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Controversial Barramundi Site Could Reopen

AUSTRALIA - Anger has been sparked with news that a Northern Territory sea cage barramundi farm could reopen this year. The Tiwi Land Council says it's actively negotiating with Austral Fisheries to reopen the site because it says the business is important for the Tiwi economy.

Environmental and fishing groups are concerned because the Tiwi Island's farm was responsible for significant fish escapes following incidents in 2006. King tides damaged cages and tens of thousands of fish escaped, says a report for ABC News.

The escapes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, causing former owner Marine Harvest to close the farm, However, conservationists are more concerned about the environmental impact associated with large scale barramundi production.

"Sea caged aquaculture has a huge environmental impact and thus will have a long term socio and economic impact. Unfortunately, those barramundi will breed with the native fish populations changing the genetic make up of those fish and their natural ability to navigate around our coasts and breed. There's a huge risk in the Northern Territory with cyclones and other extreme weather," said Prue Barnard of the Australian Marine Conservation Society's

The Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory is also opposing the farm.

President Warren de With says the Fisheries Department has yet to release its findings over the environmental impact of the escapes in 2006. He says anglers are concerned that the mass escape of farmed fish could have a lasting impact on the popular recreational fishing ground.

He said that after the last accident Marine Harvest admitted that Tiwi Island's was not a very good location to site ocean nets. The currents and the vulnerability to either monsoons or cyclones were not ideal.

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Ellen Hardy

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