Credit: Leigh Tait/NIWA

Posted on 16 August 2021

Developing a rimurimu/seaweed sector would hugely benefit Aotearoa New Zealand

A prosperous rimurimu/seaweed sector has massive potential to improve the health and well-being of Aotearoa New Zealand, our research shows.

A new report, published today, shows Aotearoa could reap economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits – both nationally and locally. 

“The potential for Aotearoa as a whole and for local communities is massive. Seaweed makes up almost a third of global aquaculture production volume. Seaweed production has tripled over the last 20 years with a growth rate of 7% per year on average over the last decade. Global value of seaweed aquaculture in 2019 was approximately US$14 billion”, explains Project Leader Serean Adams, Aquaculture Group Manager at Cawthron Institute.

“Right now, New Zealand’s seaweed sector is in its infancy. There are pockets of product innovation happening at small scale. But the sector is constrained by regulation and supply – we have an under-developed local seaweed supply-chain”, Adams says.

“We need to identify what unique characteristics our native species have and develop these native species into high value products and services. We also need to remove barriers holding the sector back.”

To support development of this new blue economy sector in Aotearoa, the Sustainable Seas Challenge is working with industry and other stakeholders to co-develop a Seaweed Sector Framework for New Zealand. 

Andy Elliot, from Wakatū Incorporation, is one of the report authors: “For Aotearoa to have a thriving, sustainable seaweed aquaculture sector, we need to take a collective systems approach. This includes strong leadership and engagement to influence fit for purpose regulations, and developing high value species, bioactives and ecosystem services. This can be achieved through science, processing and market connection, recognition and respect for those who hold mātauranga, and valuing our resources unique to us as communities and regions through relationships, provenance and brand; and codesign and partnership from Government and aligned investors. This report sets out the challenge for this industry to achieve all this and become an exemplar primary sector — a seaweed sector we can all be proud of in twenty years’ time.”

A thriving seaweed sector will provide value to Aotearoa and local jobs. Developing the sector using a ‘blue economy’ approach would also lead to innovative products and services that improve the health of the moana and mitigate climate change.

Dave Taylor, from Aquaculture New Zealand says: “A blue economy-based seaweed aquaculture sector will provide value to Aotearoa, generate local jobs, and help us move to a low emissions economy.  This report provides a solid foundation for a new sector focused on high value, low volume seaweed products that will be sought after globally. This focus fits with the values of our world-leading sustainable aquaculture sector. With their support and aligned research, we are well placed to develop innovative seaweed aquaculture methods and products that improve our health and the health of our environment.”

More to come

This report is just part one of a comprehensive seaweed sector review by the Sustainable Seas Challenge. This report analyses the global market and the gaps and barriers for Aotearoa in developing its seaweed sector.

“In the next few months, we will release more reports that review the research and development of Aotearoa New Zealand’s key seaweed species and groups, Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi considerations, and environmental effects associated with regenerative seaweed aquaculture. The impact of this sector on Aotearoa New Zealand’s economy and society, if we develop it right, could be a game changer for our country” Adams says.

The Sustainable Seas Challenge is using the findings and recommendations in the reports to co-develop the seaweed sector framework.


View report 

Media contact – Kylie Bailey 027 808 2383

Available for interview:

  • Serean Adams (Cawthron) – Project Leader
  • Nigel Bradly (EnviroStrat) – Part of the Sustainable Seas project team and lead author
  • Andy Elliot (Wakatū Incorporation) – A co-developer and one of the report authors
Accompanying resources
Blue economy

The Sustainable Seas Challenge defines a ‘blue’ economy as being made up of marine activities that generate economic value and contribute positively to social, cultural and ecological well-being.

About the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge

The vision of Sustainable Seas is for Aotearoa New Zealand to have healthy marine ecosystems that provide value for all New Zealanders. It brings together around 250 ecologists, biophysical scientists, social scientists, economists, and experts in mātauranga Māori and policy from across Aotearoa New Zealand. It is funded by MBIE and hosted by NIWA. 
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About the National Science Challenges

Sustainable Seas is one of eleven National Science Challenges that are funded by MBIE. These align and focus Aotearoa New Zealand's research on large and complex issues, bringing together scientists and experts from different organisations and across disciplines to achieve a common goal.

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Related projects & activities

Building a seaweed sector
Credit: Leigh Tait/NIWA
Building a seaweed sector

Developing a seaweed sector framework for Aotearoa New Zealand.