Australian aquaculture making strides: Burke

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th July 2009

A report released yesterday by ABARE has highlighted an 8% increase in the value of Australian aquaculture despite an overall value decline of one per cent for the seafood industry last year.

The total volume of Australian fisheries production fell by 3 per cent (7,800 tonnes) to 236,000 tonnes, while the overall value fell by one per cent to $2.19 billion.

Tasmania was the largest producer by value (22%) followed by South Australia (21%) and Western Australia (20%), with the northern prawn fishery the most valuable fishery in value terms*, contributing $74 million of the gross value of production. Other value leaders were the Commonwealth trawl sector ($46 million) of the southern and eastern scalefish and shark fishery, and the southern bluefin tuna fishery ($45 million).

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said the report outlined the potential of Australia’s aquaculture industry.

“Aquaculture presents great opportunities for Australian fisheries to be part of the solution to world food security, particularly with the pressures on wildcatch fisheries,” Mr Burke suggested.

Australian aquaculture was worth $868 million in 2007-08, about 40 per cent of the gross value of Australia’s fisheries production. Increases in aquaculture production contrast with an overall decline in production and value of wildcatch fish, with Australia becoming a net importer of fisheries products in value terms.

“The fisheries sector faces a number of challenges – the appreciation of the Australian dollar, declining export volumes and falling prices for export species such as rock lobster and prawns all contributed to Australia becoming a net importer,” Mr Burke advised. “Changing the way we manage our fish populations, including a greater role for aquaculture, will help to meet these challenges.”

“Last year in Tasmania for example, aquaculture production was more than six times the production a decade earlier in 1997-98,” he added. “This means new opportunities for jobs – about one-third of people in the fishing industry are employed in aquaculture, including a rising number of indigenous aquaculture enterprises.”

The report outlined the top five species by volume and value, with Australian Sardines on top by volume – ahead of Salmonids, Prawns, Tuna and Rock Lobster. In terms of value, the Rock Lobster led the way with sales worth $407 million – ahead of Salmonids ($299m), Prawns ($268m), Tuna ($210m) and Abalone ($189m).

The in-depth ABARE report can be found by clicking here.

* Of all the Commonwealth managed fisheries.