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Mixed Outcomes for Aquaculture in Preliminary Decisions

NEW ZEALAND - The Ministry of Fisheries has made a preliminary decision on the 2,108 ha Tasman Interim Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) in Golden and Tasman Bays. It is in agreement for some expansion, but says proposals to further increase the hectarage could damage fishery and shellfish stocks.

The council and submitters are still deciding the final outcome and will welcome further submissions  taken  to the Ministry before the final decision is made – probably in May or June 2008.

The Ministry’s preliminary decision is to:

  • approve 108 ha of new aquaculture space;
  • decline 554 ha of space because of the effects it would have on fisheries resources and commercial scallop and snapper fishing; and
  • decline a further 1447 ha of space because of its effects on commercial scallop and snapper fishing, or both.
However, Ministry of Fisheries’ aquaculture manager Dan Lees says the Ministry’s preliminary decision may change if additional information shows the effects on commercial fishing and the sustainability of fisheries resources are more or less than currently expected.

Commercial considerations

He says that where a final decision declines space only because of its effects on commercial fishing, the space could still become AMAs if marine farmers and commercial fishers can reach a voluntary agreement.

The applicant - Tasman District Council – has been told about this preliminary decision, including the potential for fishers and marine farmers to negotiate a voluntary agreement, says Mr Lees.

”The Ministry’s role in making these decisions is to judge whether the interim AMAs would unduly affect fishing or the sustainability of fisheries resources in the area,” Dan says.

“The decision has been very difficult to make because some parts of the interim AMA are located near important intertidal habitats; and most of the area is valued by both commercial fishers and marine farmers,” He says.

There are already over 8,000 ha of existing aquaculture space in the Tasman and Marlborough regions. The Tasman interim AMAs would cover an additional 2,108 ha in Tasman and Golden Bays.

“Available information suggests there are already measurable effects on the commercial scallop and snapper fisheries due to existing marine farms. I am concerned about the cumulative effects of marine farming development on commercial fishing in the region.

“In making my decision, I considered information currently available to me, and believe only a small part of the interim AMAs can be approved before there is an undue adverse effect on commercial scallop and snapper fishing.”

Effects on Inter-tidal Habitats

MFish is declining 554 ha of the interim AMA near Collingwood because of potential undue adverse effects on the sustainability of fisheries resources. Mr Lees says he is concerned about potential effects on inter-tidal habitats important for shore birds associated with the internationally important Farewell Spit RAMSAR site, so has only approved part of the interim AMA located off Collingwood.

Mr Lees says he is satisfied the remainder of the interim AMAs would not have an undue adverse effect on the sustainability of fisheries resources.

“Now the preliminary decision has been made, parties get to see what I am thinking and what information I have taken into account,” Mr Lees says. “They can then provide additional information they wish me to consider.

“Any additional information provided will be carefully considered before a final decision to grant or decline the interim AMAs is made.”

Ministry of Fisheries’ chief executive Wayne McNee says even if areas are declined in the final decision on commercial fishing grounds, they could still go ahead with voluntary agreements. “Voluntary agreements are a new provision in the law,” he says. They were introduced to provide the opportunity for negotiated outcomes between aquaculture and commercial fishing interests”.

The submission period for the preliminary decision on the Tasman interim AMA will close on 16 April 2008. MFish aims to make a final decision in May or June 2008.

 

Ellen Hardy

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