Aquaculture forms a critical element of the future of global seafood supply and is the fastest-growing food industry in the world, already a $243.5 billion industry (O’Shae et al., 2019) in 2018 it provided 52% of seafood for human consumption (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020). From an estimated global population of 7.7 billion people in 2019, the global population could grow to 10.9 billion in 2100 (United Nations, 2019). To feed these people, food production must double in the face of limited resources and a changing climate. Seafood based food strategies have the potential to substantially contribute to global food and nutrition security (Hicks et al., 2019).
Global seafood production is currently about 170 million metric tons, and by 2030 an additional 44 million metric tons will be needed to meet the demand for seafood (World Bank, 2013) of which a projected 109 million tonnes of fish, providing 60% of the world’s fish consumption, will come from aquaculture (FAO, 2018).
A place for innovation
The aquaculture sector often features innovative companies, with larger enterprises processing, packaging and branding their own produce.
Increased consumer demand for Australian-produced seafood is driving industry growth and creating opportunities to integrate production from the 'hatchery' through to consumers. Aquaculture is on course to be the major provider of Australian seafood.
To ensure that aquaculture continues to develop in a sustainable manner, we need significant investments to secure appropriate land and water resources, improve production technologies, supply chain development, value-added products, marketing and promotion, and people development.
Australian aquaculture is capitalising on progress in selective breeding and disease management, and from associated technological advances that can increase yield while reducing environmental impact. Improved aquaculture production and management techniques have the potential to 'grow' seafood with the smallest use of environmental resources of any primary production sector.
Seaweed aquaculture in Australia is a promising industry with a wide range of potential uses such as food, animal feed, biofuels, and fertilizers. Seaweed can be grown both on land and at sea, with minimal environmental impact. The commercial seaweed farming industry in Australia is rapidly expanding, with companies harvesting Asparagopsis from marine and land based farms for agricultural use in Tasmania, South Australia, Southern Western Australia, Southern New South Wales, Northern Australia and regional Queensland.
Of major consideration for Australian aquaculture is its ability to make its end product affordable and economical, both domestically and internationally. The cost of production can be relatively high in Australia compared to other countries. Advanced techniques and technologies have the potential to reduce how much it costs to make seafood produced by Australian aquaculture increasingly more competitive for consumers.
A major impediment to the increase of aquaculture is access to suitable production areas (both land and water). This is mostly a concern in coastal regions. Further research to understand and evaluate aquaculture systems that make more efficient use of available sites, increase land based production and allow production in off-shore waters, is ongoing.
Certification processes are being used in aquaculture to promote environmental and production credentials and build consumer and societal trust. Those in aquaculture believe that achieving such credentials will improve public perceptions of this sector.
ABARES Australian fisheries and aquaculture outlook report contains ABARES forecasts for the value of Australian fisheries and aquaculture production and exports, including for the key species rock lobster, salmonids, abalone, tuna and prawns. For detailed historic data of fisheries and aquaculture production, consumption and trade see Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics.
The growth of Australian aquaculture has been largely driven by an increase in salmonid production and a decline in wild-caught production. In recent years the aquaculture sector has been broadening the composition of species produced – with an increased emphasis on prawns, abalone, oysters and finfish varieties, including barramundi and kingfish.
The GVP of aquaculture is forecast to increase by 11% to $2.29 billion in 2022–23, driven by higher production values of salmonids, tuna, abalone and prawns. Aquaculture GVP is projected to stabilise over the medium term, easing to $2.21 billion in real terms by 2027–28. Prices for salmonids, prawns and abalone are expected to ease over the medium term, with lower growth in production volumes for these species. The significant expansion of the Tasmanian aquaculture industry in the previous 2 decades is anticipated to slow as Australia’s broader aquaculture sector matures.