Inland saline aquaculture is the use of saline groundwater in inland areas of Australia to grow aquatic animals and plants for commercial use. Inland terrestrial saline waters in Australia occur as ephemeral rivers and lakes and within an extensive network of reliable saline groundwater, with the Great Artesian Basin, the Perth Basin and the Canning Basin being the most extensive.
Inland saline aquaculture overcomes some of the more significant barriers normally associated with pump ashore marine pond aquaculture including cheaper access to land, the potential to offset pumping costs with saline water interception schemes; and improved biosecurity opportunities. The challenges and opportunities with ISA vary state to state; for example, Victoria, NSW and SA have access to large volumes of pumped salt water through the Murray Darling Basin Authorities, which attempts to limit saltwater incursion into freshwater irrigation. However in some areas, in particular NSW, SA and some areas in QLD, the groundwater needs significant fortification to overcome ionic deficiencies. Queensland and Western Australia lack the large scale irrigation schemes, but do have access to saline water diversion schemes from open cut mining and suitable ground water in shallow aquifers.
Identifying suitable species for ISA was one of the main focuses of the initial research carried out by the FRDC and other organisations, with Barramundi (Allan, Dignam, & Fielder, 2001), Mulloway (Doroudi, Fileder, Allan, & Webster, 2006; Guy & Cowden, 2012), Snapper (Fielder, Bardsley, & Allan, 2001), Salmonids (Ingram, Gooley, & McKinnon, 1996), Prawns (Collins, Russell, Walls, & Hoang, 2005) and Kingfish (Hutchinson & Flowers, 2008) all having large R&D investment portfolio’s exploring their viability in ISA, to varying degrees of success.
The landscape for aquaculture in Australia has changed drastically over the past 25 years from when the initial interest in research and commercial production in inland saline aquaculture started. Alternatives to large scale marine coastal commercial aquaculture is being sought, whilst there has been a maturation in suitable aquaculture technology. The increasing investment in aquaculture in Australia opens up the door to leveraging existing capital and expertise in the industry to help establish the vision that was initially envisaged. A consolidation and interpretation of current best practice from domestic and international production and a re-engagement of current and emerging industry stakeholders in inland saline aquaculture may see it reach its full potential soon.
Key FRDC investments include:
Inland saline aquaculture: proceedings of a workshop held in Perth, Western Australia, 6-7 August 1997. FRDC was a co-sponsor for a workshop held in 1997 that began the momentum for research investment in inland saline aquaculture
1998 – 335 Development of a national plan for inland saline aquaculture; 2004-241 Coordination of inland saline aquaculture R&D in Australia. Project led by Geoff Allan sought to coordinate, communicate, and consolidate the R&D investments and pathways for ISA, with an explicit aim to facilitate the rapid commercialisation of ISA technology and produce the R&D building blocks from which an ISA industry could proliferate.
There have been numerous state and federal government initiatives and other RDC investments that have investigated the potential of inland saline aquaculture, including:
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) invested in a pilot scale system at a salt interception scheme in northern Victoria
NSW DPI – has put in a significant amount of investment in investigating the potential for inland saline aquaculture across a number of species and locations
SARDI – South Australian Research and Development Institute looked at multiple species, technology and water quality issues associated with the use of saline water from irrigation diversion schemes.
DPI&F – Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) in Queensland has done extensive ground water surveys to determine the viability of inland prawn farming
Curtin University – Western Australia has identified areas suitable for ISA and the possible barriers for its commercial uptake in the region