January 7, 2009
Blenheim based fisheries biologist Graeme Coates favours
marine farming of blue cod in Pelorus Sound.
He says blue cod fish farming may be anathema to some. But
he supports the idea.
The Talking business column sought comment on local implications
for the “enormous” potential of fisheries claimed
in the Ministry of Fisheries briefing to incoming minister
(BIM) Phil Heatley.
The fisheries BIM says “World demand for seafood is
predicted to increase by at least 40 million tonnes by 2030,
providing enormous opportunities for New Zealand wild capture
fisheries and the aquaculture sector.”
Mussels and blue cod naturally grow in the Pelorus water
temperatures, and lend themselves to farming. Low run off
from coastal land keeps the water for mussels relatively clean,
or, what many call, “pristine” water.
Mussels, a Pelorus aquaculture industry developed over a
generation, tops the annual list of New Zealand fisheries
exports at $NZ175 million.
Graeme Coates, executive director of the Marine Farming Association
and internationally experienced consultant says “why
not develop blue cod populations using fish farming technology”.
There is no reason why we in the Marlborough region should
close our minds to enhancing the blue cod population through
hatchery programmes, onshore tank facilities, eventual release
and recapture programmes he says.
“In addition this could be used for put and take fisheries
or/and in conjunction with artificial reefs”
Blue cod would need release on reefs or other rocky structures.
“By using enhanced aquaculture and fishery techniques
the wild populations of cod could be left unfished to recover”
Recent fishing law requires fishers to take fish over a certain
size, and the last Minister of Fisheries imposed a four year
blue cod fishing ban.
Large blue cod are generally males and are the most prolific
breeders. These fish are the top spawners. Enhanced or put
and take caught fish could be landed at a smaller size, “or
better still ban the catching of large cod” he says.
Graeme Coates suggests two options.
One is to make the artificial reef the place where you catch
cod, and then leave the wild reefs alone.
Another is to make the artificial reef exclusive, like Long
Island Marine Reserve in Queen Charlotte Sound. There the
wild reefs are fishing zones.
Graeme Coates says the recreational fishers of Marlborough
should look at marine farming techniques as one of their tools.
“The Japanese use such tools. Compare Anatoki Salmon
in Takaka. There, people throw in a rod, catch a salmon, cook
or smoke it, and can take it home. They love it” he
His big picture for commercially viable marine farming development
for NZ includes
• Mussels, salmon and paua in the Marlborough Sounds
• Oysters and perhaps kingfish and groper up north
• Oysters and salmon in Southland Strait
Does Marlborough actually want to develop such aquaculture
Considerations include the attitude of existing marine farmers,
including the 40% who are Maori, and their view of public
attitudes, and the limits to growth under current rules.
Corporates, an estimated 55% of participants in the industry,
might chose to apply experience gained in Pelorus to other
Marlborough’s inshore marine farming regulations were
originally driven by the Harbours Act. Mussel lines are 50-100
metres offshore in places compatible with marine vessels.
Tasman Bay’s marine farming developments – about
3 km offshore – are driven by the Resource Management
Short term challenges are preventing much aquaculture development.
The Minister of Fisheries and Nick Smith the Minister for
the Environment are due to report back to Cabinet in February
2009 with an evaluation of options to improve the aquaculture
law. This may include options involving relatively major legislative
The full process for aquaculture has many steps, more than
any other activity under the RMA, and the approval process
is long and costly.
To date, almost four years after enactment of the new aquaculture
law, no new Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) have been
In their BIM Ministry of Fisheries say “as we try to
implement the reforms it is becoming apparent that the law
may have been over engineered and the cost, time and uncertainty
of the process to develop new AMAs are constraining future
aquaculture growth, which could prevent the industry from
achieving its $1 billion goal by 2025.”