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Testing Opotiki’s waters for marine farming

Media Release

Testing Opotiki’s waters for marine farming

Environment Bay of Plenty is testing Opotiki’s coastal waters to discover what impact marine farming would have on them.

The regional council has set up a range of monitoring devices that will help it assess the sustainability of future potential aquaculture projects, such as mussel farms.

Two water current metres and three strings of water temperature sensors are now deployed in a line directly offshore from Opotiki, says senior environmental scientist Stephen Park. The instruments will give detailed information on water temperature and the direction and speed of currents, he explains.

Mr Park says results from further up the coast have revealed quite complex current patterns, with surface waters often running in the opposite direction to the deeper water. Currents change frequently with the weather.

The monitoring data will be supported by information from a wave buoy near Pukehina that measures wave height and direction. Regular water quality surveys of nutrient levels, salinity and clarity will add to the information base. These surveys will also assess the types and quantity of phytoplankton, the food source for mussels and other shellfish. Satellites will provide data to give an overview of patterns.

“All of the data will be put together and used to create models that will help us predict the impact of various climatic and aquaculture scenarios,” Mr Park says. “This project will result in a vast improvement in the knowledge we have of our coastal shelf waters.”

He asks fishermen and other boaties not to anchor near the buoys that mark the location of the current metres. “We don’t want any of these instruments to be damaged or the data lost.”

All findings will be published when the project ends.

Marine farming is a fast-growing and lucrative industry in New Zealand, with predictions that export earnings will exceed $1 billion by 2020.


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