Seafood exports are predicted to hit a record $2 billion annually by 2020.

That is according to the Ministry for Primary Industries 2017 Situation and Outlook report.

Export revenue for the year to June 2017 is expected to be $1.8 billion, broadly in line with last year, before steadily increasing.

The total annual value of the sector, including the domestic market, employment and processing is estimated at $4.2 billion by BERL.

“It is a case of value before volume,” Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst said.

“We are not catching more fish – the wild capture total has remained stable over the past five years.

“Where there is an increase in volume is in the aquaculture sector, which continues to perform strongly.”

Export prices are expected to continue to improve due to growing demand, MPI said.

Rock lobsters are the most valuable seafood export, with mussels a close second, followed by hoki, squid, salmon and orange roughy.

Aquaculture is expected to be the main driver of forecast volume growth (6.6 percent per year) through gradual supply of hatchery-bred mussel spat supporting increased mussel production and planned expansion of salmon farming.

“The industry knows that fishing smarter is the way of the future,” Pankhurst said. “As the report points out, the Quota Management System sees New Zealand wild fish stocks managed at, or above, levels that ensure the fisheries are sustainable. Adding value is the road to growth,” Pankhurst said.

The industry is celebrating innovation-led growth today at the New Zealand Seafood Industry Conference where the theme is Oceans of Innovation – enhancing a world class fishery.

“The innovation and science coming out of the industry is staggering – from nets that allow small fish to escape and keep the others in premium condition until landed to the exciting use of by-products in medicine, nutraceuticals, pet and stock food and fertiliser,” Pankhurst said.

New Zealand seafood is exported to more than 120 countries, with the key markets being China, Australia, the United States and the EU.