Peter Vitasovich continues the four-part opinion series on the NZ King Salmon application to develop eight new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds. He writes about the economic and nutritional value of the proposal.
In 1969 a group of fishermen towed the first mussel barge into the Marlborough Sounds and anchored it in the Kenepuru.
In the 43 years since, New Zealand aquaculture (farming of greenshell mussels, King Salmon and Pacific oysters) has become a significant, sustainable primary industry employing more than 3000 Kiwis and generating more than $400 million of revenue in 2011.
Our products are exported to 79 countries and revered by international chefs as some of the world’s best seafood.
As well as fantastic flavour profiles, they’re quality, lean protein sources with a host of essential vitamins and minerals including Omega 3s and iron. They are readily available at your local supermarket and restaurants around New Zealand.
Half of all salmon farmed in New Zealand is consumed locally much of it served in family kitchens and backyard barbecues.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates that roughly half of seafood consumed globally already comes from aquaculture and it will be likely to supply the majority of future increases in demand. Given New Zealand’s pristine waters, world class environmental management practices and reputation for quality and food safety, we are well placed to target this opportunity with high value premium seafood products.
The government has also recognised aquaculture’s potential to significantly contribute to national and regional economic growth and on October 1, 2011 corrected inadvertently flawed legislation that had stalled aquaculture growth for the past decade. This has paved the way for recent applications for new farming space in the Marlborough Sounds, which will create more local jobs, boost local businesses and inject much needed export earnings into the economy.
Applications for new farms are assessed by local councils or, if considered a matter of national significance, the application may be heard by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). As the government’s principal advisor on environmental protection, who better to consider such applications?
Regardless of which route the application goes, public and community consultation is an integral part of the process. This approach is robust and provides a powerful check and balance by examining environmental sustainability, economic benefit, navigation, recreational water users and existing businesses.
Every farm application must satisfy this process and will be judged on its own merits regardless of what has come before it. If an application is successful, a consent is granted giving the right to farm for a defined term, in accordance with a set of conditions requiring strict environmental management.
The approval of an application does not create precedents and therefore the public should not be concerned that one approval will make it easier for subsequent applications.
The New Zealand King Salmon application was directed to the EPA and will be heard by the board of inquiry an independent body appointed by the Minister of Conservation to assess the merits of the application. The board consists of five members including chairman, Environment Court Judge Gordon Whiting and the Environment commissioner Helen Beaumont.
At no point is any water space privatised ownership remains with the government on behalf of the New Zealand public. They have a responsibility to ensure that our marine resources are used in a balanced way and respect other users of that space.
A planned approach to growth is essential to ensure farms are sited in appropriate areas. Some areas of water are best suited for conservation, some to recreation, some to fishing and some to aquaculture.
Core to the industry is a commitment to sustainable practices. No one has a greater interest in protecting the marine environment than the farmers who depend on it for their livelihood.
The quality of the water directly affects the quality of our products, our lives and our future. Farmers follow world class environmental codes of practice that direct best industry practices throughout growing and harvesting to minimise potential effects on the environment.
Independent authorities also monitor the industry’s environmental performance through the resource consent process, requiring independent scientific studies be conducted on all potential farm sites, and ongoing environmental monitoring during the life of the farm.
Aquaculture is considered one of the world’s most efficient forms of animal protein production. Chinook salmon farmed in New Zealand are net marine protein producers the small amount of fish protein in their diet is sourced from independently certified sustainable fisheries. Greenshell mussels and Pacific oysters filter nutrients from the water column and are universally recognised as a supremely environmentally friendly food source.
New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has evolved from a group of innovative pioneers to a professional, specialised and quality food production sector focused on environmental sustainability, food safety and value added marketing. As a sector it has tremendous potential and growth will create much needed regional jobs both in aquaculture and for activities that supply the sector as well as generate significant export earnings by continuing to produce some of the worlds best seafood.
We are committed to sustainable growth and respecting the needs of other water users. Aquaculture is an industry we can be proud of and at the same time be excited about for our future.