King salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), also known as chinook, have been farmed in the Marlborough Sounds for more than 25 years.
Salmon thrive in cool, clear, flowing water and the fast-flowing areas of the Sounds provide such a growing environment.
NZ King Salmon has eight marine farms operating in the Sounds and is seeking to relocate some of these into areas with more suitable current flows.
Their salmon are hatched in fresh water and transferred to sea pens to grow to full size before being harvested and sent to Nelson for processing.
Salmon farming provides jobs and export earnings for the country. For Council, decisions on granting new space for salmon farming or renewing existing consents are a balancing act between the economic benefits of salmon farming, sustainable management and community concerns.
Issues include the effect on the marine environment, visual landscape and recreational space. Unlike mussels, farmed salmon are fed with introduced food pellets. If there is an excess of excreted waste, it can accumulate and have a negative impact on the seafloor.
A collaborative approach between NZ King Salmon, Council and the community has developed a set of best management guidelines that aim for well managed salmon farming in balance with the ecology of the Sounds.
The NZ King Salmon 2012 application for more farms in the Marlborough Sounds highlighted the need for co-operation between industry, Council and the community when it comes to protecting the Sounds.
That protection comes from conditions in a farm’s resource consent that state what can and can’t be done in the marine environment and it’s the Council’s job to monitor and enforce those conditions.
Historically, environmental standards vary from salmon farm to salmon farm, depending on when the consents were given. To get consistency and help with compliance, King Salmon volunteered to work with Council, the Ministry for Primary Industries, scientists and the community (represented by the Sounds Advisory Group) to develop best practice guidelines.
Council sought the advice of Professor Kenneth Black of the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences to identify where the consent monitoring could be improved. Professor Black visited Marlborough in 2013 and provided expert review as the guidelines developed.
With the benefit of more science about the environmental impact on the seafloor of fish farming, this collaborative approach has come up with clear performance targets that aim for well managed salmon farming in balance with the ecology of the Sounds.
King Salmon and Council sought public comment on the guidelines in October 2014. Some minor changes were made and the guidelines were presented to Council in November 2014.
These are being progressively implemented at King Salmon’s farms.