Production of aquaculture species

NIWA is supporting the advancement of the New Zealand aquaculture sector through the development of high value products of verifiable quality and sustainability.

This includes the establishment of reliable hāpuku (groper) hatchery production; the fine tuning of production process for developing species: kingfish and paua (abalone); and advanced high-end animal production science for salmon.

The problem

The gap between the supply of seafood from wild fisheries and growing consumer demand is widening. Three factors dominate: finite natural production, growing affluence and purchase power in countries with traditional high levels of seafood consumption, and increasing consumption in North America and Europe.

Aquaculture offers potential to fill this gap and is the fastest growing food production sector in the world. Much of this growth is in low value products such as tilapia, carps, and mussels. In certain sectors, growth in aquaculture production has been accompanied by a lowering of quality standards. The result has been backlash from high-end consumers.

Demand has increased for wholesome, premium quality seafood that has been produced in a socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable manner. All the major seafood markets, especially the US and Europe, are demanding traceability, environmental certification, and quality guarantees.

There are now excellent opportunities for premium aquaculture products sourced from locations, such as New Zealand, that can meet these environmental and quality certification standards.

The challenge in New Zealand is to deliver premium aquaculture products while making greater returns from existing farm space. This can only be achieved by cultivating new higher-value aquaculture species and fine-tuning the production of existing species.

The solution

The programme is focussed on:

  • developing technology to farm new high-value aquaculture species: kingfish and hāpuku

  • providing the science to develop an emerging paua farming

  • businesimproving salmon performance and production efficiency through genomics.

Specific hypotheses being tested for the four aquaculture species are outlined below.

Kingfish production

Derived from the economic modelling carried out by NIWA, the hypothesis is that kingfish can be economically grown at commercial scale to 3 kg in a period of 18 months with an average feed conversion ratio no greater than 2.

Key questions:

  • What is the geographical range of environment within New Zealand that provides the right parameters to enable the hypothesis to be met?
  • What are the actual nutritional requirements for economic growth (defined in the hypothesis above) of this species in a New Zealand context?

Hāpuku hatchery production

Our overall aim is to deliver the technical know-how to be able to reliably produce fingerlings for this new industry.

Derived from NIWA’s economic modelling of a commercially sustainable hāpuku hatchery, the hypothesis is that hatching rates of 75% can be achieved from total floating eggs spawned by the broodstock. Survival at first-feeding would be 60% of hatched eggs and total survival to sea-cage ready on-growing juveniles would be greater than 5% of hatched eggs.

Key questions:

  • What are the environmental conditions during the hatchery stage of production that allow the confirmation of the above hypothesis?
  • What are the nutritional requirements and how can these be met with live and inert formulated feeds to allow the above hypothesis to be realised?


Based on NIWA’s economic modelling and the experience of commercial operators, the hypothesis is that the current grow-out duration of 4 years required to produce market-ready paua in the size range of 95 to 105 cm can be reduced by 6 months.

Key questions:

  • What are the optimum environmental parameters for growing paua?
  • Do the biological attributes of paua and system performance allow this hypothesis to be met?

Salmon genomics

The hypothesis is that feed conversion efficiency (FCE) can be improved to yield revenue gains for our commercial partner.

Key questions:

  • What is the relationship between growth and FCE?
  • Does FCE influence body fat content?
  • Does family selection for growth improve FCE or make it worse?
  • Are there other approaches that can be used to improve FCE?

The result

Key achievements to August 2010 are summarised here. Follow the link below for a more detailed progress update.

High Value Aquaculture - Progress Update August 2010

Kingfish: Established protocols and procedures for commercial production of fingerlings and demonstrated that growth to market size is achievable in 18 months, with potential to achieve in just 12 months.

Hāpuku: Developed a suite of standard operating procedures for hatchery production, most of which are ready for commercial roll-out; successfully bred from F1 captive-reared hapuku.

Paua: Preliminary findings indicate the levels of thermal control required by different size classes for optimal growth rates.

Salmon: Established that genetic variation exists for feed conversion efficiency, suggesting that genetic markers could be used to select for greater feed efficiency.

NIWA Contacts

Regional Manager - Hamilton
Page last updated: 
2 August 2019
Research subject: Fish