8 Dec 2008

Council explores marine farming options in Waikato

6:07 am on 8 December 2008

Waikato's regional council is looking at allowing new types of marine farming, including fish farming, to be done in the region.

Shellfish farming is the only type of aquaculture allowed in the region under the current regional coastal plan.

The Council is considering allowing 1500 hectares of aquaculture management areas to be made available for fish farming in a pilot scheme, producing between 2000 and 5000 tonnes of fish a year.

The council's chair of policy Paula Southgate said the council is concerned about the potential environmental impacts of finned fish farming such as water quality and debris falling onto the sea bed, as well as the the use of antibiotics.

She said the council recognises the considerable economic benefits of fin fish farming, but that has to be balanced against the environmental effects.

Ms Southgate said there have been reports of large areas of poorly managed fin fish farming causing environmental degradation and the council is seeking to prevent that.

She said the pilot scheme would be carefully monitored and could be expanded over time if there proved to be minimal or no environmental effects.

Ms Southgate says so far the only interest that's been shown is for kingfish farming.

And the Bay of Plenty Regional Council says it's also looking at the possibility of expanding aquaculture in the region, by developing a strategy for it.

This follows a recent aquaculture forum held in Tauranga.

The council says the sector has the potential to contribute to the region's economic growth by creating extra jobs and investment.