• Report

Stocktake and characterisation of Aotearoa New Zealand’s seaweed sector: Market and regulatory focus

This report assesses current demand, supply and regulation, and opportunities for (and barriers to) growth of the rimurimu/seaweed sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Bradly N, Syddall V, Ingram C, Clarkson R, Elliot A, Major R, Adams S (August 2021)

This report is part 1 of a broad sector review, and will inform the co-development of a Seaweed Sector Framework for Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Key points

About the global seaweed sector

  • There are three types of seaweeds (often referred to as macroalgae): green, red, and brown, all of which are farmed or harvested in some manner.
  • Red seaweeds (52%) and brown seaweeds (47%) make up most of the global supply.
  • Most farmed seaweed is used for human consumption, either directly or as a food ingredient (85%); the balance (15%) is used for a range of markets including livestock feed supplements, extracts (eg agar) and other uses such as soil biostimulants.
  • Within seaweed food-products, China and Japan are the largest importers representing more than 71% of the global market.

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About Aotearoa New Zealand's seaweed sector

  • We have an emerging seaweed sector with pockets of product innovation operating at a small scale.
  • This is constrained by an underdeveloped local seaweed supply-chain that itself is inhibited in many instances by low profit return to growers, fishers and gatherers, and by regulation.
  • There are signs that a seaweed sector regulatory framework has been evolving in response to emerging drivers and information. However, the process for those who have tried commercially-orientated seaweed research and farming trials has been lengthy, costly, and frustrating hindering progress and investment.
  • An ideal regulatory framework for seaweed would be more responsive, collaborative and enabling. 


Possible actions to develop a sustainable, high value seaweed sector: 

  • Establish a seaweed sector group to foster collaboration and set priorities and aspirations for development of the industry. 
  • Develop a Government strategy that informs regulatory solutions and funding priorities in line with the seaweed sector group’s priorities. 
  • High profit, high fit seaweed industries need to be fully scoped, funded and developed. 
  • A clear pathway for ecosystem services markets from seaweed needs to be developed, managed, and ensured viable in New Zealand.  
  • Develop a governance framework for the sector that incorporates Māori and māutauranga. 
  • Map out and prioritise research and development to support the sector.
    • Initiatives that overcome collective hurdles and unlock the highest value opportunities for New Zealand should be prioritised.
    • Consider overseas research initiatives that can be integrated, to maximise New Zealand’s research spend and avoid duplication. 
  • Develop a fit-for-purpose cross-agency regulatory framework including international harmonisation, marine spatial planning, consenting, permitting, and standards setting requirements. 
  • Support a seaweed sector ‘hub’ to share information, foster stakeholder engagement and inform decision making.
Related reports
  • Seaweed Sector Review part 1: Market Regulation

    2 MB | Adobe Acrobat PDF file