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Billion dollar baby

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand aquaculture industry has given itself the goal of becoming a billion dollar business by the year 2025.

IN THE PINK: Staff member Gail Pauling weighs up coldsmoked sliced salmon for one of over 3 million packs New Zealand King Salmon produces in a year at its processing plant in Nelson.

Workers beaver away as fresh salmon is carefully sliced, diced and packaged, writes Vanessa Phillips.

They're working in an industry that is already worth more than $300 million to New Zealand's economy - and the aquaculture sector has bold and ambitious plans to become an even bigger business.

It's widely known that Marlborough is a hub of marine farming in New Zealand, but what many people don't realise is that Nelson also plays a significant role.

The region is home to four big marine farmers - the New Zealand King Salmon Company, the country's biggest salmon farmer; Sealord, the largest greenshell mussel producer; Talley's Fisheries; and Wakatu Incorporation - as well as the industry's new umbrella body, Aquaculture New Zealand.

Aquaculture NZ has taken on the task of steering the sector toward its goal of becoming a sustainable billion-dollar business by 2025.

"For this region, Nelson-Tasman, there's fantastic water space here," says chief executive Mike Burrell. "The medium to long-term future for aquaculture in this region is incredibly rosy."

With recognition that wild fisheries volumes are unlikely to alter dramatically, and given the world's insatiable appetite for seafood, sustainable aquaculture is viewed as a gleaming light for the future.

These are exciting times for the aquaculture industry. Prime Minister Helen Clark has said it, Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton has said it.

However, the promise is tinged with frustration from many in the sector.

In Golden Bay and Tasman Bay, 5352 hectares are currently being used for aquaculture - 2540ha in Tasman Bay and 2812ha in Golden Bay.

Source: The Nelson Mail