Hearing discusses fish faeces

23:30, Sep 20 2012
Gordon Whiting
Judge Gordon Whiting

The judge at the salmon farming hearing in Blenheim yesterday gave traction to a suggestion that fish faeces should be treated as a discharge into the Marlborough Sounds.

Judge Gordon Whiting told lawyer Julian Ironside he accepted that fish faeces as well as feed could be considered a discharge under the Resource Management Act.

This meant the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board of inquiry he heads into King Salmon expansion could consider the impact of these releases on the water from the surface to the seabed.

Mr Ironside represents outer Pelorus Sound landowners at the hearing to consider whether King Salmon should be granted a plan change and resource consents needed to farm salmon at nine new sites in the Marlborough Sounds.

Judge Whiting asked Mr Ironside to search expert evidence for relevant information and to consider whether the board should look at effects on the seabed as well as water column.

He was disappointed no-one had asked experts how fish faeces mixed with water and what would be a reasonable area outside proposed farms for this discharge to extend.


"I want to understand fully what you are submitting and where we can go if we have to look for evidence to support it," Judge Whiting said.

Mr Ironside said he had argued this approach at an Environment Court appeal after the Marlborough District Council granted King Salmon consent for a fish farm at White Horse Rock in Pelorus Sound. It was not tested because King Salmon pulled the application before the court released its decision and bundled it into its present application.

King Salmon planned to place its cages in a relatively small area but the effects would be huge because of the volume of fish feed used, Mr Ironside said.

The company had applied to feed out an initial 20,000 tonnes of pellets on top of the 21,500 tonnes used in its existing farms, he said.

That would increase to 43,000 tonnes solely over the nine new sites.

"If the whole point of putting farms in locations [with fast-flowing water] is that the deposits are spread, there has to be an understanding of where they go to and the implications," Mr Ironside said.

King Salmon was not farming sustainably at its existing farms, he said.

The principal of adaptive management did not work because when deposits were more than allowed, all that could be done was to require a reduction in feed.

Even if conditions did allow for a farm to be removed, the sole study of resting a farm at Forsyth Bay showed damage could take a long time to fix.

"After eight years there was no evidence it had returned to normal or a pre-impacted state," Mr Ironside said.

He was giving an opening statement to the board of inqury hearing in Blenheim for Pelorus Wildlife Sanctuaries, James and Rea Buchanan and Hori Turi Elkington and whanau.

The Marlborough Express