Global, Regional and National Perspectives
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Nigel Bankes, Irene Dahl and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 13: Aquaculture law and policy in New Zealand
Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing industry and in New Zealand, constitutes the fastest growing sector in the agricultural economy. In 2012, 68 million tonnes of farmed species generated approximately NZD 400 million for the New Zealand economy, although this comprised less than 2 per cent of the global aquaculture economy, which was worth over USD 144.4 billion in 2012. Of the approximately 310 species farmed worldwide New Zealand’s aquaculture industry primarily consists of green-lipped (exported as greenshell ) mussels, king salmon, pacific oyster and paua (abalone). The New Zealand government supports an industry target of growing aquaculture into a NZD 1 billion industry by 2025. Species likely to be added to the current list of species farmed include kingfish, hapuku and geoduck clams. Aquaculture in New Zealand relies on a ‘clean green’ image in order to access premium export markets, and whilst New Zealand’s marine environment is by no means free from human impacts – not least from overfishing – it is currently ranked nineteenth in the world for the health of its ocean environments scoring 78 out of 100, well above the global average of 67 out of 100. A recent study on aquaculture in New Zealand concluded that owing to its current small size the overall environmental impacts of the industry thus far are low. For example, whilst there have been some cases of nutrient enrichment associated with salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds area leading to a reduction in benthic fauna, this has largely been managed by rotation of cages and good management. Algal blooms often associated with finfish farming in other jurisdictions, which can lead to eutrophication, reduction in water quality or changes in phytoplankton species composition, have not occurred in New Zealand to date. There have been four documented incidents of dolphins becoming entangled in fish farm predator nets and two cases of fur seals drowning following entanglement, but generally, fish farms in New Zealand are not located in habitat or migration routes critical for marine mammals. Similarly, negative impacts on seabird populations are not significant, and in fact beneficial effects associated with the creation of roost sites close to foraging areas have been documented. The Greenshell mussel and Pacific oyster industries are almost entirely dependent on wild-caught spat from Ninety Mile Beach, Golden Bay, Marlborough Sounds (in the case of Greenshell mussels) and Kaipara Habour (in the case of Pacific oysters). There is currently minimal use of antibiotics, antibacterials and other therapeutic additives in New Zealand, and the use of transgenics is not currently practiced, both of which reduce the potential impact of escapees on wild fish populations.
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