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No Seal Relocation raises costs.

Media Release 8 February, 2001

No Seal Relocation raises costs.

"The decision by the Department of Conservation to decline The New Zealand King Salmon Company's application for temporary relocation of invasive seals away from our farms is a major disappointment," said Paul Steere, Chief Executive of the company.

The growing invasive seal activity is estimated to have already cost King Salmon many millions in salmon losses alone. The cost of recovery of dead and mutilated salmon from the farms, diving, net repair, plus the disruption cost to husbandry of salmon under stress must also be added.

When the King Salmon farms were first established there were no seals at all in the vicinity. Clearly they have found an attractive supply of easy food. Each winter there has been an escalation in seal numbers, and this can be expected to multiply exponentially as seals become more reliant on caged salmon in winter months.

New Zealand King Salmon's response to the attacks by seals has been to erect netting fences under and around the farm-pens to protect the fish.

"Relocation trials a year ago indicated some success with a manageable level of return, yet without any indications of harm to seals relocated and any effect on the overall regional seal population. This was an opportunity to develop a humane and low impact seal management practice providing respite to our cultivated salmon until more permanent net barriers could be completed. We recognise the importance of ensuring our activities empathise with the environment," Paul Steere said.

"We acknowledge, as in all activity, there is an element of risk. However, we believe the risk to be very small and even suggested our relocation proposal should be externally controlled by DoC and/or other interested parties to ensuring independent reaction to any changing effects.

"It is understood that our application under the Marine Mammals Protection Act does not allow 'regard for economic impact' to be considered in the assessment process.

"NZ King Salmon has invested well over $1.5 million in four generations of the predator netting - each new generation designed to exclude the newly learned invasive skills of the seals. Two farms have been mostly completed with the latest design. Yet the effectiveness of this protection on these farms has resulted in resident seals congregating and targeting those farms still unprotected - seal numbers being up fourfold on a year ago.

"We find it difficult to understand why 'economic impact' does not have some acknowledgement in a balanced safeguard for wildlife," said Paul Steere, "but that is a matter for regulators to address".

While we will continue our assembly and implementation of net protection around the remaining farms, we now face yet another issue.

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"In order to establish a more stable flotation environment for the additional net weight involved in the remaining salmon pens, we will need to swap farm configurations between established sites. This adds another complication of gaining resource consent for such a swap with consequent delays. We seek support in proceeding with this move as expeditiously as possible to minimise seal impact.

We will also review the latest international developments and look to other technologies for seal management and aim to work closely with DoC in such ongoing activity.

Ends

The New Zealand King Salmon Co. Ltd is NZ's largest salmon producer, employing 310 people with a turnover in excess of $50 million of which 70% is from exports.

Contact Paul Steere Telephone 03 5485714 Email pjs@kingsalmon.co.nz

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