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Fish farm escape creates environment fears

Published on 23 February, 2006, Last updated at 05:08 GMT

9th Feb, 2006 - Environmentalists are worried about the impact thousands of escaped farm barramundi will have on the marine ecosystem off the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

Storm surge and king tides in waters off Bathurst Island have damaged the Marine Harvest barramundi farm and caused thousands of fish to escape.

Peter Robertson from the Northern Territory Environment Centre says the farmed fish will damage the wild population.

"When they're in large numbers like this they can have a very significant impact on naturally occurring populations of target species that they like to eat and also on other barramundi," he said.

Mr Robertson says he supports the aquaculture industry, so long as there are environmental safeguards.

"There are not adequate environmental impact assessment processes in relation to aquaculture," he said.

"The legislation that covers aquaculture projects is totally inadequate. There are just major, major flaws in the way aquaculture projects are being allowed to develop in the Northern Territory."

Fisheries officers have visited the Marine Harvest farm to inspect the damage.

The Fisheries Department says most of the fish have been swept out to sea and several cages have been recovered from a nearby sandbar.

The Department says there will be a minimal short-term environmental impact, but there is no risk of disease from the escaped fish.


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