Environment needs to be considered as aquaculture industry expands, expert says

The Government's aim to grow the value of aquaculture to a $3 billion industry by 2035 is being widely supported.

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But experts say environmental factors will need to be carefully managed. Source: 1 NEWS

But one expert says environmental responsibilities will need to be carefully managed with such major growth, while Māori have also indicated a need to be closely consulted.

New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne has described the newly laid out strategy as a “gamechanger”.

“I think it endorses aquaculture as an industry of the future."

Mr Rosewarne says the new plans finally recognise the young sector's potential.

“We’re not well known,” he explains.

“People don't really understand it and we have so many advantages that people aren't aware of."

When comparing different primary products farmed per 10 hectares, aquaculture is seen as a stand out for its value for money and space.

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Sales were worth $600 million last year, but by 2035, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash wants a fivefold increase to $3 billion.

Mr Nash believes “an outline or a guide to the role government will play” was missing until now and is backing a future of offshore farming.

“We think within 10 years we absolutely will be and it will change the way we fish,” he says.

Mr Rosewarne told 1 NEWS aquaculture has “been stalled for decades because we've not had the water space to allow it to grow”.

New Zealand King Salmon has applied  to the Marlborough District Council to set up the country's first open ocean salmon farm in the Cook Strait, modelled off similar structures in Norway.

Policy director for science-based platform EAT, Dr Sudhvir Singh, says the strategy has the opportunity to produce "multiple wins across health, environment, partnership with iwi and regional employment".

"Sustainably produced seafood can play an important role in a healthy diet, and aquaculture compares favorably to the overall environmental impact of land based farming".

He says while the industry grows, "it will need to ensure it continues to be prioritise local environmental responsibility and accountability, and closely examine the footprint of the feeds and methods used.”

The strategy will also have keen iwi interest, with the Maori Fisheries Trust's welcoming a focus on key partnerships.

A spokesperson for Te Ohu Kaimoana says it’s important the Crown's “aquaculture settlement obligations are delivered in a manner that facilitates early investment in new opportunities".

Meanwhile, the National Party is cautiously optimistic about the developments.

Fisheries spokesperson Ian McKelvie says there will be challenges ahead.

"Like so much of our primary sector, the industry struggles for capital and a skilled workforce," he says.

Mr McKelvie says its success will depend on the Government’s ability to move quickly to deliver on its promises.