Ten operators have applied to change the species they farm.
Council resource management officer Peter Johnson said marine farming applications had trickled in since the Government introduced the Aquaculture Reform Amendment Act, reports MalboroughExpress.
The new legislation made it easier to apply for space in areas where marine farming was previously prohibited.
It also freed up applications frozen by a moratorium on new marine farming, imposed in 2004.
Since October, six companies had lodged eight applications for about 31 hectares of new marine farming space, Mr Johnson said. So far, the council had consented a 3ha mussel, scallop, oyster and seaweed farm in Beatrix Bay and a 2.5ha extension to a mussel farm in Hallam Cove, both in Pelorus Sound. The Beatrix Bay application was lodged in 2001 but got caught up in the moratorium.
Most applications were for minor in-fills and extensions to existing farms, Mr Johnson said.
A ribbon of marine farms lined most available bays and the only option was to fill gaps and extend seaward.
Large mid-bay applications were unlikely after the Environment Court turned down two in Beatrix Bay for reasons including risks to rare birdlife and mammals and negative impacts on the outstanding Sounds' landscape, Mr Johnson said. The 2004 decision said the cumulative effect of the existing and proposed new farms would create a bay entirely dominated by marine farms.
The council was seeing a trend toward companies changing or adding species to existing marine farms, Mr Johnson said.
Since October, six companies had made 10 applications of this type, affecting 62.5ha. Consents had been granted for two, totalling 14ha.
A council hearings panel would consider its first potentially controversial application, to switch species from mussels to salmon, on March 21, Mr Johnson said. KPF Investments had applied to add salmon to its 12ha shellfish farm at Port Ligar in outer Pelorus Sound.
Christchurch-based iwi-owned company Ngai Tahu Seafoods Resources' application to add new fish species to its 14ha mussel farm at Beatrix Bay would be heard by a commissioner on April 19.
The New Zealand King Salmon Company Ltd had applied for a plan change and resource consents allowing it to farm salmon at eight new sites in areas of the Marlborough Sounds where marine farming was prohibited.
There are 885 consented marine farming sites covering 4212 hectares of Marlborough waterspace, Marlborough District Council records show.
Council resource management officer Peter Johnson said of these, 17 sites totalling 104.2 hectares were consented to farm salmon. Sixteen consents covering 186ha had been granted but were under appeal.
It was not known how much consented space had been actually developed into marine farms because neither the council nor Aquaculture New Zealand collected that information.
Taking up over a quarter of the allocated space were the Wakatu Incorporation's 770ha site in Tasman Bay and a 424ha site held by Clifford Bay Marine Farms, north of the proposed Clifford Bay terminal site.
Neither was developed but Clifford Bay Marine Farms recently completed rigorous monitoring required as a condition of its 2005 consent.
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