Western Australia’s fledgling aquaculture industry has been given a boost, with the state environmental watchdog giving its tick to a proposed 2,000-hectare development zone in the Kimberley.
The Environmental Protection Authority of WA today gave its nod to the Kimberley Aquaculture Development Zone at Cone Bay, which will have a maximum production capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year of fish, not including crustaceans, molluscs or any other aquatic animals.
The proposal, which will be the state's first aquaculture development zone, will allow for the construction of sea cage fish farms at Cone Bay, 215 kilometres north-east of Broome.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the creation of an aquaculture development zone would pave the way for the sustainable development of the industry in WA.
“Assessing the zone as a strategic proposal means that the EPA is able to assess the cumulative impacts of future aquaculture projects, rather than assessing impacts on a case by case basis as individual projects are received, or as expansion of existing operations occurs,” Dr Vogel said in a statement.
“The proponent will ensure that the proposal causes no irreversible loss of benthic communities and will implement monitoring and management plans to achieve the levels of ecological protection set out in the recommended conditions.”
The EPA was referred the proposal by the Department of Fisheries.
The EPA's report is open for a two-week public appeal period, after which Environment Minister Albert Jacob will make the final decision.
Perth-based Marine Produce Australia has previously been active pursuing the development of an aquaculture project at Cone Bay, holding a 21-year lease over 699ha of water, with the option to renew the lease for at least another 21 years.
In September 2012, MPA raised $4.5 million to expand its Cone Bay barramundi fishing operations, while the state government had approved the harvest of 2,000t of barramundi per year, which MPA hoped to achieve by 2015.