• Active project

Building a seaweed sector

Developing a seaweed sector framework for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Project Leader Duration Budget
Serean Adams (Cawthron) November 2020 – June 2022 $500,000


Seaweed has huge potential to contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s blue economy. 

In 2018, the global seaweed sector was valued at more than $13 billion USD, and grew 8% from 2016 to 2018 (fao.org). Global seaweed production has more than doubled in the last 20 years, exceeding natural supply - now more than 30% of global aquaculture production volume is seaweed.

Successful seaweed sectors overseas have hatcheries, large- and small-scale farming operations, processing capability and established seaweed-based products that supply markets. These are assisted by on-going research and development, and workforce support. 

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have a fledgling but highly dynamic seaweed sector operating at small scales, but many gaps and barriers exist, limiting the potential growth.  

With the right framework grounded in ecosystem-based management (EBM) principles, a thriving seaweed sector could be possible in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

We are working with the iwi, stakeholders, industry, researchers, and government agencies that currently or plan to operate in the sector - either as farmers or as users of seaweed products - and consider the wider community, to co-develop a Seaweed Sector Framework grounded in blue economy and EBM principles. 
We are: 

  • Reviewing the current state of the seaweed sector (Seaweed sector review Part 1 and Part 2). 
  • Co-developing a seaweed sector framework for Aotearoa New Zealand, incorporating EBM principles. 
  • Testing the framework using Seaweed case studies to understand how it can effectively operate across different scales (eg, local, regional, national and small to large businesses). 

Part 1 of the sector review is almost complete. This identifies future market opportunities and priorities, relevant regulation and legislation. It also includes information drawn from industry interviews conducted by Transitioning to a blue economy project.

Part 2 of the sector review is also in progress. This has a broader focus, including assessing what research is underway in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, what species have characteristics of commercial interest, ecosystem services provided by seaweed, and the environment effects (both positive and potentially negative) of seaweed farming.

The Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge define a ‘blue economy as:  

Marine activities that generate economic value and contribute positively to social, cultural and ecological well-being. 

Research Team

Nigel Bradly (EnviroStrat)
Rob Major (Cawthron)
Marie Magnusson (UoW)
Victoria Jollands (EnviroStrat)
Sandra Cortez (EnviroStrat)
Leo Zamora (Cawthron)
Tom Wheeler (Cawthron)
Emma Newcombe (Cawthron)
Shaun Ogilvie (Cawthron)
Te Rerekohu Tuterangiwhiu (Cawthron)


This is a national project.


  • March 2021
    Seaweed Sector Review – Part 1: market focus
  • June 2021
    Seaweed Sector Review – Part 2: broader focus; and progress review
  • September 2021
    Focus groups help to provide input into development of draft framework
  • December 2021
    Presentation of draft framework for feedback
  • March 2022
    Summary of key learnings from Seaweed Case Studies
  • June 2022
    Publish final Seaweed Sector Framework