Seafood, one of the country’s top export earners, continues to show strong growth with exports reaching a record high of $1.713 billion in the year to end March, says Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst.

The strong export growth for seafood accelerated in the first quarter of the year, he says.

“This is an 11.4 per cent increase on the previous year and an $80 million increase on the previous high of $1.63 billion for the 2015 calendar year.

“Month on month growth of 18 percent in January over the previous year was even higher at 23 percent in March,” Tim Pankhurst says.

The strongest value growth is from exports of frozen fin fish with rock lobster, orange roughy, fish meal and mussels also returning increased prices.

China accounts for nearly one third of total seafood export value. The average per kilo value for highly prized lobsters is up 6 percent this year. The China demand, particularly around its new year, has cemented rock lobster as New Zealand’s most lucrative export species, returning $305 million in 2015. Mussels came next at $224 million, followed by hoki at $209 million and then, in order of value, jack mackerel, orange roughy, ling, salmon, squid and paua.

The second most valuable market is Australia followed by the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spain, France, Germany and Thailand.

Exports of half-shell Greenshell™ mussels have continued to increase this year and per kilo returns are up nine percent.

The first major exports of squid for the 2015-16 season were shipped in March and are well ahead of the previous year’s total. 

The orange roughy market in China has grown from virtually nothing several years ago to $26 million in 2015, overtaking the US.

“The fact a wide variety of species across a range of markets are in demand and consequently attracting increased returns bodes well for the medium and long term outlook for the seafood sector.

 “This is underpinned by a well-managed wild fishery and an expanding aquaculture sector.

 “The Quota Management System, now in its 30th year, has ensured stocks are sustainably managed.

 “Discerning consumers around the world are increasingly looking for high quality, sustainably harvested seafood and are prepared to pay a premium for that.

“The complementary domestic market continues to be important as well.

“Around 88 percent of Kiwis, those who don’t catch their own, continue to rely on our wild fishery and aquaculture enterprises for their seafood,” Tim Pankhurst says.