Marine farming's contribution to New Zealand economy
The extraordinary contribution marine farming makes to Marlborough and the wider New Zealand economy is detailed in a new report.
Marlborough waters deliver around 62 percent of the country’s aquaculture production by tonnes, dominated by greenshell mussels and salmon.
Despite this productivity and the value delivered, aquaculture expansion has plateaued and even faces the real risk of a decline.
About 20 percent of the Sounds, largely in Pelorus Sound, Port Underwood and Admiralty Bay, is zoned for aquaculture but current practice limits marine farming to near shore margins rather than mid-bay developments, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report released this week says.
“There is uncertainty about the future cost and security of aquaculture because 56 percent of farms face consent renewal by 2025. Potential changes to consent renewals for existing sites as well as expansions or changes to current operations would add to costs which the Marine Farming Association (MFA) has estimated could exceed $40 million if applied to all existing marine farms sites in the Marlborough Sounds.”
The MFA commissioned the report to quantify the sector’s economic contribution.
Among its findings are that aquaculture:
- provides employment (859) jobs, nearly 4 percent of the region’s total labour force.
- pays substantially higher than average wages.
- generated export sales of $276 million in 2014.
- contributed almost 6 percent ($162 million to Marlborough’s regional GDP.
Aquaculture is the main growth area for seafood production, now accounting for around 40 percent of worldwide seafood production by weight. In 2011 global aquaculture production surpassed global beef production for the first time. Aquaculture is projected to overtake wild fish harvest of around 90 million tonnes per year in the next few years.
The trend is similar in this country, although growth has slowed.
After rapid expansion through the 1980s and early 1990s, the area of mussel farming in Marlborough has flattened off.
There are around 565 operating mussel farms over a consented area of nearly 3000 hectares, about 2 percent of the total area of the Sounds.
Marlborough also accounts for about two thirds of the national salmon production, which has fallen from about 12,800 tonnes in 2012 to 10,800 tonnes last year.
New Zealand is the dominant supplier of King Salmon (also known as quinnat or chinook) into international markets. The fish achieves a price premium over the more common Atlantic salmon. New Zealand-farmed salmon is endorsed as ‘best choice' by North America’s influential seafood reference guide Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
New Zealand King Salmon applied for a further nine farms in 2012 on top of its existing seven to double or even treble production.
Four of the farms were approved but one of those consents, at Port Gore, was overturned by the Supreme Court.
The New Zealand Aquaculture Strategy adopted by the Government has a goal of achieving $1billion of output by 2025.
That is a big stretch on current production.
The Government rates regional development as a priority. And at last weekend’s Labour Party conference, leader Andrew Little said his three priorities were jobs, jobs and jobs.
In which case we should be able to expect both major political parties to champion aquaculture as they hone their policies ahead of the next election.