• $2.0b
    Export Revenue for year ending March 2023
  • 36%
    Of all seafood products are exported to China year ending March 2023
  • 15, 951
    Individuals worked in the Seafood industries across 2021
  • 1080
    Learners enrolled in Seafood


The people of Aotearoa have long drawn on the ocean as a source of food. Māori have a deep relationship with the sea and Tangaroa, the god of the sea and fish, and have many customs and practices around fishing. Europeans were slower to take up fishing in Aotearoa but did find an interest in naming many local fish species after those they were familiar with, such as cod and herring. In 1992 a Tiriti o Waitangi settlement was reached, allocating Māori quota of some commercial fishing grounds, as well as $150 million to enable Māori to purchase half of Sealord Products Ltd. and the establishment of Te Ohu Kaimoana.

Māori continue to have significant investments in the seafood industry group, with over $2.9 billion as at 2018. Within the seafood industries, Māori own a large market share of fishing (63%), with approximately 27% of all quota by volume and value owned by Māori. Ownership is not just limited to quota, as Māori have significant investment in aquaculture and land-based processing operations, including Moana NZ (100% Māori ownership) and Sealord Group Ltd. (50% Māori ownership). An estimated 28% of businesses in the industry are Māori-owned.

The Seafood industry group includes aquaculture, fishing, seafood processing and fish and seafood wholesaling (Maritime and Marine Operations, Stevedoring and Ports, Water Freight Boat Building and Maintenance, and Marine Technology do not fall under the remit of Muka Tangata). In 2021 we counted 15,951 people in the seafood industry group, with around 13% of the workforce on work and work holiday visas, and an ethnically diverse workforce including 27% Māori, 15% Asian, and 10% Pacific peoples.

The seafood industry is highly regionalised, presenting an opportunity for economic and workforce development outside the main economic centres. The industry also represents a potential growth area for the New Zealand economy, with seafood exports valued at $2.0 billion as at March 2023, and is forecasted to reach $2.08 billion by the end of June 2023 (an 8.4% increase on export values as of June 2022). Rock lobster, mussels, hoki and salmon accounted for 53% of total seafood exports as at March 2023. Despite forecasted growth, the industry is grappling with some significant challenges, including a heavy reliance on a migrant workforce, mitigating the impacts of climate change on the industry, and a decrease in the number of learners enrolled in vocational education relating to seafood.

Find out about our work to assess the quality of programmes delivered by providers for this industry here.

2025 Investment Advice

Muka Tangata provides advice to TEC on investment in vocational education to influence funding decisions that considers industry needs, to help match skills and workforce demands with supply.

Learn more


We highlight the current key priorities and opportunities for each industry. These opportunities will be updated on an ongoing basis as our understanding of the industry evolves and deepens.

This is our plan to address the opportunities that arose from our engagement, research and analysis. It includes real actions that we are committed to delivering – these are both industry specific and cross-cutting actions across all industries in the food and fibre sector where common themes emerged.

It includes broader areas or dependencies where external parties will need to provide input into solutions with Muka Tangata support; for example, advocacy, engagement, collaboration, and provision of specific expertise or data. We will work in collaboration with those who will need to take the lead in this area. This section will test potential solutions that we’re working on and seek feedback and input into them.