The New Zealand King Salmon Co. Ltd. (King Salmon) has proposed to develop nine new salmon farms in Marlborough Sounds. The Sounds – an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys in the north eastern part of New Zealand’s South Island – are home to a sensitive ecological system. As such there has been a huge outcry over King Salmon’s proposal, as it could have disastrous effects on the biodiversity of the Sounds.
Due to the size of the project and its potential impacts on the life and biodiversity of Marlborough Sounds, it has been deemed a project of National significance. Thus, in order to understand the intensity of the impacts of the farms on the fragile Sounds ecosystem, a hearing opened on 27 August in the town of Blenheim, Marlborough. The Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry is expected to sit for 10 weeks hearing arguments for and against the proposed development.
One of the key topics of discussion is the effects of the farms on the water column – from the seabed to the sea surface. We were approached by ‘Sustain our Sounds’ – an incorporated society set up by people who use and love the Marlborough Sounds. They asked to support their cause with our expert opinion. We voluntarily stepped forward with our global knowledge and modelling/technical expertise, to offer our expert opinion regarding the same. Neil David Hartstein – one of our in-house aquaculture experts – was part of a panel of water column expert witnesses, who provided their inputs regarding the impacts of the proposed farms on the marine ecosystem.
A total of 1300 submissions were made by individuals and organisations, expressing opinions about the planned fish farms. Of these, two thirds opposed the proposal. A bulk of the opposition came from the Marlborough District Council. The latter claims that by planning farms in an area where aquaculture is prohibited, King Salmon has challenged the Council’s Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan. The plan is based on 35 years of community input.
As such, our expert advice and unbiased scientific input can prove to play an important role in a decision that will be monumental to a striking characteristic of New Zealand biodiversity.