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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Frequently asked questions – Mid West Aquaculture Development Zone

1. Why establish aquaculture operations at the Abrolhos Islands? 

Exhaustive site selection processes determined that the Abrolhos Islands​ with its deep, well-mixed waters and large areas of sandy benthic environment was a suitable location for a finfish aquaculture industry to develop.

2. How big is the zone? 

The zone is comprised of two areas, a northern section (2,200 hectares) and a southern section (800 hectares) for a total of 3,000 hectares. The southern area of the zone is subject to an existing aquaculture licence. 

3. When will prospective aquaculture operators be able to take up a lease in the zone? 

Declaration of the zone on 15 September is the first essential step. Following the declaration, on Monday 18 September, we will invite applications​ for licences and leases in the Mid West zone. We will begin considering applications after eight weeks, on Friday 10 November. Decisions will be made as soon as practicable after that date in accordance with the process set out in the Zone Allocation Policy.

4. How many leases will be granted in the zone? 

The intent is to obtain the optimum use of the available zone area. The number, size and location of leases that may be established within the zone will be influenced by several factors including the size of individual proposals, lease site separation and appropriate biosecurity measures. 

5. What kind of aquaculture systems will be used? 

Aquaculture​ production systems in the zone will be in the form of conventional floating sea-cages, which use circular flotation rings to support nets that contain the fish being cultured. These systems are usually set within a grid pattern and anchored to the seabed. 

6. What species of marine finfish will be cultured in the zone? 

Any species of marine finfish that occur naturally within the Mid West region may be cultured in the zone. The most likely species to be cultured initially is yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi). 

7. What limits apply to the annual production of marine finfish from the zone? 

The total allowable biomass (that is, the maximum weight of fish in the water) is set to an environmentally-acceptable 24,000 tonnes. For a species such as yellowtail kingfish, that biomass is equivalent to an annual production of 48,000 tonnes. 

8. Will the zone be marked? 

The on-water boundary of the zone will not be marked as passage within the zone is non-exclusive, that is, not restricted to aquaculture operators. However, the Department of Transport will require sea-cages to be marked with lights and signs to aid navigation. 

9. I’m a commercial fisher – how will the zone affect me? 

For most activities it is unlikely that commercial fishing will be significantly impeded. You will be able to fish inside the zone providing you fish outside of the sea-cages and do not interfere with aquaculture gear, including markers and anchors, or aquaculture stock. The sea-cages will take up less than five per cent of the surface area of the zone. Some forms of fishing may be incompatible with the aquaculture requirements for the zone. If you feel you may be affected please contact us to discuss your concerns. 

10. I’m a recreational fisher – how will the zone affect me? 

It is unlikely that recreational fishing will be affected. You will be able to fish inside the zone providing you do not disturb or interfere with aquaculture gear or aquaculture stock. The sea-cages will take up less than five per cent of the surface area of the zone. 

11. I’m a traditional owner in this area – how will the zone affect me? 

It is unlikely that you will be affected. You will be able to continue to conduct traditional activities, including fishing and hunting inside the zone, providing you do not disturb or interfere with aquaculture gear or aquaculture stock. There are also potential opportunities for indigenous people to be involved in the zone, including in the areas of employment and training. 

12. I’m in the tourism business – how will the zone affect me? 

The establishment of the zone won’t affect your access to this area, or your activities inside or outside the zone. In fact, the zone is likely to increase tourism opportunities by providing additional features of interest. 

13. How will the environmental values of the Abrolhos Islands be protected? 

Environmental and technical studies, expert advice and ecosystem modelling have helped determine the capacity of the environment and enabled appropriate management strategies to be developed. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has assessed the strategic proposal and determined that the zone will not put its environmental objectives at risk.

14. Why do we establish aquaculture zones? 

The Western Australian Government is committed to the development of a sustainable marine aquaculture industry. Establishing aquaculture development zones for marine finfish will provide opportunities for existing aquaculture operations to expand and new aquaculture operations to be created in Western Australia. This will provide significant economic benefits to the local community through job creation opportunities and regional economic diversification.

15. Why do we need to declare these zones? 

Declared aquaculture development zones streamline the approvals processes for commercial aquaculture projects within the zoned areas and provide an ‘investment ready’ platform for prospective local and international investors. 

16. What difference does the approval of the strategic environmental assessment make? 

A strategic environmental assessment examines the cumulative environmental impact of large-scale projects and supports sustainable development. The assessment is conducted by the EPA. It is designed to ensure all environmental concerns, including potential cumulative effects of multiple operations in the location, are considered and incorporated in environmental management plans.

17. Who will manage the zones and how? 

We will manage operations in the zones on behalf of the Minister for Fisheries. The zones will be managed through an integrated management framework consisting of several key components, including aquaculture legislation under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994. Key environmental documents are the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan and the Marine Fauna Interaction Management Plan. Fisheries will monitor against these plans to demonstrate compliance with the EPA’s approval of the strategic proposal. In addition, derived operators will be required to comply with aquaculture licence and lease conditions and appropriate biosecurity.​ 


Last modified: 18/09/2017 9:20 AM

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