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Marine Farming Concerns Underwater Association

Marine Farming Concerns Underwater Association

The New Zealand Underwater Association is concerned at moves to establish aquaculture management zones in Auckland and Northland, before a marine reserve network has been established.

“Both Northland and Auckland Regional Councils have recently notified their intention to develop aquaculture management areas”, Environmental Coordinator Karli Thomas says. “The Aquaculture Council has also raised the possibility of paying compensation to commercial fishers when marine farms area set up.

The New Zealand Underwater Association believes that marine protection needs to be addressed before there is any expansion in aquaculture. “There is strong public support for marine reserves, and both local and central governments have said they will work towards better marine protection”, Ms Thomas says.

The government has developed the Biodiversity Strategy, which includes the goal of ten percent of New Zealand’s marine area to be protected by the year 2010. The Auckland Regional Council has a similar goal of ten percent of the Auckland coastal marine area in marine reserves.

Under the Marine Reserves Act, reserves cannot be established in areas where there is an existing marine farming licence. “For that reason it is very important that the government establishes a marine reserves network before allowing aquaculture to expand into any new areas”, Ms Thomas says.

The Association is also concerned at the Aquaculture Council’s suggestion of compensation for commercial fishers when marine farms are set up. The fishing industry was handed over the ‘rights’ to their catch free of charge in the 1980s, with the introduction of the Quota Management System. “This process gave no recognition to the rights of the rest of society to the marine environment,” Ms Thomas says.

However the quota rights were not tied to any particular area, and since 1990 have been proportional to the total catch available. “This means that the government has retained the ability to expand or reduce the total catch and to close certain areas as necessary for environmental sustainability.”

Marine farming requires the exclusive occupation of sea space. The aquaculture industry has faced opposition from fishers and recreational users of the marine environment who also wish to use that space, and people who seek to protect the environment. The Aquaculture Council is now considering compensation for commercial fishers that have quota rights when marine farms are established.

“This sidelines other parties with concerns about marine farming proposals”, Ms Thomas says, “what of the conservationists, who automatically lose the right to propose marine reserves in any area where there is a marine farm, or the recreational users and local community who are displaced by the privatisation of public space?”

“Furthermore, paying compensation to commercial fishers when they are prevented from fishing in marine farms elevates their property rights to a new level – rights over particular areas” Ms Thomas says. The New Zealand Underwater Association is concerned that this could lead to demands for compensation when areas are set aside for other values such as conservation, education and recreation“.

Unlike marine farming these are not commercial activities – why should we pay compensation in order to create a place for our kids to learn about the natural diversity and abundance of marine life?”

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