Aquaculture Magazine

Stewart Island chosen for possible new aquaculture project

The next phase is set to get under way in one of the key projects of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

A site for the proposed new salmon-farming aquaculture project has been decided, on the North Arm of Port Pegasus at Stewart Island.

Several different parts of the area will be investigated, which are all outside of the current protected marine reserves on the island. 

From next week, scientists from the Cawthron Institute will begin to carry out fieldwork to test the environmental and commercial feasibility of the area.

The seabed surveys will include underwater video footage and sonar imagery to delineate habitats on the seabed and take samples of the benthic sediment.

Water current and wave recording meters will also be deployed to provide data, so that a model can be developed of water flow, in and out of the inlet.

Developing Southland's aquaculture industry was identified as one of the nine major projects to be completed as part of the SoRDS strategy.

SoRDS new industries team leader Mark O'Connor said the survey was the first step towards establishing a new fishery in the area.

"It's very much a measured and deliberative process – we're still very much at the information gathering stage." 

O'Connor said there were a number of boxes that needed to be ticked off before the project could be completed, including environmental and community considerations, as well as economic impacts.
Investigating sites which were not part of protected marine reserves would also make the process of establishing a new fishery somewhat easier.

"The legislative framework is still quite complex, but it's one less potential issue to deal with."

O'Connor said the success of the project was key to strengthening the Southland economy.

"Aquaculture is a key focus of the action plan, which aims to support development of a more diverse Southland economy, grow the population and strengthen local business.

"There is significant potential for the development of a larger scale, internationally competitive industry, grounded in the best environmental, cultural and social practice.

"There's a real need for Southland not to rest on its past successes, but to focus on economic opportunities that foster new business opportunities for future generations."

Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong, together with representatives from SoRDS and other partner organisations, visited Stewart Island last week to discuss the latest phase of the project with key representatives from the community.

The project is the result of a central-government funded programme put together by SoRDS in collaboration with Ngai Tahu, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Stewart Island is already home to a significant amount of aquaculture, including salmon, oysters, and mussels.

New Zealand primarily produces chinook salmon, the majority of which is farmed either in the Marlborough Sounds or at Stewart Island.

Globally there is a limited range for where salmon can be successfully farmed, as farms require cold, deep waters for the fish.

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