The seafood sector ends the year in a strong position.

Export revenue is forecast to grow 4.4 percent in the year to June 2018 to $1.82 billion.

Growth in the following year is expected to increase by 7.1 percent, taking export earnings to just on $2 billion.

That is according to the latest Ministry for Primary Industries situation and outlook.

Despite increasing demand and higher prices, catch volumes will remain largely unchanged under a Quota Management System that ensures the fishery is sustainable.

The star performers included hoki, squid, salmon, tuna, toothfish and paua.

The price increases were eroded by a nearly 7 percent appreciation of the New Zealand dollar against the US.

Key export markets continue to be China, with 31 percent of the total export value, Australia (14 percent), Europe (14 percent), the US (13 percent) and Japan (7 percent).

“Prices are expected to remain strong given the positive economic outlook for New Zealand’s main export markets and the prospect of limited global supply, particularly for wild capture fisheries,” the report said.

Aquaculture, which currently returns 23 percent of total export values, is expected to be the main driver of growth based on salmon farm expansion in the Marlborough Sounds and increased mussel production supported by hatchery-bred mussel spat.

Mussels dominate aquaculture production followed by salmon and oysters. Total production volumes are not officially reported but are estimated at 100 to 110,000 tonnes in recent years.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said at the outlook launch at the Wellington Club on Monday night, the primary sector had moved from having just one Minister to now having four advocates – including Stuart Nash in fisheries, Shane Jones in forestry and Meka Whaitiri as Associate Minister for Agriculture.

He said there would be change in MPI but it was a case of evolution rather than revolution.

This would include the establishment of a primary sector council, made up of new people from within the sector but not necessarily those coming through to leadership positions.

He said there was a generational change under way and people with a vision and a passion were needed to provide a fresh look and challenge the established thinking.

“We have got to provide the best for the best and get more value in everything we do.”

Fisheries, forestry, biosecurity and food safety will continue to sit within MPI but as standalone entities.

The newly created Fisheries New Zealand will have one senior manager, who is yet to be confirmed.

“The creation of a dedicated fisheries branch within MPI will allow a stronger focus on innovation and high value outcomes for the fisheries sector,” Nash said.

“It will ensure more transparency over decision-making and management.

“This is a critical sector culturally, economically, socially and environmentally. It faces significant opportunities and challenges.”

The overall primary sector outlook is good news for New Zealand Inc, with exports poised to grow by an impressive 8.5 percent in 2018 to $41.4 billion.

This is based on robust demand for dairy and forestry products, an improving outlook for red meat and other primary sector products including seafood, and continuing investment in horticulture expansion.

“By directing our efforts on shifting production systems from that of volume towards value, and keeping the environment as a key focus, clear and lasting benefits will be seen,” O’Connor added.