‘Time running out to save the aquaculture industry in New Zealand’

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“Which will be faster? Climate change, which we’re told is a slow process, or the Government, which I’m sorry to say is slower.”

On Tuesday, New Zealand’s Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said NZ King Salmon’s reported recent losses were a “sharp reminder” of the need for resource management reforms for the aquaculture industry.

Read more: NZ King Salmon shares tumble as increased fish deaths lead the company to slash earnings guidance

“Our response to climate change is not something that can be delayed. Its effects are real and present for New Zealand companies, and the people who work for them,” Parker said.

“This situation also highlights that the Resource Management Act [RMA] is not equipped to deal with these realities. Strategic planning to get ahead of these kinds of matters hasn’t happened.”

According to local media outlet Stuff, Parker said the current system made it very difficult to relocate marine farms, a process which he said under current RMA rules was a “drawn out, difficult and litigious process”.

NZ King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said time was running out to save the aquaculture industry in New Zealand.

The company reduced its forecast earnings for the 2022 year by NZD 4 million (€2.3 million) to NZD 5 million (€3 million) because of higher salmon losses caused by rising sea temperatures, most notably in its Pelorus Sound operations.

“There’s a race going on to see who is faster, climate change killing our fish, or the Government changing the rules to allow us to save them,” he said.

Slow progress
He said it had been years since the Government first announced changes to its aquaculture rules, and in that time there had been no concrete steps taken to help.

“We have had two years of cooler summers, and now it’s looking like it’s going to be a hot, record-breaking summer. We had time to save this.”

He said for NZ King Salmon it was a matter of moving farms in the Pelorus Sound area about 7km away into the Cook Strait, taking advantage of cooler currents and “dealing with climate change for us for 25 years”.

Instead, he said slow progress was leading to mass fish death despite all efforts to make coastal fish farms viable in increasing temperatures, with wasted effort and money and nothing to show for it.

However, Rosewarne said Parker’s statement was encouraging.

“We welcome it, but which will be faster? Climate change, which we’re told is a slow process, or the Government, which I’m sorry to say is slower.”

More agile
Parker said the RMA reforms would deliver a more agile system, better able to adapt to the realities of climate change.

“The reforms we are putting in place will deliver a planning system that provides for growth in the sector, sets environmental standards that ensure sustainable practices, and delivers processes that enable adaptation to a changing environment.”

Parker said the reforms would make sure marine farming would not come at the expense of sustainability or the interests of people outside the aquaculture sector.

“A strong and sustainable aquaculture sector also give us more choices about how we produce seafood in New Zealand as well as options to reduce environmental pressures from other, existing, fishing practices,” he said.