The seafood sector continues its strong run in the latest primary industries situation and outlook. Seafood exports are predicted to top $2 billion by 2019, according to the review released this week.

"Strong international demand for seafood is expected to keep prices rising,” the review said.

Seafood is the fifth most valuable standalone export sector after dairy, meat and wool, forestry and horticulture.

The overall forecast for New Zealand Inc is not quite as bright, with total primary industries export revenue predicted to decrease slightly in 2017 from $37 billion to $36.7 billion.

However, the total will bounce up by 12.5 percent in 2018 to $41.2 billion on the back of rising dairy prices.

That is good news for a small, remote trading nation like New Zealand where a high standard of living depends on the goods it can sell to the world.

Seafood exports totalled $1.77 billion in the year to June 30. In the five years to 2021 the total is expected to increase by 24 percent to $2.2 billion.

The review notes an emerging trend that the average per unit price for wild capture fisheries is growing faster than that of aquaculture species.

This is likely to be a reflection of the limited supply potential from wild capture fisheries. The price growth for wild capture is good news for New Zealand, as wild capture fisheries accounts for about 78 percent of our total seafood export revenue.

"Aquaculture, however, has growth potential. We expect an increase in salmon production from this year as two new farms owned by New Zealand King Salmon are already operational. Production from the third farm will be available in 2018".

"Mussel production still relies on wild caught juveniles, availability of which depends on climatic cycles. Hatchery-bred juveniles are expected to gradually come online from 2018 and support more reliable mussel production. As a result, aquaculture export volumes are forecast to grow by 4.1 percent annually during the outlook period.”

China remains the number one market, providing a third of the total value, followed by Europe, Australia, the US and Japan.

Exports grew by 31 percent to the European market in the year, surpassing Australia for the first time.

Mussel oil is singled out as a particular success story, with exports increasing 13-fold in five years, from $3 million in 2011 to $40 million this year. It is one of the most expensive primary sector products at $3000 per kg.

“Mussel oil is an emerging source of fish oil used in nutritional supplements. While fish oil is traditionally sourced from salmon, herring and other fish, mussel oil is unique to New Zealand. Oils extracted from green lipped New Zealand mussels are a high value product as they are a potent source of Omega 3 fatty acids and are said to have anti-inflammatory benefits.”

The overall upshot is that despite earthquakes, negative publicity, activist academics and their pseudo-science and relentless doomsayers in the environmental business, the New Zealand seafood industry is in good heart.

Stocks are sustainable, demand across a diverse range of markets is strong, returns are good, investment in new boats is the biggest in a generation, new technologies are changing the way we fish and the range of products we produce, our environmental imprint is reducing.

We can look forward to 2017 and beyond with confidence.