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Aquaculture expansion condemned

Shack owners in the Fitzgerald Bay area have condemned the government for releasing 100 hectares in the Upper Spencer Gulf for finfish farms without proper consultation.

Whyalla City Council on the other hand has said it cannot interfere with government processes but will play a monitoring role and take action if an environmental issue arises.

Council's environment and planning manager Stewart Payne said the project was in the pipeline for five years and was economically viable and sustainable.

He said the council was a land-based authority and if issues of pollution or negative environmental impact arose due to the project necessary action would be taken. Chairman of the Cultana and Jenkins Shack Owners Association Ken Organ said the government was contradicting itself and releasing details in bits and pieces. He said on one hand the Draft Marine Parks Bill had indicated that the gulf would be protected, which contradicted the release of this area, which will see possibly 200 more pens in the gulf.

PIRSA Aquaculture executive director Ian Nightingale said the release of tenure in the Eastern Fitzgerald Zone for finfish farming will allow for continued growth of the industry in water further offshore.

He said the first phase of the project had provided diversity in the regional economy and has been of considerable economic benefit in the form of jobs and attracting investment into the area.

Nic Kriticos, vice-chairman of the shack owners' association and Mr Organ said proper environmental studies should be done before such a major venture.
"This area is so beautiful and can be developed into a tourist spot which will also generate long term income," Mr Organ said. "I am all for the investment but proper regulations should be followed and it should be ensured that there will be no harm to the natural environment.

More than 80 shack owners are members of the association and we have always been against the idea of putting excessive pens in the sea. They say it (allegedly) damages the natural environment and in years to come its full impact will be drastic. "We have been told that commercial fishing in the area has been banned but we see commercial boats catching fish and crabs in the Point Lowly area from time to time. The danger is that once we totally open up our gulf there is no looking back environmentally because any damages cannot be repaired," added Mr Kriticos.

Source: Whyalla News