New Zealand King Salmon has shifted its Waihinau Farm back to Forsyth Bay a year earlier than planned.
Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents' Association chairman Pat Williams said the Waihinau farm, where large numbers of fish have died since late summer, was towed to Forsyth on Sunday. King Salmon managers had said this was because the farm reached non-compliant pollution levels earlier than expected.
Mr Williams told the Environmental Protection Authority hearing deciding whether King Salmon should be permitted to build nine new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, that this raised the question of the suitability of Waihinau and Forsyth Bay for fish farming. The farm was shifted from Forsyth only a year ago because it was not compliant.
King Salmon operations and compliance manager Mark Gillard told the Marlborough Express the farm was moved a year earlier than planned, ahead of yearly monitoring for compliance by the Nelson-based Cawthron Institute in November.
King Salmon general manager Mark Preece said the move was prompted by the farm reaching its 3000-tonne limit for feed discharge.
Farms were moved as and when required, Mr Preece said.
Marlborough District Council regulatory department manager Hans Versteegh yesterday said the move raised questions being followed up with the company.
Mr Versteegh said King Salmon had told the harbourmaster of the shift but not the council's environmental monitoring staff, even though the move was to ensure consent compliance. However, the company was not required to notify the council.
A staff member was contacting the company to see if the existing state of the Forsyth farm was measured before the farm was installed.
"They may have done that. They haven't reported it to us, so we don't know."
Mr Preece said Sunday's move was the fourth tow after the farm was relocated from Forsyth Bay to Waihinau Bay in 2000, then back to Forsyth in 2008, and then back again to Waihinau last year.
Harvesting at the new site began on Sunday, he said.
Mr Versteegh said he understood that the council had an agreement with King Salmon that it would keep the Forsyth Bay site fallow for two years.
The farm supplies both New Zealand and overseas markets and produces about $25 million of salmon a year.
Waihinau is the same farm where an unusually high number of salmon deaths - 7 per cent of the 500,000-strong fish farm - began in March.
Testing by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry confirmed the fish were clear of all known viruses and bacterial diseases.
Mr Preece said the tow was not because of the salmon deaths.
- The Marlborough Express