Fish farms spark green debate

2011-06-15 18:03
Picton - As a flock of seagulls swoops on a salmon farm in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds, attracted by the thrashing fish within, tour boat operator Peter Beech sighs and says: "I'm not sure this is a fight we can win."

Beech has plied the pristine waters at the top of the South Island all his life but fears plans to increase aquaculture in the Sounds will create an ecological time bomb in the area his family has lived in for six generations.

The New Zealand government has announced the end of a 10-year moratorium on aquaculture in the region, a magnet for tourists who come to marvel at dolphins, seals and whales on eco-tours such as those operated by Beech.

"It has the potential to turn our beautiful Sounds into one great big fish farming area," he said.

The New Zealand King Salmon Company has applied to create more fish farms in the area to double its output to 15 000 tons by 2015 as part of a long-term plan to become an NZ$500m ($410m) company.

Debate

The debate puts the Marlborough Sounds at the centre of controversy over whether fish farms can be sustainably developed in environmentally sensitive areas to meet booming world demand for seafood.

Aquaculture accounts for about 46% of the seafood consumed annually and the proportion is increasing as wild fish stocks decline, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report released this year.

The World Wildlife Fund says that, if properly managed, aquaculture has the potential to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks amid rising demand for seafood, particularly from increasingly affluent Asian consumers.

King Salmon said it is acutely aware of its environmental responsibility and there have been no problems at its existing Marlborough Sounds fish farms, which were established before the moratorium.

Chief executive Grant Rosewarne said expanding the industry would also bring much-needed jobs to the area and, with premium smoked salmon fetching up to NZ$250 a kilogram, provide export earnings for New Zealand's flagging economy.

"I don't think there's any other agricultural industry that in such a small amount of space can create such a huge amount of value," he said at the company's processing factory in Nelson.

He points out that even if the expansion plan goes ahead, King Salmon's fish farms will cover only 15ha of Marlborough Sounds' waters, about 0.1% of its total area.

Environmental problems

In addition he said that King Salmon's farms do not have pests such as sea lice that infect similar operations overseas and it is in the company's interests to keep it that way.

But Beech, who has established an environmental group called Guardians of the Sounds, points to the environmental problems created by salmon farms in countries like Scotland and Chile when the industry rapidly expanded.

"The only reason it hasn't happened here is because there are so few of them. But as soon as they start to farm intensively, they'll get diseased, you mark my words, just like they have in every other country in the world."

Beech said the "visual pollution" of fish farms - which are enclosed by large fences around the fish pools - and the threat of disease could undermine New Zealand's "100% pure" tourism marketing slogan.

Local farmer Eric Jorgensen, chair of another green group called SoundFish, said his main concern was that the government, with its eye on lucrative export dollars, had declared aquaculture an industry of national significance.

He said this meant responsibility for planning and approvals has been stripped from the regional council and given to the national government in Wellington, stoking fears it was intent on allowing a massive expansion.

The danger, Jorgensen, said, was that in its eagerness to increase aquaculture production, the government would allow in overseas players who did not have a commitment to preserving the Sounds' unique environment.

"There is a place for aquaculture. No problem with that. I don't think anyone today would say that there should be no aquaculture," he said.

"But [we need to determine] what is the optimum amount of aquaculture that can and should occur, without undermining all those other activities that are very important to the community and local businesses."
- SAPA
Read more on:    environment  |  marine life
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike

Watch this insane drift contest with four-times dirt-track World champion Karl Maier riding a speedway bike against a BMW M235i.

 
 

Men24.com

Want to start talking dirty?
Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Enjoy the view because as from tomorrow you are going to need to come back down to earth and join the party. In the meantime use...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.