Mussel industry blamed for pollution

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 11:30 05/12/2013

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A beach cleanup along the Wellington coast near Makara at the weekend collected more than 10.5 cubic metres of rubbish believed to come from mussel farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

Sustainable Coastlines spokesman Chris Cochrane said the industry wasn't doing enough to address the problem. However, a Marlborough marine farming leader says the industry worked hard to reduce waste and had carried out beach cleanups of its own for a decade.

Sustainable Coastlines spokesman Chris Cochrane said 80 volunteers from Makara and Wellington scoured the coast on foot and in 4WD vehicles on Sunday, collecting plastic food wrappers, straws and bottles, and mussel buoys and pieces of nylon rope used in the mussel industry. He believed most of it was debris from mussel farms, washed across Cook Strait from the Sounds.

A cleanup in the same area last year collected double the amount of rubbish, so the trend was getting better, he said. However, this may reflect the fact that other Wellington organisations such as the Wellington Cross Country Vehicle Club had carried out beach clean-ups of their own, rather than there being less rubbish around.

Sustainable Coastlines were able to identify a lot of the rubbish collected on Sunday as being from mussel farms, as aquaculture farmers had helped them audit waste collected on a previous clean up carried out in Coromandel.

"Aquaculture farmers helped us audit this rubbish, informing us of some of the sources of a lot of this rope that is indeed from the industry."

Mr Cochrane said the mussel industry needed to do more to reduce the floating rubbish, as did the fishing industry.

There are more than 500 active mussel farms in Marlborough.

Marine Farming Association executive officer Graeme Coates said industry members carried out regular beach cleanups along coasts from Golden Bay to Port Underwood.

The association wanted to see images of what Sustainable Coastlines had collected during their beach cleanup at the weekend, Mr Coates said.

"We accept that every industry has some kind of footprint, and we have programmes at the top of the cliff helping [mussel] farmers, and an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff - programmes recording and collecting debris from the beaches.

"Obviously, we take it seriously and we're very reactive to it."

Research into connecting mussel floats to "backbones", as a way of reducing the amount of debris that came off mussel farms, was being carried out in Marlborough, Golden Bay and Waikato.

A Ministry of Primary Industries spokeswoman said the ministry had assessed the ecological effects of marine farm debris and had not identified any significant impact.

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The national aquaculture industry exported 86447 tonnes of mussels overseas last year. Mussel exports from 2012 were worth $190 million to the economy.

- The Marlborough Express

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