Working to protect the environment – Aquaculture Development Zones

Understanding the cumulative environmental impacts arising from the development of several proposals within a specific site or zone is of particular importance to the EPA.

By assessing a ‘strategic proposal’, the EPA is able to consider the collective impacts of a number of projects and recommend measures to manage potential cumulative impacts more effectively.

Strategic proposals ensure that high environmental standards are set from the beginning and potential impacts are identified and addressed early, with the EPA recommending the requirements future operators within this site must meet to mitigate and manage their own impacts on the environment. This approach also allows a more streamlined approval process later for individual operators within the area.

Strategic proposals also allow the EPA to recommend the requirements future operators within this site must meet to mitigate and manage their own impacts on the environment.

Once a strategic proposal has been assessed and approved by the Minister for Environment, future operators are able to refer their projects to the EPA for consideration as a ‘derived’ proposal. This means the approval conditions that apply to the overall precinct will also apply to a derived proposal within the area.

However, derived proposals are not automatically approved. The EPA may refuse to declare a project a derived proposal if it fails to meet specific requirements from the strategic approval or it identifies new environmental issues that were not addressed during the strategic assessment.

The EPA’s discretion to declare a derived proposal provides assurance that any new environmental issues are considered.

Since 2014, the EPA has assessed and recommended approval for two strategic proposals from the Department of Fisheries (DoF) to establish aquaculture development zones in the Kimberley and Mid West.

The Kimberley Aquaculture Development Zone (KADZ) – the first for WA – is a 2000 hectare zone within Cone Bay with a maximum production capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year of marine finfish which naturally occur within the Pilbara and Kimberley region.

In its report, the EPA recommended conditions to ensure the proposal caused no irreversible loss of benthic communities and that monitoring and management plans were needed to achieve accepted levels of ecological protection.

The KADZ was declared by the State Government in 2014, with two operators currently working within the zone.

In April 2017, the EPA released its assessment of WA’s second large-scale aquaculture development zone – the 3,000 hectare Mid West Aquaculture Development Zone (MWADZ).

Located at the Abrolhos Islands, proposed floating sea cages will be used 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 EPA’s assessment of the MWADZ examined potential impacts on three key environmental factors: Marine Environmental Quality, Benthic Communities and Habitat, and Marine Fauna.

The EPA recommended seven conditions, including requirements for an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan and Marine Fauna Interaction Management Plan to ensure the proposal will avoid or minimise impacts to marine environmental quality and marine fauna. These 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 strategic assessment means that these comprehensive plans will apply to all proponents of future proposals within the zone, ensuring the marine environment is protected.

In addition, the EPA has recommended all infrastructure associated with the MWADZ and its operation be decommissioned and removed to eliminate any legacy issues associated with abandoned infrastructure

The EPA’s report and recommendations to the Minister for Environment on the Mid West Aquaculture Development Zone was open to public appeal (closing April 18, 2017). Appeals are administered independently by the Appeals Convenor. The Minister for Environment makes the final decision.

The EPA’s media statement on the MWADZ can be found here

Follow the case history of the KADZ or the MWADZ