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Marine Aquaculture Plan to Boost Seafood Industry

AUSTRALIA - The draft Great Sandy regional marine aquaculture plan (GSRMAP) in Queensland aims to establish guidelines for sustainable marine aquaculture development, and to streamline and standardise assessment processes for future aquaculture applications within the boundaries of the Great Sandy Marine Park.

The plan is being developed by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) in collaboration with the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry (DTRDI).

The Great Sandy Marine Park stretches from Baffle Creek to Double Island Point.

Under the Great Sandy Marine Park Zoning Plan, non-intensive aquaculture activities are allowed (under permit) in certain areas—the zoning plan is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

However, up until now there has been no comprehensive planning for aquaculture in the region. The draft GSRMAP will help to ensure clarity for future non-intensive aquaculture development within the marine park boundaries.

The draft GSRMAP proposes the most appropriate sites for rack, line and ranching aquaculture (but not sea cages) in line with provisions of the marine park. The locations of the sites were chosen to minimise conflict with other user groups, while considering the social and environmental value of the region.

To further reduce the risk of impacts on these values, management controls have been developed.

They provide clear rules regarding approval of future aquaculture activities and the conditions under which aquaculture farms can operate.

They include infrastructure design specifications, an environmental bond requirement, environmental monitoring programs and general biosecurity measures.

The controls are outlined in the draft GSRMAP—full details are provided in the draft Implementation guidelines for the Great Sandy regional marine aquaculture plan (GSRMAP implementation guidelines).

The locations of proposed aquaculture sites in the GSRMAP were selected after extensive consultation between industry and government. Local knowledge was sought at an early stage with key stakeholder organisations providing information about the environment, marine mammals and turtles, fishing and boating activities, commercial use and tourism.

A Queensland Inter-Agency Working Group was also created to oversee each stage of the planning process and endorse key decisions. The working group includes DPI&F, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, DTRDI, EPA and the Department of Natural Resources and Water. The Aquaculture Inter-Departmental Committee and other relevant state departments were also involved at this level of consultation.

An environmental consultancy firm was then commissioned to undertake detailed environmental investigations of the proposed sites identified during the initial stages of the planning process. The Characterisation Studies produced by this firm provided detailed information about the nature of the sites and confirmed their suitability.

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Primary Industries and Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin said the Draft Plan recommended the best sites for certain aquaculture methods ensuring any future activities comply with stringent controls for the area.

"The Draft Plan identifies a number of potential sites for rack, line and ranching methods of aquaculture, which are used for oysters, pearls, and scallops.

"All of the recommendations take into account the marine park principles and rules and come from extensive research and local consultat ion that considers the environment, our commercial and recreational fisheries and tourism industry," Mr Mulherin said.

"In addition to the Draft Plan, a new Draft Policy to guide future aquaculture applications for the State has also been developed."

 

Ellen Hardy

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