October 16, 2013
Seafood New Zealand said that the export of live seafood to Australia could develop into a US$100 million annual trade.
The industry umbrella group says the announcement last week by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy that the ministry is to begin work on getting live trade going, coupled with the development in Nelson of a new harvesting method to bring fish on board alive, opens up exciting prospects.
There are high value live exports to other countries, predominantly rock lobster to Hong Kong and China, worth US$237 million in 2012-13, but Australia blocks them.
Seafood New Zealand chairman Eric Barratt said exclusive restaurants and retailers in Australia were likely to pay a premium for many seafood species if they were delivered alive.
There was much technical and negotiation work ahead, he said. Australian scientists and officials would want to assure themselves of minimum biosecurity risk. However, New Zealand already exported live seafood to many countries.
Rock lobster consignments to Hong Kong and China were the largest single earner, but paua, mussels, clams, oysters and eels were also shipped out alive. Live eel exports to South Korea were worth US$1.51 million in 2012-13 and rock oysters to New Caledonia US$1.02 million.
Barratt said the industry had not seriously worked on a trans-Tasman live trade for years, though green-shell mussels were sent in the early days of mussel farming, and some oysters up until the 1990s before Australia took a "precautionary attitude".
The most likely initial exports were bivalves, particularly surf clams. "This sort of seafood can be packed in small consumer packs, which present less of a biosecurity risk, and they can be kept alive quite happily for a long time in those packs," Barratt said.
Live fin fish caught in the new Precision Seafood Harvesting were also "a very exciting prospect for an export industry".
Ad Feedback Sydney Fish Market chairman Graham Turk said live exports were an exciting opportunity.
"There's a large and growing market for live seafood of all kinds here. Live is the ultimate in freshness and we'd be happy to handle that product as we already do with present seafood exports to Australia from New Zealand."
Turk predicts a high demand from Australia's Asian communities. "There are also many Asian visitors to Australia, and I'd see restaurants catering to this market with your live seafood to select from."
Nelson inshore fish exporter Finestkind ships a tonne to 1,200 kilogrammes of fresh fish to the Sydney market every week.
Last year's New Zealand seafood harvest was 600,000 tonnes, including aquaculture, generating US$1.57 billion in exports.
The Ministry Primary Industries and Seafood New Zealand estimated 25,000 full-time equivalent seafood industry jobs in direct and indirect employment.