Sea life shown to board

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 09:06 04/09/2012
Sealife

Top shot: Danny Boulton filmed giant sponges and blue cod 500 metres from a proposed salmon farm at Kaitira, in the Waitata reach of Pelorus Sound.

Gordon Whiting
SCOTT HAMMOND
Board of inquiry chairman Judge Gordon Whiting

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Sustain our Sounds chairman Danny Boulton says he can provide GPS locations for every photographic frame given in evidence against an application to expand salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds.

Board of inquiry chairman Judge Gordon Whiting said members enjoyed watching the videos taken by Mr Boulton.

However, it would be helpful to know where they were taken compared with farms or footprints of farms New Zealand King Salmon had applied to develop.

Mr Boulton said sponge gardens in the Waitata Reach of Pelorus Sound were so spectacular a dive tourism industry could be built around them. Having dived internationally and at Poor Knights Island and in Fiordland, he thought this reach where King Salmon wanted to build four farms could become the third-best diving spot in New Zealand.

"You could probably liken the sponges to kauri in a forest," he said.

Other species filmed included hydroid trees, starfish, huge tubeworm cases and an elephant fish egg-case.

"I can thank King Salmon," said Mr Boulton, who has a tourism business at French Pass in Pelorus Sound. "I have put my head into an area where I would not have normally."

Mr Boulton used a remotely controlled drop camera to record the nine sites where King Salmon has applied to build farms, filming as deep as 30 metres. A diver with a video camera filmed more interesting sites as well.

Footage supplied as evidence was not cherry-picked but represented the sites filmed, Mr Boulton said. He selected short clips, knowing that the board was pressed for time.

Full footage of the four-day survey was available, as well as time of filming, depth and GPS (global positioning system) locations for each frame.

Mr Boulton said compared with Pelorus Sound, the spirit was being sucked out of Tory Channel, where drop cameras disturbed swirls of sediment like dust clouds.

Under existing King Salmon farms, fish faeces were falling like snow, Mr Boulton said. A bacterial mat covered the seabed and there were no wild fish such as blue cod coming in.

Questioned by King Salmon lawyer Derek Nolan, Mr Boulton agreed that videos shown at the hearing were not directly below proposed farms and were no deeper than 30m. Cage boundaries were 60m or more below the sea surface.

Mr Boulton said an exception was White Horse Rock where he dived in an ecologically outstanding area directly below the proposed farm. This was the sole site applied for in a coastal marine zone where aquaculture was allowed by the Marlborough District Council.

He said he was not up to date with the latest conditions for proposed farms but accepted they required monitoring sites within 1km of net pens.

Mr Boulton accepted that King Salmon experts had taken video transects, drop camera images and sonar imagery at and adjacent to all proposed sites.

Yesterday was day six of an Environmental Protection Authority hearing at the Civic Theatre in Blenheim.

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- The Marlborough Express

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