New Zealand King Salmon hopes it will be allowed to move around half of nine square hectares of its Marlborough Sounds fish farms to better locations, but is braced for a “disappointing” outcome for both the company’s growth and environmental outcomes.
Speaking to BusinessDesk at the Aquaculture New Zealand conference in Blenheim, NZKS managing director Grant Rosewarne expressed frustration at the likelihood of a “sub-optimal outcome”.
Leaving 4.5 hectares of the nine hectares of existing farms in place would be worse for both productivity and the environment “when we can get a world’s best practice environmental outcome a kilometre away,” he said.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash is expected to take recommendations on the proposed relocations to Cabinet before Christmas, with a decision pencilled for February.
Nash told the aquaculture conference the industry needed to innovate more and invest in high-value brands to maximise export revenues.
However, Rosewarne said NZKS was already producing “the most highly branded salmon in the world, with highly differentiated products. We’re getting high prices” but slow regulatory processes were impeding growth potential.
“I do think we will get there and you heard the positive intent of the minister,” he said. “But I think we’re all dumb-founded that when something is so positive it’s not given a fast track or enabled with a proper strategy.”
Nash said the newly created Fisheries New Zealand agency, split out from the Ministry for Primary Industries, would deliver a new aquaculture strategy within the next year and strongly backed emerging deep-sea fish farming technology.
“The sooner we get into that space, the better,” Nash told BusinessDesk. “The consumer wants that, local iwi want that, communities want that. They can grow. The sooner tech allows us to get to the point where we can have commercial finfish farms off the coast, the better we all are.”
But he pushed back at the suggestion the regulatory processes were too slow and failing to support the aquaculture industry.
“One of my frustrations is that it does seem to take a long time to get anywhere in fisheries.
“I would rather take six months longer and make sure we get the process right than rush something through, get it wrong, and end up in court.”
Rosewarne said barely 20 surface hectares of salmon farming was consented in New Zealand, “17 hectares of which are ours, and half of which is no good”.
Moving the whole nine surface hectares in question “should not be a hard thing”, he said.
“We can’t even move a tiny nine surface hectares, which we’ve already got and can already use, to a better spot and get a vastly superior outcome. That’s really disappointing.”
NZKS could apply to the Provincial Growth Fund for assistance with applying deep-sea fish farming in New Zealand, but the most important government contribution was a new aquaculture strategy.
“We could be New Zealand’s most valuable industry bar none – technology, dairy, education, tourism. We can outdo all of those if there’s a proper industry strategy and we can do it with an environmental footprint that would be hard to measure, it would be so green.”
The conference heard from international speakers from the World Wildlife Fund and the Norwegian salmon-farming industry about the relatively low impact of aquaculture for the production of protein for human consumption compared with traditional agriculture.
Aaron McNevin, from WWF-USA, made a case for a global shift from land-based farming to farming in the sea, given the far greater efficiency and lower environmental impact of aquaculture.