Survey to explore Southland aquaculture potential

Southland Regional Development Strategy group governance chairman Tom Campbell speaking at the Action Plan launch last year. PHOTO: Venture Southland

A new ecological survey is set to get under way next week to investigate the environmental and commercial feasibility of salmon farming at a site on Stewart Island. 

Scientists from the Nelson-based Cawthron Institute will carry out fieldwork including detailed seabed surveys in the north arm of Port Pegasus in an effort to understand whether the area is suitable for aquaculture. 

SoRDS New Industries Team Leader Mark O’Connor said the areas identified for survey were all outside of protected marine reserves. The work would not be extending into the south arm of Port Pegasus.

Underwater video footage and sonar imagery will be used to map habitats on the seabed and take samples of the benthic sediment. Water current and wave recording meters will also be deployed to provide data so that a model can be developed of water flow in and out of the inlet. 

Together, this information will be used to predict potential salmon production levels and economic viability. 

The initiative is part of a collaborative regional development project promoted by the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) programme. 

The programme identified aquaculture, particularly salmon farming, in the Southland Regional Development Strategy Action Plan as a leading opportunity to create economic diversity and boost regional economic and social development. 

SoRDS says salmon could only be farmed in a limited range of areas globally as the fish require cold water, and parts of the coastline of Southland were highly suited to Chinook Salmon. 

New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has a goal of $1 billion in annual sales per annum by 2025, a goal which the Government supports.

Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie said should feasible sites be found, not only would this sustainable industry fit with the province’s ethos, but would create real jobs and growth for Southland communities.

Mr O'Connor agreed, noting the existing industry in Bluff and Stewart Island, with iwi indicating a desire to invest in the sector long-term.

“There is significant potential for the development of a larger scale, internationally competitive industry, grounded in the best environmental, cultural and social practice.”

The Government was a major investor partner, contributing $950,000 in seed money to kick-start this project, Ms Dowie said. 

Consultation with community and interest groups began last year, focusing on the environmental, cultural and social implications relating to potential aquaculture activity.

Southland District Council mayor Gary Tong, together with SoRDS representatives and other partner organisations,visited Stewart Island last week to discuss the latest phase of the project with key representatives from the community. 

The project is the result of a central-government funded programme put together by SoRDS in collaboration with Ngai Tahu, the Department of Conservation (DOC), the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).


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