Future of aquaculture 'oversold'

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:58 15/08/2014

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Seafood industry boss Peter Talley has poured cold water on ocean-based aquaculture, saying it doesn't have a future in New Zealand.

The head of Motueka-based Talley's Group addressed the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society conference at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson yesterday.

In answer to a question from the floor on why he hadn't mentioned aquaculture once, he replied that Talley's was the second-biggest marine farmer in New Zealand "and I think aquaculture has been grossly oversold".

Aquaculture export earnings are forecast to increase by 9.8 per cent a year to reach $402 million in 2018. The industry has set a target of $1 billion in sales by 2025 and there have been suggestions that there is potential for much more.

"To actually suggest that you're going to get $2 billion out of basically two products [mussels and salmon] - it's not achievable," Talley said.

"The future in aquaculture is not going to be out in the wild. Land-based installations farming finfish, that's where it will be."

He said although mussels had the benefit of feeding themselves from what was naturally in the ocean "trying to grow mussels everywhere" wasn't a sustainable business. Finfish farming on the other hand required a reliable food source.

"Everybody that has to put food into an aquaculture product is suffering economically. It's a very difficult business to survive in.

"For argument's sake, in a salmon farm, 35 per cent of your entire revenue is absorbed by food costs. That's a danger sign to me - that's higher than the fuel inputs into a fishing vessel."

If the aquaculture industry really wanted to produce $2 billion in sales "it's going to have to be very innovative in finding new ways of breeding fish and farming them on shore, not at sea," Talley said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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