China is driving a boom in New Zealand seafood exports which hit a record 1.71 billion NZ dollars (1.17 billion U.S. dollars) in the year to the end of March, the Seafood New Zealand industry group said Friday.
Exports were up 11.4 percent year on year and the strong export growth had accelerated in the first quarter of this year, Seafood New Zealand chief executive Tim Pankhurst said in a statement.
"Month on month growth of 18 percent in January over the previous year was even higher at 23 percent in March," Pankhurst said.
China accounted for almost a third of total seafood export value, and had driven up the average per kilogram value for highly-prized lobsters by 6 percent so far this year.
China demand, particularly around the Chinese New Year, had cemented rock lobster as New Zealand's most lucrative export species, followed by mussels.
The second most valuable market was Australia followed by the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spain, France, Germany and Thailand.
"The fact a wide variety of species across a range of markets are in demand and consequently attracting increased returns bodes well for the medium and long term outlook for the seafood sector," said Pankhurst.
The government's Quota Management System for commercial fish catches, now in its 30th year, had ensured stocks were sustainably managed, he said.