Sealord, one of New Zealand’s largest seafood companies, has announced plans to invest nearly US$6 million in a forest carbon offset project in partnership with Māori landowners. Over the next 10 years, Sealord will collaborate with Te Arawa to transform underutilized land in Rotorua into native forest. The project, facilitated by Te Arawa Fisheries and New Zealand Carbon Farming (NZCF), aims to offset Sealord’s carbon emissions, maximize the potential of marginal land, and create job opportunities. Additionally, the initiative is expected to improve local environmental conditions, including water quality in Te Arawa lakes.
According to Chris Karamea Insley, CEO of Te Arawa Fisheries, the offset project highlights the potential opportunities provided by carbon trading and emphasizes the role of major companies in supporting New Zealand’s climate goals. The country aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, aligning with global objectives. Insley stated, “The Emissions Trading Scheme represents a $16 billion economic opportunity for Māori – one which will be transformative for generations… to generate better economic, cultural, social, and environmental outcomes.” The agreement reflects Aotearoa’s leading climate change strategy, respecting Māori principles, customs, and protocols. Māori constitute the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand.
Te Arawa Fisheries believes that the partnership will enable Sealord to address its carbon pollution while bringing financial benefits to the Māori community. The creation of new jobs and the improvement of water quality make it a win-win-win situation for all parties involved. Sealord CEO Doug Paulin expressed that the carbon offset project aligns with the company’s sustainability efforts and helps them meet their carbon reduction goals. Since 2019, Sealord has already reduced its total carbon emissions by approximately 24% through fuel optimization, investment in new vessels, and a reduction in fossil fuel usage in land-based operations.
Vessel fuel accounts for almost 94% of Sealord’s carbon emissions, and since 2019, the company has successfully eliminated over 25,200 tonnes of CO2e from its New Zealand operations. This reduction is equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. Sealord aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and is also managing its carbon emissions from aquaculture farms in Australia. The breakdown of Sealord’s total carbon emissions per scope, including its Australian operations, is as follows: 95% from New Zealand business operations and more than 90% of scope 1 emissions from fossil fuels burned by fishing vessels.
Sealord acknowledges the challenges in reaching their carbon emissions targets due to limited options within their operations. Therefore, carbon offsets serve as the company’s final option to mitigate their climate impact. CEO Doug Paulin emphasized the importance of investing now to enable Sealord to meet its carbon commitments in the future, while waiting for new engine technology and fuel sources to become viable. Investing approximately $6 million in Māori-managed forests in New Zealand provides Sealord with a way to offset emissions.
The forestry offset project and the physical planting of trees will be managed by New Zealand Carbon Farming. The organization’s director highlights that the carbon offset deal offers opportunities for collaborative action on climate change and biodiversity loss. It also provides an opportunity to manage a forestry project that aligns with Mātauranga Māori, or Māori knowledge, in establishing best practices for forest management. The Māori people possess extensive experience in nurturing exotic or native crops and transitioning them into biodiverse native environments. Therefore, their involvement and support are crucial to the success of the project. Additionally, the forest carbon sequestration will unlock new opportunities for local development and investment, benefiting the Māori tribe.
Despite criticisms surrounding nature-based carbon offsets, the partnership between Sealord and Te Arawa demonstrates that large companies continue to view these offsets as a reliable option for fulfilling their climate pledges. It also showcases the potential for collaboration between large businesses and local landowners to create positive impacts for both people and the planet.