Shane Jones’ Snapper Farming Proposal “Full of Fish Hooks”

A proposal by Fisheries Minister Shane Jones for the farming of snapper has been described by an outdoor recreation organisation as “injudicious and a fallacy”. 

Tony Orman, past chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, said fish farming was no substitute for proper management of the wild sea fishery.

“Besides fish farming to quote the words of a top American fishery hatcheries expert, some time ago, is that fish farming is capital intensive, high risk and only marginally economic,” he said. “The comment was made at the time, relative to trout farming proposals for New Zealand.”

In a recent statement Fisheries minister Shane Jones said a new project to breed ‘super’ snapper, more resistant to disease, that would grow faster and thrive in warm water could help drive more economic growth through aquaculture.

However Tony Orman said snapper farming had been tried in the Pelorus Sound in Marlborough, but it failed and the captive fish, in poor condition, had to be released. 

“Likely is the minister isn’t aware of this failed fish farming venture. It was found the snapper did not grow fast enough and suffered in the poor conditions, so within two years they pulled the plug and let  the  snapper swim away.”

Poor feed conversion

The feed conversion factor for snapper is 2.9, (i.e. for every kilogram of flesh produced, it takes 2.9 kg of food) which is greatly in performance below the 1.2 for Atlantic salmon or the 1.8 for King salmon he said. 

If the food for fish farms is coming from the sea, there is potential problems for the ecosystem’s food chain with mass removal of small herrings, sprats etc., to feed the artificial snapper rearing.

Tony Orman said the minister probably acting on departmental advice, had championed the 50 percent foreign owned King Salmon’s fish farming in the Marlborough Sounds. However minister Jones seemed unaware of King Salmon’s problems which reflected in the “high risk” character of fish farming.

Fish deaths have been high from King Salmon’s operations and tonnes of dead fish are dumped monthly at the Blenheim refuse station.

Tony Orman said initially he tried to get the tonnage figures from the Marlborough District Council but this was refused on the “flimsy” grounds of ”commercial sensitivity.” He asked the Ombudsman to investigate, who after scrutiny ordered the local council to release the figures.

Weak Economic Value

On economic grounds, Tony Orman said a major weakness of pro-fish farm advocacy is the economics. Past fish farm ventures have invariably struggled due to the high risk of disease due to over-crowding as fish farms try to squeeze any profit be it small, out of operations. For New Zealand to compete against other countries’ fish farm production, such as Norway, nearer to export markets, is a difficult task.

“Instead  forget the fallacious fish farm idea and focus on getting New Zealand’s natural fishery harvesting unshackled from the monopolistic quota management system, dominated by the big corporate companies,” he said.

In conversation a few years ago, with a ministry of fisheries scientist, Tony Orman was told a major obstacle to getting proper management was the strong political influence of corporate fishing companies.


Tony Orman –  “fish farming is capital intensive, high risk and only marginally economic,”
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7 Responses to Shane Jones’ Snapper Farming Proposal “Full of Fish Hooks”

  1. Bosun Huntley says:

    A Blimmin Good article! I agree with all points!

  2. Meg Adams says:

    Leave the snapper in their natural environment and look forward to catching a heahty speciman for dinner.

  3. Peter Trolove says:

    “Closing the cycle” is a technically challenging task as marine fish typically have orders of magnitude more but smaller eggs than salmon and trout. Suitable water parameters must be provided and microscopic live feed must be able to be grown to feed fry to a stage that they can take pelleted feed. Halibut, cod, sea bream, trumpeter, and kingfish can now be farmed
    Shane Jones’ reference to a “super” snapper is a concern however as genetic pollution from escapees are a very serious downside to farming finned fish.
    New Zealand King Salmon had developed genetically modified salmon and despite MAF ordering their destruction it took ten years before NZKS complied.
    Aquaculture may have superficial appeal to politicians and their “policy advisors”, but any expansion of this industry must be thoughtfully managed and regulated.
    NZ typically attracts “cowboys” when novel ventures become fashionable.
    In marine environments disease incursions and escapees are much more problematic as it is usually too late to put the genie back in the bottle.
    Globally aquaculture has been responsible for spreading many economically destructive fish diseases around the world that can never be eradicated. Vaccines may save the day on the fish farm, but wild fish cannot be helped.
    Has the government developed adequate regulatory and diagnostic support for its aquaculture ambitions? (Biosecurity, fish vets, diagnostic laboratories, etc).
    NZ was found wanting in recent times when “NZ” Rickettsia-Like-Organisms (NZ-RLOs) “appeared” on salmon farms around the South Island.

  4. Charles Baycroft says:

    Unless this has changed, the foreshore, seabed and marine resources are still legally owned by the citizens of New Zealand and are supposed to be managed for the benefit of the citizens of New Zealand.
    The best and most appropriate use of these communal resources would therefore be to feed the citizens of New Zealand who own them.
    In that regard, the proposal to “farm” Snapper and other communally owned species is depriving NZ citizens of access to what they legally own.
    Farming is a private enterprise in which domesticated species are owned and commercially raised on privately owned property.
    This “model” does not apply to privatizing, commercializing and exploiting communally owned resources for financial gain without the consent of the majority of the citizens who are the legal owners.
    In reality, the Snapper habitat is already a communally owned natural fish farm that all citizens can access for recreation and food.
    Privatizing our communal resources is legalized theft.

  5. "Rate and Tax Payer" says:

    Interesting angle re seabed being public. These aquaculture ventures as I understand, don’t pay any rates or rental for occupying the sea bed.

  6. Rex N. Gibson says:

    The mind set of Shane Jones and Co is still in the 19th Century where environmental rape and pillage for profit was lauded. It was the economic equivalent of eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. The “we” being humankind and half the ecosystems of our planet. The devastated Marlborough Sounds and Hauraki Gulf sea floor ecosystems are now like the Sahara or the American dust bowl thanks to that sort of economic irresponsibility. Well written Tony

  7. Postman Pat says:

    Tony Orman has done his research as usual. Pity Shane Jones and his advisers haven’t. Maybe Mr Jones should sack his advisers and hire Tony?

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