Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic plants and animals.
In Western Australia, commercial aquaculture produces species including barramundi, mussels, marron and marine algae.
Apart from pearl production, commercial aquaculture is a relatively small industry in WA but there’s great potential for development, particularly with marine species. With its pristine environment, disease-free status and research expertise, WA is well placed to develop a sector that can supply a major share of high-value seafood and other products to the world’s growing markets.
In WA the biggest earner is the pearling industry, specialising in South Sea pearls, which brings in $100 million annually.
Other aquaculture species include abalone, silver perch, rainbow trout and yabbies.
Marine micro-algae, grown on a large scale, is used for producing beta-carotene, used as a food additive to improve colour and as a nutritional supplement. In the future, marine algae will also be grown for bio-fuels and omega-3 fatty acids.
Species with aquaculture potential include octopus, prawns, brine shrimp, tuna (yellowfin and southern bluefin), yellowtail kingfish and other marine fish. There are also opportunities to develop seaweed (macro-algae) and biotechnology products from marine invertebrates.
Aquaculture can benefit Aboriginal communities through restocking Kimberley reefs with trochus, a large marine snail. A thick layer of nacre (mother-of-pearl) on the trochus shell makes it valuable for export for the manufacture of jewellery and buttons. Local communities often eat the meat.
Aquaculture projects integrated with tourism are emerging. Opportunities exist for pastoralists and farmers to use inland saline and artesian waters to grow fish to supplement their incomes.
There are now 409 licensed aquaculture producers across the State. Marron growing being the sector with most producers.
In 2010/11, the value of aquaculture products (excluding South Sea pearls, hatchery production and algae production for beta carotene) was more than $13 million, an increase of about $3 million from the year before.
The general trend in WA shows good industry growth; aquaculture has gone through the initial stages of development and is now maturing and entering a more rapid growth phase.
To support industry growth, funding has been provided to establish two aquaculture zones for marine finfish.