Green light for salmon
Christchurch-based company United Fisheries has been granted resource consent to farm salmon at its mussel farm at Point Ligar, in the outer Pelorus Sound.
This application, by United Fisheries' subsidiary company KPF Investments, is the first of several applications by marine farmers to add salmon to their existing mussel farms.
An application by Ngai Tahu to add salmon to its Beatrix Bay mussel farm will be heard by Marlborough District Council on Thursday.
A council hearing, made up of councillors David Dew, David Oddie, and Graeme Barsanti, considered submissions at the end of March and in a decision made public last week, approved the application in part.
They said the application was consistent with the objectives in the council's Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan.
However, to meet concerns about the environmental effects the addition of salmon farming could have on the site, the consent approval has imposed the conditions of a marine survey of the area before salmon are introduced. A limit on the amount of feed that can be supplied in a year has been imposed, and a shorter consent period of nine years rather than the 12 asked for has been allowed.
United Fisheries Havelock manager Bob Nicolle said he had not had time to properly analyse the council's decision. He would need to discuss it with others in the company before being able to comment. He was not yet able to say whether the restrictions on the consent would affect the company's plans for the site.
At present, the site contains a 12 hectare mussel farm with a consent running to December 2024. United Fisheries wants to continue farming mussels at the site, even if they start farming salmon there.
The council decision says Port Ligar has an established aquaculture industry around most of the coastline of the port, comprising a total of 20 marine farms, with consent for the earliest being granted in 1981.
"In considering the size of existing consents granted for aquaculture, a total of 104 hectares of coastal marine area [18 per cent of total water space in Port Ligar] has been allocated."
Although opponents warned at the hearing that this application would set a precedent, the committee disagreed, saying a the proposal had considerable differences to the King Salmon proposal.
"The committee noted that every proposal has to be assessed on its own merits."
The committee was concerned about the effects a salmon farm could have on the environment and imposed several conditions on the proposal to mitigate that.
United Fisheries had proposed starting the farm at a lower level, increasing over time if the farm proved successful, but this was knocked back by the committee.
"After considering the submissions and evidence presented, the committee found that there is a lack of evidence as to the potential impact on the marine ecology when feed is increased beyond 1500 tonnes per annum.
"Given this, the committee was of a mind to only grant a maximum of 1500 tonnes per annum, with a new resource consent required to increase the feed further."
As part of the consent, the committee also imposed a site biosecurity plan, as requested by King Salmon in its submission to the hearing.
It has also imposed more stringent monitoring to assess the affect of the salmon farm on king shags, 92 per cent of which live in the Sounds.
"After considering the submissions and evidence presented, the committee found that the restricted feed approval and the removal of an adaptive management approach gave more certainty to the potential adverse effects of the proposal. However, the committee was not satisfied that enough was understood about the effects of this industry on the environment and therefore a shorter term of consent would be appropriate."
- The Marlborough Express