The new agency, Aquaculture New Zealand, will provide a single voice for aquaculture, said Helen Clark.
It has also launched a website to help co-ordinate information and ideas: www.aquaculture.govt.nz
"Twenty years ago, aquaculture was a relatively small industry, turning over about a million dollars a week and employing four hundred people. Today it employs 2500 people, and it turns over close to a million dollars a day.
Fish and shellfish farming has become the fastest growing sector of New Zealand’s seafood industry and the government believes the sector’s vision to become a billion-dollar industry by 2025 is achievable. Farmed fish and shellfish production is now worth $300 million. Aquaculture has immense potential in New Zealand’s and the could make a significant contribution to the nation's economy in a way that is both environmentally and socially sustainable.
Good reputationA large part of the industry’s success to date is based on its reputation for sustainable, high value, innovative products which meet the needs of increasingly sophisticated consumers - at home and abroad.
"Its potential is being driven by the quality of our produce and by a reputation for clean, sustainable production. That gives us an edge in global markets. Aquaculture New Zealand will enable the industry to implement its sector strategy, and to communicate and build relationships between the government, councils and other stakeholders, said Prime Minister Clark.
New Zealanders already enjoy the benefits of locally farmed seafood – virtually all of NZ's fresh and chilled mussels, salmon and Pacific oysters sold in retail outlets are farm-raised. However, future growth of the aquaculture sector here will depend on continued sustainable growth and market development of its products, particularly offshore.
"Sustainability is a necessity in today’s business world, not an optional extra. Increasingly consumers want to know not just what a product or service does for them – but also how it’s produced and transported," said Ms Clark.
She urged the industry to be watchful of consumer demands and environmental issues because they are increasingly prepared to pay a premium for products that are kind to the environment.
And New Zealand's fish and seafood producers are already in a strong position here. Leading American environmental organisation, The Blue Ocean Institute, gave one of its highest ratings to New Zealand’s greenshell mussel, deeming it to be one of the top two sustainable seafoods in the world.
"Our oyster, salmon, and abalone farmers are recognised as having in place world best practice in environmental management. Sustainability is not just a buzz word, it is a necessity for future prosperity. If we set our sights on becoming a truly sustainable nation, that’s not only good for the environment, it is good for the bottom line too," Said Ms Clark.
CohesionMs Clark said that the launch of Aquaculture New Zealand was a significant step toward realising the industry’s potential and would be vital in helping the industry implement its sector strategy, and communicate and build relationships with government, councils, and other stakeholders. It would bring cohesion, stability, and marketing direction to the industry.
"Aquaculture is one of the most important economic sectors for future growth - with an ability to boost economic development in our regions and small coastal towns. It also offers enormous potential for Maori communities," she added.
The new agency has ensured Maori representation on its Board and government says that there is an important role in aquaculture for Maori as businesspeople, as well as culturally.
The opportunities for New Zealand fish farming are abundant because the world is hungry for farmed products. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations predicts world seafood consumption will rise by a third in the next ten years. There are not enough fish in the sea to meet the demand, so global aquaculture will increase.
"AS a nation, we cannot let pass the opportunity to be part of that growth, and we do have those compelling competitive advantages," said Ms Clark. "The conditions are ripe for expansion with uncrowded coasts, clean waters and community of highly skilled scientists and researchers dedicated to developing new varieties, management techniques and innovations in processing."
She said that industry had the Governments full support and she looked forward to seeing further development through regional coastal plans.