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$Multi-Million Chinook Site Opened, but Reforms Stifle Progress

NEW ZEALAND - Marlborough Sounds is the home of New Zealand's newest marine farm. Opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark today, it is a significant boost to NZ's salmon sector, which many feel is currently being held back by aquaculture reform.

The new NZ$4 million farm near Clay Point north of Picton owned by New Zealand King Salmon will take the company's production to more than NZ$20 million a year. It is one of the world's largest producers of Chinook salmon.

Changing nutrition habits and consumers’ recognition of the health benefits of eating oily fish are the driving forces behind increased demand for salmon and the opening of a new farm in the Marlborough Sounds. Demand for salmon is strong in New Zealand and also in export markets. Australians are eating 30 per cent more salmon today than a year ago while the company’s overseas sales climbed 10 per cent in value last year.

However, owners of this new operation say further expansion - which would be viable and profitable - is being held back by NZ aquaculture laws.

Miss Clark said the new farm was significant for the marine farming industry, but acknowledged that the sector been frustrated by recent reforms.

Partnered for Success

The Clay Point farm, is King Salmon's fifth site, and has been developed in partnership with local Iwi Te Atiawa Manuwhenua Ki Te Tau Ihu Trust.

The partnership has enabled the Iwi to replace lost customary access in the Sounds with a sustainable resource for the future.

Te Atiawa management company director Jane du Feu says the Iwi looked at options “and NZ King Salmon was willing to explore those options with us”.

The salmon grow-out has taken NZ$12 million investment and is expected to help raise the company’s production by 10 per cent during the next two years.

The 1.15 ha farm will also enables NZ King Salmon to lower stock densities as it continues its programme of reducing its eco-impact, said chief executive Paul Steere.

“While New Zealand consumption of salmon is up 20 per cent in the past year, the biggest factor in our growth strategy is to ensure we keep production as natural as possible,” he added

No chemicals, vaccines or antibiotics are used in the production system and the company's promotional strategy stresses the natural environment of the Marlborough Sounds where the fish are farmed.

NZ King Salmon says the Clay Point site provides a unique salmon growing environment.

Sea temperatures are up to two degrees cooler in summer than those at farms elsewhere in the sounds, leading to better growth rates and healthier fish.

Technically-led Production

The fish are raised in sea cages and the cool Southland originating current running through the area also helps to reduce Clay Point’s environmental footprint, washing away salmon food and waste that would normally settle on the sea floor.

Clay Point also uses a mooring system adapted from that employed on wire bridges in North America. Operators can monitor mooring line tension so any unusual strain can be picked up before damage can occur.

Other new technology includes surface and underwater cameras that transmit pictures of salmon feeding enabling the above-the-surface operator to gauge when the fish have had sufficient.

The Clay Point marine farm licence was originally issued in 1994 but was not exercised as in the interim NZ King Salmon wanted to grow its business by adding value to its products. The strategy ensures reliance on market pull rather than increasing production volume with a high risk product push strategy.

“We simply couldn’t put ourselves in a position where we were at the mercy of global market prices. With consumption now increasing and a new emphasis on healthy eating, the time is right to invest in new facilities,” said Mr Steere

The opening of the Clay Point sea farm will create 32 new jobs and its production will generate $25 million every year in revenue at current selling prices. The farm will hold around 1.7 million salmon in two year classes at peak holding.

NZ King Salmon produces the popular Regal Salmon brand as well as Seasmoke and Southern Ocean.