A fast growing sector

An extra billion consumers globally are expected by 2030, needing an estimated additional 25 million tonnes of seafood. With limited room for expansion in the commercial fishing sector (wild-catch) most of the additional supply will have to come from aquaculture.

Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing primary industry sectors and continues to be an important part of Australian fisheries production. The gross value of aquaculture production increased by 10 per cent in 2015–16 to $1.31 billion and accounted for 43 per cent of the gross value of Australian fisheries production.

A place for innovation

The aquaculture sector often features business 'smart', value-adding ventures, 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 seafood.

To ensure that aquaculture continues to develop, we need significant investments to secure land and water resources, production technologies, supply chain development, value-adding marketing and promotion, and people development.

Australian aquaculture is in a position to capitalise on progress in breeding and disease management, and from associated technological advances that can increase yield while reducing environmental impact. Improved production techniques also have the potential to 'grow' seafood with the smallest use of environmental resources of any primary production sector.

Future challenges

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 has been relatively high in Australia compared to other countries. Advanced techniques and technologies have the potential to reduce how much it costs to make Australian aquaculture a more competitive industry.

Aquatic animal health remains a challenge for this sector, with disease outbreaks continuing to be a major risk and there is a need for further research on disease diagnostic capability, surveillance and treatment.

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 close to residential areas, where conflict can arise between the industry, local communities and recreational users of the waterways. Lack of support from some sections of the community is a major factor impacting access to suitable locations. Further research is needed to understand and evaluate the interactions between aquaculture, local users, communities and other fishing and aquaculture sectors.

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.

A Northern Australia CRC funded project 'Aquaculture opportunities in Northern Australia: Solutions and Strategies' identifies key challenges and opportunities facing the North Australian aquaculture sector and explores potential solutions and priorities for future research. 

Sector Statistics (2015-16)

  • Gross production value of $1.3 billion
  • Gross production volume of 97 046 tonnes
  • Sector accounts for 43 per cent gross fisheries production value and 36 per cent gross fisheries production volume
  • Salmonids production accounted for 55 per cent of the total value of Australian aquaculture production and 58 per cent of the total volume of aquaculture production.

For more information on Australian aquaculture statistics see the Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016 .