Aquaculture industry in Australia

As populations in Australia and around the world grow, so too does the demand for sustainable sources of seafood.

Seafood demand in Australia has increased considerably over the last three decades. Currently, Australia’s consumer demand for seafood exceeds the supply from domestic production and continues to grow. Domestic aquaculture has the potential to significantly expand to help meet domestic and international demand.

Aquaculture production occurs throughout Australia, from the tropical north to the temperate south. The aquaculture industry is largely based in regional Australia and makes a significant and positive contribution to regional development.

Since 2002–03 the real gross value of aquaculture production has increased by 12 per cent ($108 million) to over $1 billion. The largest increase over this decade came from the value of production of salmonids (salmon and trout) and edible oysters. In 2012–13 farmed salmonids, almost entirely from Tasmania, were Australia’s most valuable fisheries product, worth $497 million.

The value of Australian aquaculture production increased by around 25 per cent between 2004–05 and 2011–12, reaching a peak of $1.1 billion. In 2012–13 the value (and volume) of Australian aquaculture production declined to just over $1 billion. This was largely due to a decrease in the volume of finfish and crustaceans produced, as well as a decrease in the value of finfish, molluscs and crustaceans.

In 2012–13 aquaculture products comprised 43 per cent of Australian seafood production by value and 35 per cent by weight.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) publish an annual report on Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture statistics. The reports contain data on the volume and value of production from state, territory and Commonwealth commercial fisheries (both wild catch and aquaculture). These reports, along with many others, can be found on the ABARES publications webpage.

Australia has an international reputation as a producer of safe, sustainable and high quality seafood products. Most of the value of Australian aquaculture production comes from high value species such as pearls, salmonids, tuna and oysters but there are over forty species commercially produced in Australia.

The top five aquaculture species groups, in order of production value, are: salmonids, tuna, edible oysters, pearl oysters and prawns.

Other species groups grown in Australia include: abalone, freshwater finfish (such as barramundi, Murray cod, silver perch), brackish water or marine finfish (such as barramundi, snapper, yellowtail kingfish, mulloway, groupers), mussels, ornamental fish, marine sponges, mud crab and sea cucumber.

Rules and regulations

Aquaculture in Australia is managed under strict environmental guidelines. While the Australian Government has a number of important functions in relation to aquaculture, including national programs for research, management of biosecurity, aquatic animal health, food safety, environmental management, and market access and trade, most elements of the regulation of domestic aquaculture production rest with the states and territories.

Aquaculture operations, particularly those that operate in, or discharge into, public waters, are​ required to comply with stringent environmental controls monitored on an ongoing basis by state agencies. Strict food health standards also apply to both aquaculture and wild capture products.

These environmental and food safety standards ensure fish grown in Australian waters are safe to eat and that seafood production does not unduly affect aquatic environments.

Markets and future direction

Australia has established a reputation as a supplier of safe, high quality seafood which is produced using environmentally sustainable practices. Australian aquaculture producers target high value domestic and overseas markets.

The increasing demand for Australian native species and the proximity to Asian markets, together with world recognised seafood quality and standards, means Australian aquaculture is competitively positioned to take on high value aquaculture products.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has predicted that by 2018, farmed fish production will exceed wild fisheries production for human consumption, and that by 2021 more than half of the fish consumed globally will be produced by aquaculture.