Western Australia’s second large-scale aquaculture development zone has been recommended for approval by the Environmental Protection Authority.
The 3,000 hectare Mid West Aquaculture Development Zone (MWADZ), to be located at the Abrolhos Islands, will use floating sea cages to grow marine finfish that naturally occur within the region. The zone will have set limits on tonnes of fish to be cultured and stocking densities.
The Department of Fisheries proposal, on behalf of the Minister for Fisheries, follows the Kimberley Aquaculture Zone, which began production in 2014.
EPA Chairman Dr Tom Hatton said the project was assessed as a strategic proposal, allowing the independent board to examine the potential cumulative impacts of future aquaculture projects within the zone, rather than assess individual proposals on a case-by-case basis.
“The benefit of assessing a strategic proposal is that we are able to look at the potential impacts of proposals that if implemented singly or in combination may have a significant effect on the environment,” Dr Hatton said.
Dr Hatton said aquaculture operators will be required to refer their projects to the EPA to determine if they meet the high environmental standards set by the strategic assessment. However, if there is significant new information or environmental issues raised that were not adequately addressed when the strategic proposal was assessed, the EPA has the option to assess each individual future proposal.
The EPA’s assessment of the MWADZ examined potential impacts on three key environmental factors: Marine Environmental Quality, Benthic Communities and Habitats, and Marine Fauna.
The EPA recommended seven conditions, including requirements for monitoring and management plans to ensure the proposal will avoid or minimise impacts to marine environmental quality and marine fauna. Plans will also ensure the environmental values of the Abrolhos Islands will be protected and there will be no adverse impacts on the viability of the Abrolhos Islands populations of Australian Sea lions and seabirds.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing April 18, 2017. Appeals are administered independently by the Appeals Convenor and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au The Minister for Environment will make the final decision.
EPA Report 1593 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au
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