams, cockles, and crab from shallow inshore waters, and scampi and queen scallops from deeper water
Inshore Fisheries
Depth: Near shore up to 200 metres
Fishing Method: Trawling, set netting and bottom longlining
Fish caught: Snapper, red cod, bluenose, monkfish, tarakihi, warehou, gurnard, trevally, rig, blue moki, flounder, groper, turbot and john dory
Pelagic Fisheries
Depth: Surface waters to 200 metres
Fishing Method: Purse seining, mid-water trawl, occean trolling, and surface longlining.
Fish caught: Tuna, mackerel, barracouta, and kahawai
Middle-Depth Fisheries
Depth: 200-600 metres
Fishing Method: Trawling, bottom longlining and jigging
Fish caught: Hoki, squid, hake, ling, barracouta, and warehou
Deep-Water Fisheries
Depth: 600-1000 metres
Fishing Method: Trawling with specialised gear
Fish caught: Orange roughy, cardinal, alfonsino and oreo dory
Depth: Inshore marine farming using rope culture, trays or sea cages and on-shore tanks
Cultivation Method: Farming
Species: Greenshell (TM) mussels, king salmon, Pacific oysters, paua (abalone). Further potential aquaculture species include turbot, kingfish, eels, rock lobster, sea horses, Bluff oysters, geoduck clams as well as some seaweeds and sponges.
For more information about this part of the New Zealand seafood industry, see Aquaculture.

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Management & Sustainability

Prior to 1965, New Zealand only controlled fishing within a 3-mile coastal limit. In 1965, a 9-mile fishing zone outside the 3-mile territorial zone was established. Many foreign fishing boats fished outside this 12-mile limit and New Zealand had no control over the fish taken from these waters. During these times, the New Zealand industry focused on a largely inshore fishery fished from relatively small trawlers and other vessels.

Exclusive Economic Zone
Click for larger map
New Zealand’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was created in 1978. Since then, the fishing industry has expanded to include harvesting mid and deep-water species from within this EEZ. Initially, this involved joint ventures with overseas companies experienced in this type of fishing, but now most boats are New Zealand owned.

Although New Zealand’s EEZ is the fourth largest in the world, covering 1.3 million square nautical miles equivalent to 2.2 million square kilometres, 65% percent of that is too deep (over 1000 meters) or closed to commercial fishing.

One third of the EEZ is closed forever to bottom trawling as Benthic Protection Areas.

All commercial fishing in the EEZ is monitored via satellite by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries. This means that the government has a record of every trawl made in the EEZ. Less than 10 per cent of the entire EEZ has ever been trawled.

By the early 1980s fishing pressure had reduced the size of a number of New Zealand’s major fisheries, particularly the inshore fisheries. Because of this, in 1986 New Zealand introduced the Quota Management System (QMS) with the aims of conserving major fisheries stocks and making the fishing industry more efficient.
QMS involves the industry and government agencies continually working together to assess stock levels of all quota-managed species. From these results, the Ministry of Fisheries sets a yearly Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for each species concerned.

There are now 96 species or species groups controlled by the quota system. The system covers most major fisheries within New Zealand’s EEZ, and will eventually cover all our commercially harvested species. For a full list of the species included in the QMS see Species.

Independent international sustainability research
In July 2009 Dr Boris Worm and Prof Ray Hilborn, along with 19 marine and ecosystem scientists from around the world, released the results of their groundbreaking research and assessment of many of the world’s fisheries.

While the news wasn’t all good for global fisheries, the New Zealand fisheries assessed (such as hoki) received the highest possible rating for ecologically sustainable management. In their media release, Prof Hilborn said that it was good news for several regions in the U.S., Iceland and New Zealand.

“These highly managed ecosystems are improving,” he said.

According to the authors’ analysis, Alaska and New Zealand have led the world in terms of management success by not waiting until drastic measures are needed to conserve, restore and rebuild marine resources.

The research shows that New Zealand is an area where eco-systems have never been overfished and are effectively managed for ecological sustainability.

You can read this research article by Dr Worm et al here or watch a summary:

New Zealand seafood industry sustainability research
The New Zealand seafood industry commitment to sustaining New Zealand’s seafood resource is ongoing. We invest up to $20 million every year in research so that we know how best to:

harvest seafood in an environmentally sustainable way
minimise the impact of fishing and aquaculture on our natural environment.


The New Zealand seafood business

New Zealand controls the world’s fourth largest coastal fishing zone in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that produces about one percent of the world’s fish catch. The EEZ covers 2.2 million square kilometres of ocean ranging over 30 degrees of latitude – from the subtropical Kermadec Islands to the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands.

The New Zealand industry, represented at all levels by the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, pays for fisheries management, enforcement and operational research. It also invests more than 2% of gross returns in research and development with a strong focus on environmental issues.

New Zealand seafood industry fact file »

Management and Sustainability
Seafood is New Zealand’s fifth largest export, earning NZ$ 1.35 billion per year and supporting more than 22,000 jobs domestically.

New Zealand is a world leader in fisheries management and supports an industry based on sustainable harvest and environmental principles. Rigorous fishing controls in New Zealand waters, including the highly effective Quota Management System, ensure sustainable management of New Zealand’s “wild-catch” fisheries. For more information see Management and Sustainability.

New Zealand Fisheries
Around 650,000 tonnes of seafood are harvested from New Zealand’s coastal waters and Exclusive Economic Zone each year. Almost 63 percent of this harvest is mid and deep-water fish, 12 percent is pelagics, 10 percent is inshore species and 15 percent is from aquaculture. For more information see New Zealand Fisheries.

The New Zealand aquaculture industry is worth about NZ$ 320 million annually.

Aquaculture is the process of farming seafood, using either rope culture, trays and on-shore tanks for shellfish; or sea cages and on-shore tanks for fish. Some forecasts suggest that aquaculture will account for 50 percent of global seafood production in the next two decades. For more information see Aquaculture.

Strengths of the New Zealand seafood industry

The New Zealand seafood industry is poised for further growth. It aims to be the preferred supplier of high quality seafood products to discerning world markets and a number of key strengths will enable it to do this.

New Zealand seafood products have a strong international reputations for high quality, reliable food safety and, of increasing significance, for sustainable management of the resource.
The Quota Management Systems (QMS) ensures that our waters are fished sustainably and that thre is a consistent supply to meet yearly and ongoing demand. This provides a long-term assurance for buyers that few countries can match.
New Zealand is a signatory to treaties that require international sustainable mangement of fish stocks. International interest in and respect for the QMS has seen increased liaison with other fishing nations with interests in managing wild resources in a sustainable way, as well as managing access to marine resources.
Consistent quality and supply coupled with innovation and niche marketing increasingly enable the New Zealand industry to win business in high value, premium markets. This is helped by a perception amongst our trading partners that New Zealand seafood comews from clean waters.
The industry and the companies within it are financially strong.
The industry is efficient and self-funding.
McDermott Fairgray’s Economic Impact Assessment
In 2000 the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council had the McDermott Fairgray Group to do a study to assess the total economic impact resulting from the presence of the seafood industry in New Zealand and each Regional Council area.

The Economic Impact Assessment provides background information and summarises the findings. Appendix 1 provides a breakdown of the survey data for the North Island and appendix 2 for the South Island.

Economic Impact Assessment for New Zealand Regions 245kB
Appendix 1 – North Island 371kB
Appendix 2 – South Island 300kB