Marlborough Sounds salmon farm relocations compared to troubled Tasmania situation
An overseas salmon farm where marine life is struggling to survive is stirring up fears in the Marlborough Sounds, as residents consider a salmon farm proposal.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has announced it could move up to six New Zealand King Salmon farms in the Pelorus Sound and Tory Channel to different locations - overriding the council's resource management plan.
However, a Pelorus Sound man believes the poor state of a harbour in Tasmania, the subject of a lawsuit between salmon farmers and the state's government, casts doubt on the idea.
But the suggestion that there are similarities between the Tasmanian and Sounds situations has been rubbished by King Salmon's chief executive.
* Council has 'no choice' on shifting salmon farms
* Marlborough Sounds relocation plans unpopular with community groups
* Ministry for Primary Industries releases proposal to relocate six King Salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds
Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour salmon farm sites hit the headlines late last year, when a Tasmanian salmon farmer expressed concerns in an ABC documentary.
ABC published statements from a scientific report in January saying salmon and other marine creatures in Macquarie Harbour were suffering due to drastically low levels of oxygen. No living marine creatures could be found within 500 metres from the cages at one salmon farm site.
Environmental organisation Environment Tasmania released a report on salmon farming in the harbour, saying a build-up of sediment from fish farm waste in sites with low current speeds could cause an environment where oxygen was scarce and flora and fauna could not survive.
"Scientific research shows that sheltered bays and harbours cannot support the amount of pollution introduced by intensive farming, or provide optimal conditions for fish health and growth," the report said.
The 20,000-tonne limit for salmon in Macquarie Harbour was cut back to 14,000 tonnes last month.
Pelorus Sound man Laurence O'Connell said the conclusions drawn in Environment Tasmania's case study of the harbour seemed to be "diametrically opposed" to what MPI was proposing to do, introducing five salmon farms in the sheltered Pelorus Sound.
Having offshore farms, as some other countries were beginning to do, would be a better alternative, O'Connell said.
O'Connell said he was not opposed to marine farming in general, but he was concerned about the levels of salmon feed which would go into the Pelorus Sound, and the amount of waste the salmon would generate.
"Such a heavy nutrient load has the potential to change the water quality so the mussel farmers cannot harvest, and in the event of a sufficient drop in oxygen saturation all marine life will expire."
Salmon farm company Huon Aquaculture is taking the Tasmanian government to court for allegedly failing to protect the harbour environment.
New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said Macquarie Harbour was one site, whereas in the Marlborough Sounds salmon farms would be found in both the Pelorus and Queen Charlotte sounds.
The Tasmanian situation was so different to Marlborough there was no real comparison, he said.
King Salmon's farms would initially be on a much smaller scale, though by about 2034 it was possible King Salmon's farms could produce about 10,000 tonnes of salmon in Queen Charlotte Sound, and 10,000 tonnes in Pelorus Sound, Rosewarne said.
"Macquarie Harbour is just a massive bay. It's the very type of area that we are trying to move out of, it's an embayment with an extremely narrow opening to the sea.
"It naturally has an extremely low level of oxygen. It's more like low flow sites than our high flow sites."
The MPI proposal was formulated after months of work with a working group from the Marlborough District Council, community groups, industry groups and government departments, after it was discovered three King Salmon farms were failing to meet best-practice guidelines and others would fall short of guidelines in the near future.
Clearwater Mussels owner John Young said he did not think the proposed salmon farms would have any effect on the mussel industry in the Sounds, unless salmon farm structures were situated very close to mussel farms and something unforseen happened.
"We already coexist with salmon farms."
Young said mussels were very good at filtering and clearing up the water, suggesting they would help mitigate the effects of salmon farms.
Relocating the farms was expected to boost Marlborough's economy by $49 million.
Public consultation on the idea closes on March 27, and some Sounds residents and conservation groups have signalled their opposition to the idea, with the Te Tau Ihu customary fisheries forum also accusing MPI of acting in bad faith.
In Tasmania, Huon was claiming the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) allowed companies to intensively farm salmon in numbers in Macquarie Harbour far greater than the environment could sustain.
Niwa scientists declined to comment on Friday.
- The Marlborough Express