Plans for the project on Hao atoll, which is being developed by the Chinese company Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods, have been given backing by the archipelago’s vice-president, Tearii Alpha, despite criticism of the project by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, in July.

Initially forecast to cost $US1.5 billion, after seven years the budget has been downgraded to $US320 million, which would be able to produce 5,000 tonnes of grouper and wrasse a year from cages placed in the atoll’s lagoon.

According to Radio New Zealand, the head of Tahiti Nui Ocean Foods, Wang Chen, said the company still planned to use its three construction permits before they expire in 2022 – a plan that Alpha has endorsed.

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