New Zealand’s aquaculture industry looks at open ocean farming as an alternative for growing space

New Zealand’s aquaculture industry is hankering for more space to grow shellfish and finfish, but it is hindered by limited access to sheltered inshore farm space.

Written by: Tracy Neal for

Scientists at Nelson’s Cawthron Institute are trailblazing new thinking in how farming in the open ocean might be possible. They call it the “new frontier” in aquaculture, where large areas of consented space were available but farming was challenging in exposed and dynamic waters.

Mr. Sinner, a senior scientist in the coastal and freshwater group, and science leader for social science at the Cawthron has been researching how the move to open ocean farming might be perceived by iwi, environmental groups and others who treasured the open ocean. He said the open ocean environment was not an empty space, but a place many people valued.

The open ocean environment is not an empty space. Iwi have customary associations over centuries with these sites. “There are other people out there doing things in the open ocean environment – people fishing either commercially or recreationally, there are tourism activities and shipping among others. There are other creatures offshore in those spaces that people care about. All those people had expectations and valued what happened in the open-ocean environment”, Mr Sinner said.

Iwi and communities wanted to be asked before development and not after, he said. Each individual company needed to earn its social license and not rely on the reputation of the wider industry.

His presentation was a summary of a three-year project on how to improve the relationship between the marine farming industry and communities.

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