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Hodgson Meets Mussel Industry

The Government is cooperating with the mussel industry's efforts to find the most effective possible response to the algal bloom threat, Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson said today.

Mr Hodgson met representatives of the New Zealand Marine Farming Association and the Mussel Industry Council today to discuss the industry's response to the algal bloom threatening the marine farms of the Marlborough Sounds.

Mr Hodgson also invited former Minister of Fisheries and Marlborough MP Doug Kidd to the meeting to offer advice.

"The Ministry of Fisheries has made this issue a priority and taken steps to help the industry develop its response," Mr Hodgson said. "I was pleased to hear from the industry today that officials have been cooperative and helpful.

"The Ministry has committed to agreed timetables for processing applications for mussel spat catching permits for Golden Bay and Tasman Bay. I am satisfied that official processes are not causing undue delay to the industry's efforts.

"A significant issue with mussel spat catching in Golden Bay and Tasman Bay is its possible effect on the scallop fishery. The Ministry is obliged by law to ensure there is no adverse effect."

Mr Hodgson said the mussel industry had acted responsibly in adhering to a voluntary ban on transfers of mussel spat from Northland. Eighty to ninety percent of the mussel spat used in New Zealand comes from Ninety Mile Beach, where it is collected on seaweed washed ashore. Structures similar to marine farms are used to catch spat elsewhere.

"The industry is converting some existing marine farms to spat catching sites, which is a sensible initiative," Mr Hodgson said.

"The industry is also funding research to find out whether spat infected with algae can be treated and safely grown. The ministry has approved the removal of spat from Northland for this research, which is being done on a land-based fish farm.

"Algal blooms are a chronic problem for marine farming worldwide. The approach taken by the New Zealand Industry so far has been both innovative and thorough, and it is entirely possible that new solutions to the problem will emerge."

Ends

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