New Centre helps councils with aquaculture moratorium

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The Government’s recently announced moratorium on new permits for aquaculture has focused attention on the role of NIWA’s newly established National Fisheries and Aquaculture Centre.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) established the Centre to provide a mechanism for coordinating the multidisciplinary services NIWA can offer in aquaculture and fisheries planning, development, and research.

The two-year moratorium was designed to prevent councils from processing any new coastal permit applications until new rules for coastal plans had been developed.

Under the new legislation, regional councils and unitary authorities are now responsible for developing aquaculture management areas (AMAs) for their coastlines. Staff from the National Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture can help in this process by providing scientific advice which can be used as a basis for these areas, and hence the sustainable management and development of New Zealand’s aquaculture industry. They have extensive knowledge and practical experience of scientific issues and the broader planning issues relating to marine farming, ranging from small farms in sheltered coastal waters through to large offshore proposals.

“We believe that such expertise would greatly help regional authorities develop the proposed AMAs and manage the development of these areas for different activities,” said NIWA’s Deputy Chief Executive for Strategic Development, Dr Rick Pridmore.

“We can apply our multi-disciplinary science skills – where the collective knowledge and experience of scientists with a wide range of areas of expertise can be called on to solve a particular problem – to define the suitability of an area for aquaculture and to ensure the development of sustainable marine farming systems.”

Such an approach would help aquaculture development proceed at a pace which met the demand for seafood – with the attendant benefits of regional and national investment and employment – yet did so with due cultural considerations and recognition of existing fisheries, and without damaging the environment, or overly limiting recreational use of coastal waters.

“The moratorium does not give us much time to get all the processes in place, and we are anxious to ensure that all relevant information and services are coordinated and made available to regional authorities, so that future developments aren’t held up any more than necessary.”

“We have the resources, but we don’t have very much time. Two years is not a very long time to put such a substantial management structure in place,” said Dr Pridmore.

“New Zealand has world class resources in terms of the scientific support we can offer the aquaculture industry, and the Centre will provide the channels to facilitate the required information transfer – information is the key to good decision making.”

NIWA has substantial expertise in culturing fish and shellfish, determining the capacity of areas to sustain aquaculture, and evaluating any impacts of aquaculture on the environment. NIWA also has a cool-water aquaculture research facility at Mahanga Bay in Wellington and its substantial warm-water aquaculture research and development centre at Bream Bay, south of Whangarei is due to open early in 2002.

Staff from the Centre are also working with the Ministry of Fisheries on a wide range of issues designed to provide the scientific information needed to support the continued development of New Zealand’s successful fishing industry. The research contracts include programmes as diverse as the state of deepwater fish stocks, the effects of fishing on seabird populations, evaluating snapper stocks by a fish tagging programme, and investigating the effects of the disease Bonamia on Bluff oysters.

For further information contact:

Dr Rick Pridmore
Deputy Chief Executive (Strategic Development)
Phone: +64 7 856 7026
r.pridmore@niwa.co.nz