The Trust Board’s long term vision for aquaculture is to “maximise the water space for Whakatōhea by generating financial returns and creating sustainable employment”. This vision sets the pathway for opportunity and involvement in the aquaculture industry where whānau, hapū, iwi and the community can work together.
Eastern Sea Farms
In 2001 Eastern Sea Farms Limited (ESFL) was established by the Trust Board and its partners. The Trust Board owns 54% of the shareholding and Sealord (New Zealand’s largest fishing company) own 26% with New Zealand Sea Farms Limited owning 20%.
In 2001 ESL made an application for consent to farm 3,800 hectares of water space 8.5 kilometers off the coast of Ōpōtiki. Resource consent was required to farm the water space and this was granted in 2009 for a period of 20 years with the right to renewal. It has taken 10 years of legislative change and resource consent approval to get to this point.
The Trust Board decided that if they were to develop the water space they needed to take a commercial approach. First they had to do the research and then carry out commercial trials before moving into full commercialization. The Trust Board has taken a measured approach to first understand the water space, the nutrient levels, water temperature and wave and wind patterns to identify which species would be best suited to these conditions.
ESFL undertook five years of research and this was carried out by our science provider, The Cawthron Institute. The Cawthron Institute report, “Feasibility of Open Ocean Aquaculture in New Zealand” examined the climatic influences that determine the engineering design requirements of open ocean farms and the availability of food, growth and condition measurements for mussels, scallops and oysters. From here the Cawthron Institute carried out a feasibility assessment of open ocean aquaculture at the Ōpōtiki site on eight species as well as a feasibility study into Greenshell mussels and New Zealand sea cucumbers.
ESFL has been carrying out a small scale mussel commercial trial to verify the research data. We have put 3 backbone lines in the water in October 2010 with approximately 3,000 meters of culture rope on each backbone rope. There has been good natural spat caught for the first two seasons. The mussels grew to 95 millimeters in length in 14 months with yields of over 9 kgs per meter of culture rope. The mussels are clean and have a unique bright green color. We have added spat ropes and will continue to grow the mussels on for another 12 months trialing different types of culture rope and buoy designs to measure consistency and structural strength.