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Genomic resources for selective breeding of kingfish/haku

Globally and nationally, the demand for seafood is growing.

Aquaculture programmes in Aotearoa rely almost exclusively on the farming of three species (greenshell mussels, pacific oysters, and chinook/king salmon), highlighting a need to increase resilience of the sector through diversification.

Development of genomic resources-kingfish

Naomi Springett (CC By NC ND)

The Smart Maori Aquaculture initiative is a partnership led by Ngā Iwi i te Rohe o Te Waiariki, together with MPI and Te Ohu Kaimoana. The partnership explores pathways to a sustainable, resilient, and world-class Māori aquaculture industry in the Bay of Plenty.

Yellowtail kingfish (warehenga or haku) was identified by the initiative as the native finfish with the highest aquaculture potential. To support aquaculture development of kingfish, resources are needed to underpin selective breeding.

Kingfish is an important traditional food for Māori, but no quantitative data on Māori customary non-commercial catch are available. Because of the coastal distribution of the species and its inclination to strike lures, it is likely that historically Māori caught considerable numbers of kingfish.

The project has three key objectives:

  1. Generate a high-quality genome assembly for kingfish.
  2. Construct and evaluate the genomic structure and connectivity of wild kingfish populations around Aotearoa.
  3. Develop a data and Intellectual Property management framework as a model for domestication of a taonga in partnership between kaitiaki and researchers.


  • Iwi partnerships with academic and research institutes to provide Māori career opportunities in aquaculture, and drive success.
  • Māori economic development – growing people’s skills through job creation, training, career pathways, and research and leadership opportunities.
  • Strengthening the traditional iwi and community relationship with the ocean.
  • Empowering and exercising kaitiakitanga and maintaining and enhancing the mauri of Te Moana Nui-ā-Toi.


  • Chris Insley (Chief Executive Te Arawa Fisheries, Chair Smart Māori Aquaculture) - Co-lead researcher
  • Peter Ritchie (Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington) - Co-lead researcher
  • Maren Wellenreuther(Plant & Food Research) - Co-lead researcher
  • David Chagné (Plant & Food Research) - Co-lead researcher