Opponents of new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds deployed their own patrol vessels in a protest flotilla today.
Guardians of the Sounds chairman Peter Beech said people wanted to show their opposition to King Salmon’s application to build nine more fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds with a peaceful demonstration.
The group did not want protesters boarding existing New Zealand King Salmon farms or shouting abuse at farm workers.
About 40 boats gathered at the company’s original salmon farm at Ruakaka Bay around 11am before going across to proposed farm sites at Kaitapeha and Rua o Moko at the entrance to Tory Channel.
Organisers had originally wanted 100 boats but Mr Beech said he was happy with the turnout.
‘‘That’s a lot of boats to have milling around in one place,’’ he said. ‘‘We had a message to get across and we achieved that without any nonsense. There’s nothing to be gained by yelling and screaming.’’
Protesters had earlier assembled at the Waikawa Marae and marched to Waikawa Bay foreshore before taking to the water.
King Salmon has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for a private plan change and resource consents so it can farm fish at nine new sites in the Marlborough Sounds, including eight where aquaculture is prohibited by the Marlborough District Council.
An EPA board of inquiry has heard five weeks of submissions for and against the proposed sites in what is expected to be an eight-week hearing in Blenheim.
Picton man Mr Beech said today’s floating protest was for people who missed their chance to oppose the application during King Salmon’s original 20-day submission period.
A police boat accompanied the flotilla during the two-hour demonstration.
Picton station sergeant Kris Payne said police weren’t there to stop people voicing their concerns.
‘‘Credit to the protesters. They wanted to get their message across in a peaceful way and we were happy with that.’’
New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the 40-strong flotilla showed a lack of support for the protest.
The new farms would create 370 sustainable, high-value jobs in Marlborough, Mr Rosewarne said.
‘‘A lot of other areas would appreciate that same opportunity.’’