The minister and the packhorse


Pete Hodgson, the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, will come face to face with a couple of giant packhorse lobsters in Wellington on Friday.

The Minister will be visiting NIWA‘s aquaculture facility at Mahanga Bay to look at the culture of packhorse lobsters and the much more common red rock lobster.

Scientists at NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, are at the forefront of creating growth and new opportunities in aquaculture for this country.

"Lobster aquaculture has enormous potential in New Zealand, based on our pioneering work in rearing seed lobsters from eggs and ongrowing them to market size," said NIWA scientist Graeme Moss.

"The New Zealand lobster fishery currently earns about $120 million in exports each year, and this is limited by the extent of our wild fishery", said Mr Moss.

"With aquaculture, there are opportunities to expand the market, for example, by supplying niche markets with small plate-size lobsters."

Graeme Moss’s research team was one of the first in the world to rear seed lobsters for aquaculture, starting from eggs. They have also developed a number of practical ways of on-growing seed lobsters to market size.

NIWA’s success in lobster aquaculture is attracting strong interest from overseas, especially from Australian researchers, who have now joined forces to help advance the research more quickly. Lobster aquaculture and enhancement will also be the focus of a large workshop of Australian and New Zealand researchers in Wellington in April 2001.

"Aquaculture is now one of the fastest growing rural industries in New Zealand, producing over $200 million a year and making up about 20% of our seafood exports," said Mr Moss, "and further growth in this sector will come from diversifying our production with new species."

Research by NIWA focuses on bringing more than eight new species into commercial aquaculture production, including lobsters, seahorses, kingfish, snapper, eels, sea sponges, and valuable seaweeds. Existing aquaculture industries are also being helped to increase their profitability by improving farming techniques and product quality through NIWA’s research and development assistance.


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Marine Biologist
Juvenile Lobster in a tank at Mahanga Bay. Photo taken on 10 October 2010 by Dave Allen, NIWA