New Zealand fishing company Sealord enters agreement to purchase Independent Fisheries

Published on
September 19, 2023
One of Independent Fisheries deep water fishing vessels.

New Zealand deepwater fishing and seafood company Sealord has entered an agreement to purchase Christchurch, New Zealand-based fishing company Independent Fisheries.

Sealord said the transaction, if approved by the relevant authorities, would make the company New Zealand’s largest seafood business. The purchase would add Independent Fisheries’ 46,000 metric tons (MT) of quota, two owned and one chartered deepwater factory fishing vessel, 500 vessel crew and staff, and a cold storage facility to Sealord’s existing facilities.

Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed by either party.

“Our investment in Independent Fisheries is based on a strong belief in the business, the long-term sustainability of the commercial fishing sector in New Zealand, and the ability to deliver increased returns to Sealord’s shareholders,” Sealord Board Chair Jamie Tuuta said in a release.

Sealord was established over 60 years ago and is now a joint venture between Māori-owned Moana New Zealand and Japanese seafood giant Nissui. The company operates eight deep sea vessels in New Zealand and one in Mauritius, a processing factory in Nelson, New Zealand, and is a 100 percent owner of Petuna Aquaculture, a salmon and ocean trout company.

Sealord CEO Doug Paulin said in a company LinkedIn post that the acquisition presented an “incredibly unique” opportunity for the company.

"Acquisitions of this type and quality rarely come along in deepwater fishing,” Paulin said. “The business is an excellent fit for Sealord both operationally and culturally. Independent Fisheries has a strong family-based culture built over many years by the late Charles Shadbolt, who had a passion for looking after his people and the wider community, and I am confident that Sealord can continue this proud tradition."

Independent Fisheries, like Sealord, was established more than 60 years ago. The company was founded by Howard Shadbolt and got its start as a fish and chip shop in Christchurch and gradually grew into a privately owned fishing business with the fourth-largest deepwater fishing quota in New Zealand.

For Independent Fisheries, the acquisition is an opportunity for the company to continue to grow, Independent Fisheries Managing Director Mark Allison said.

“This is a proud moment for our business and for its founding family, who have built it from its humble beginnings to the successful company it is today,” Allison said in a release. “There are immediate synergies that Independent Fisheries and the Sealord Group of companies can utilize both internally and externally that will provide excellent opportunities for the existing staff, customers, and suppliers to grow with the Sealord Group.”

Allison said the two companies can work together on innovation while streamlining catch plans between the two company’s existing deep-water fishing vessels. The Independent Fisheries facilities, Sealord said, will continue to be operated by the company’s current employees. 

While both companies declined to mention the value of the transaction, Sealord called it the largest financial transaction in the seafood sector since the “Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement,” which New Zealand media reports was worth roughly NZD 150 million (USD 89 million, EUR 83 million).  

Photo courtesy of Sealord

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