Setting up a land-based farm

Find out what the requirements are to set up land-based aquaculture and how to get a fish-farm licence from Fisheries New Zealand.


This process covers commercial aquaculture above the mean high-water mark, including:

  • marine and freshwater species (fish, shellfish, and seaweed)
  • farming in tanks, ponds, cages, pens (including in freshwater canals)
  • farming on land using seawater or brackish water (pumped in from the sea or circulated around the farm)
  • aquariums.

If you want to farm species above the high water mark (to sell), you must get a fish-farm licence from Fisheries New Zealand.

Setting up a marine farm (like a mussel or oyster farm) and finfish sea cages below mean high-water mark follows a different process.

Find out which species can be farmed

You can apply to farm any species listed under the:

If you want to farm a species that is not on the list, you must apply to us to have the species listed.

Requirements to establish a land-based farm

To set up a land-based farm, you need:

  • resource consent from the regional council, or a letter from council advising if consent isn't needed
  • to notify the fish and game council in the area where the farm will be located
  • the right to occupy the site
  • to register as a client with FishServe
  • a fish-farm licence issued by Fisheries New Zealand.

Follow the steps below or download our detailed guide to getting approval for a fish farm.

Guide to applying for a fish-farm licence [PDF, 501 KB]

Follow the steps to get approval

Stocking your farm

You can't take species from natural waters (for example, the sea, lakes, and rivers) to use as broodstock on a fish farm. Stock must come from another land-based fish farm, a marine farm, or a licensed fish receiver.

For freshwater species, contact the Department of Conservation (DOC) to find out if approval is needed to release the species on the farm. If moving stock between any islands, you will need an approval from DOC.

To stock your farm with salmon, you need authorisations from DOC and Fisheries New Zealand. You also require authorisation from Fisheries New Zealand for movement of salmon on and off the farm after it is stocked. 

Moving and releasing stock from your farm

To release stock to the natural environment you require approval from Fisheries New Zealand or the Department of Conservation, depending on the species and location.

If you want to release stock into:

Manage biosecurity risks

The most efficient way to protect your farm and the environment from pests and diseases, is to have an on‑farm biosecurity plan.

What if I don't plan to sell the fish?

You don't need a fish-farm licence if you are growing or harvesting fish which aren't for sale (for example, if you have a research farm that doesn't sell the fish). However, you may need to register as a fish farmer. 

For more information, email

To cancel a fish-farm licence

Email your request to cancel (with your fish-farm licence details) to

Find out more

Who to contact

For more information on land-based commercial fish farming, email

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