Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett guarantees water quality will be preserved in Abbot Bay. (Photo: Petergarrett/ Csiro)
Minister approves problematic prawn farm
Monday, March 08, 2010, 09:40 (GMT + 9)
Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett approved an AUD 40 million- (USD 36 million) prawn farm in Guthalungra on Friday subject to 19 strict conditions to guarantee environmental protection for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, listed migratory and threatened species and the Commonwealth marine environment. This will be Australia’s biggest prawn farm and will create important regional jobs.
Pacific Reef Fisheries intends to construct 259 land-based aquaculture ponds covering 1hs each, adjacent to the Elliot River at Guthalungra, north of Bowen in Queensland. The plant would raise 2,500 tonnes of black tiger prawns by 2012 and contribute AUD 29 million (USD 26.1 million) yearly to Queensland's economy, AAP reports.
"The conditions I have placed on this aquaculture development, combined with good project design, will ensure that water quality in Abbot Bay, north of Bowen, will not be further degraded by this project and will set an important example of best practice environmentally sustainable development,” Garrett said.
Still, environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the federal government ought to look at the cumulative effect of several large developments proposed for the Bowen area, including large-scale water infrastructure and a port expansion.
"There's a range of activities happening in that area that on a one by one basis, may look harmless, but ... the federal government must look at whether they have the best mix of projects," said WWF reef catchments manager Piet Filet.
Although the Great Barrier Reef generates billions of dollars each year to the Australian economy and generates a huge number of jobs, the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report released in 2009 shows the reef is under serious pressure from many factors, like a decline in water quality due to increased levels of sediments and nutrients.
Pacific Reef Fisheries will be required to monitor seagrass, coral and water quality in Abbot Bay, and provide regular results to Garrett’s department under the conditional approval granted on Friday.
"Before the facility is built, the design and operation arrangements must be independently assessed, and certified to be able to meet the approved limits of nutrients and sediments entering the bay. Any water used in the prawn farm will undergo complete treatment through sand filtration, sedimentation and settlement ponds, before it is returned to the bay, importantly with no net increase in nutrient and sediment load,” Garrett specified.
If the levels of nutrients and sediment entering the bay from the facility increase to those above which Garrett approved, operations will have to be reduced or stop, the incident must be reported to the minister’s department and a review will have to be done, he insisted.
"This is an important development, but given its environmentally sensitive location immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, I have decided that the development should be completed in stages so that its impacts can be closely monitored. Therefore, Pacific Reef Fisheries will only be able to proceed to the next stage of its development once it demonstrates to my department that it has achieved no net increase over a full production cycle," he affirmed.
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