A Fish Farm next to Looking Glass dive site at Port Stephens? Seriously?

We really dont need a fish farm at port stephens banner

Huon and the DPI are planning a fish farm right next to Broughton Island at Port Stephens – with no Environmental Impact Assessment on the local marine fauna and the tourism industry that depends on it.

With 2,137 km of NSW coast line to choose from, why do Huon and the NSW DPI plan to stick a fish farm right in the middle of an operational tourism area?

They know that this particular area of water is a local biodiversity hotspot supporting a dolphin population, a recently returned breeding seal colony and is central to the whale highway, with an estimated 20,000 whales transiting through the area, including Migaloo, the all white hump back who was there just this weekend! Not only that, but it is directly adjacent to the some of the best dive sites in the area including Broughton Island’s iconic Looking Glass dive site.

Putting a fish farm in the Port Stephens biodiversity hotspot without a proper Environmental Impact Assessment is criminal

Why do they not need a current Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)? They claim that an EIA for a smaller snapper farm, closer to shore, in just 20 metres of water, granted 15 years ago, is still valid for a larger Kingfish farm, 6 kms offshore right between the Heads and Broughton Island, in 40 metres of water. This is obscurification at best – corruption at worse.

Not surprising the local dolphin and whale watching tourism operators including Imagine Cruises and Harmony Visions, as well as both dive centres, Let’s Go Adventures and Feet First Dive are up in arms.

Putting a fish farm on a whale migratory route is madness. These needs a proper Environmental Impact Assessment

What’s at Risk?

This is prime Grey Nurse territory, and any diver in NSW knows that Broughton Island is central to GNS encounters in the Port Stephens area. The excess feed and faecal fall out will likely collect beneath the pens affecting water quality, visibility and will lead to increased levels of nitrogen. How can we afford to risk what you can experience in this video – it’s too priceless.

Common dolphins use the area between Cabbage Tree Island and Broughton Island most mornings for feeding/foraging and resting. The placement of the pens will interrupt the congregation of prey in that area and likely force them to look for food in alternative locations.

Putting a fish farm where common dolphins feed in Port Stephens is not a good idea

An estimated 20,000 whales pass through the area annually, including Migaloo, the all white humpback. The impact on their migration is not taken into consideration. Either there’ll be a lot more entanglements, or more likely, they’ll give the area a wide berth.

Migaloo the all white humpback certainly does not want a fish farm on his migratory route passed Port Stephens

Fur seals don’t have a very good relationship with the aquaculture industry either. In Tasmania, these naturally inquisitive animals are regularly shot at by fisherman and are one of the highest entanglement casualties – 144 seals have died so far in four years as a result of interactions with fish pens.

Putting a fish farm in fur seal habitat is not a good idea. The naturally inquisitive animals get entangled or need to be forcibly scared away
It’s not that the operators are against aquaculture, far from it – but they are questioning the location – surely there must be more suitable locations – especially, as the farm will be serviced by boats out of Newcastle. And, if Huon and the NSW DPI are adamant about the location, then an appropriate and current Environmental Impact Assessment needs to be performed.

There are three things you can do if you agree:

  • Physically sign the State level petition at either of the Dive Shops Feet First or Let’s Go Adventures in Nelson Bay; or at either of the whale watch operators: Imagine Cruises or Harmony Visions
  • Sign the on-line Federal Level petition – just a click away.
  • Write to Rob Stokes MP for the Environment and Planning (there’s a sample letter and contact details on the MPA website).

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(Wildlife photo credits: Lisa Skelton of Imagine Cruises; map by Guy Innes/ Google Earth; Bruce by Diveplanit!)