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Fin Fish Farming

As is to be expected, Ms Delahunty is again using her apparent privileged access in the media (HH 14 January) in an endeavour to slow down or preferably stop any development that does not measure up to the Greens high standards of purity.

There is no doubt that fin fish farming has its detractors all over the World - it has been a disaster in many situations, and we need to make sure that conditions are put in place here to keep environmental risks to a minimum. It is not like mussel farming, that is for sure. The major problem in my experience (Northern Territory) lies in the food residue that falls through the cages and ends up as a bacterial paradise on the sea-floor. Tidal bottom current intensity is critical - not too much, not too little. Also, cleaning of the cages requires the use of large quantities of chemicals - particularly where mussel spat is plentiful and likely to colonise. There is a long list of other potential problems that may arise that I won't go into here.

The use of food that is almost entirely made up of imported components appears inevitable. As indicated by Mike Donaghue in the HH on 11 January, the protein generally comprises pelagic sardine and anchovie that originate in the Humboldt Current on the West coast of South America, but this is supplemented with carbohydrate grain by-product currently produced in Australia to make up the food pellets fed into the cages. Considerable skill is required to ensure a balance between feeding and consumption to reduce through-fall to the minimum.

Mike's claim regarding the fish concerned being a important part of the diet for millions of people strains credulity. The stuff is purse seine netted in huge quantities (Peru ranks 2nd or 3rd in world fish production, principally comprising this product, processed into meal and oil), and has been for years though catches are quite severely effected by el Nino events. It is my understanding that the product is not normally regarded as a desirable human food source, and production is far greater than could ever be consumed in that manner. Most fish farming operations world wide depend on the continuation of supply of protein from this source, and have done so since the advent of fish farming. New Zealand's participation in the industry will have no discernible effect on this production.  

Given this, the proposal to trial a relatively small area is wise, and will need to be kept under strict surveillance while methods are devised to minimize damage. But make no mistake - with the best will in the world, there will be damage.

On the other hand, if we keep avoiding opportunities like this then we will simply go backwards into oblivion, and taxes will be unable to cover our extraordinarily generous welfare system, educational loans and parliamentary benefits. The sooner that we can get this commercial trial underway the better. Only then will we know whether or not the Gulf is a suitable venue for further large scale development.

The Government needs to fast track the proposal past the inevitable blocks that will result from the so called due process. Ms Delahunty is absolutely incorrect when she says that the proposal has not been tested in this country. Fisheries have been running non-commercial trials on Kingfish at least for some considerable time with what they claim have been outstanding results.

The Greens need to get real - lets get on with it!


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