Fishing company Sealord is looking to chance its arm and has an eye on acquisitions and aquaculture.

Hoki fishing, which accounts for about 18 per cent of Sealord's revenue, is under way for the season and group chief executive Graham Stuart said the company was seeing bigger, more abundant and better-condition fish.

"We're getting complaints that some of the fish are too big to fit on the cutting tables," he said. "People are saying, 'Well, we haven't seen fish like this for over a decade'."

Sealord was predominantly involved in the deep water fishing sector, which had the rug pulled out from under it in the early part of the century, Stuart said.

The industry's total allowable commercial catch for hoki was slashed from about 250,000 tonnes in 2000/01 to 90,000 by 2007/08.

"It's been an arduous journey," Stuart said.

"This is a microcosm of what happened in the meat industry in New Zealand over the last 20 years, except it all happened to us in three."

Orange roughy was another valuable species whose industry catch has reduced - from 15,921 tonnes in 2005/06 to 8221 tonnes in 2010/11.

Sealord made up about 30 per cent of the allowable catch for hoki, which a decade ago accounted for about $270 million of company revenue before dropping to a trough of about $70 to $80 million and was now worth just over $100 million.

The company cut 40 per cent of its New Zealand fleet capacity and adjusted operations, including the closure in 2007 of a processing site in Dunedin.

"Ripped the heart and soul out of the place, really," Stuart said.

"We fished down the hoki stocks and we've had to be in a conservative mode with those ... and now we're coming back into regrowth which is a really good story around fishery recovering. It's a well recognised sustainable fishery, customers internationally are acknowledging that."

The catch for hoki was increased to about 110,000 tonnes for the 2009/10 season and to 120,000 tonnes for 2010/11.

"Now it's rebuilding confidence, getting people's chins off their chests, look forward, take risks, chance their arms, try new things," Stuart said. "Now we've got to flick the switch again."

Taking risks included probably more acquisitive growth. "Buying things rather than organically growing," he said. "A little bit more around aquaculture, which is in itself quite a risky sector."

Aquaculture already accounts for about 10 per cent of company turnover.

There was a lot more optimism, engagement and innovation flying back into the business, Stuart said.

Positive news about the hoki quota had led Sealord to charter a new vessel, adding 10 per cent capacity above the one it replaced.

The company said the recent increase in the catch and current survey data signalling another rise in October had reinforced its confidence in the sustainability of the fishery.

Stuart said the higher valued currency had hit returns in New Zealand dollars terms, with 90 per cent of products exported into US dollars or euros, although cheaper imports including fuel provided a partial hedge.

New Zealand was one of the top two or three managed fisheries in the world, Stuart said.

"That's a big deal for us in the industry and it adds value to our products overseas," he said. "You go to the UK and unless it's [Marine Stewardship Council] certified fishery they won't buy it."

Sealord's fish could be traced from catch to consumer.

"There wouldn't be a month go by that the plant in Nelson isn't subject to one form of audit or another [by customers]," he said.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said last month the large reductions in allowable hoki catch had paid off, with the ministry able to declare the stock rebuilt.

"The management of our fisheries resources is an ongoing process of review and adjustment and the positive status of the western hoki stock may result in a reconsideration of total allowable catches later this year," Heatley said.

Aoife Martin, fisheries manager deepwater at the Ministry of Fisheries, said a range of factors in previous years had probably contributed to the decline in the number of hoki. The ministry considered the hoki fisheries to be sustainable and was consulting on raising the limit by 10,000 tonnes.