Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic plants and animals.
In Western Australia, commercial aquaculture produces species including barramundi, mussels, marron, silver perch, rainbow trout and yabbies. However, the biggest earner is the pearling industry, which specialises in South Sea pearls and brings in about $90 million annually.
Boosting aquaculture in WA
Aquaculture is necessary to improve nutrition and food security and to supply growing global demand for seafood, which can’t be met by wild fisheries. Most future increase in demand is likely to be met from aquaculture production, which would have to double globally by 2030 to keep pace.
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 world markets.
To demonstrate its commitment to further industry development, the State Government has released a Statement of Commitment that recognises aquaculture as an important industry and a valuable use of WA’s natural resources.
As part of this commitment, one aquaculture development zone for marine finfish has been established in the Kimberley region and two more are being developed in the Mid West and south coast. In the Kimberley and Mid West zones, species with potential include barramundi and yellowtail kingfish, while the south coast zone will have a focus on shellfish.
In 2012-13, the value of production for WA commercial fisheries and aquaculture was $427 million, with aquaculture (including pearling) contributing about $96 million (22 per cent). While WA’s fisheries are sustainable, aquaculture is likely to represent the strongest growth opportunity.
Aside from pearling, WA aquaculture has continued to expand. Since 2007, production has grown strongly, particularly for finfish. The value (excluding pearling) in 2012-13 was almost $17 million, about 70 per cent of that from finfish. Abalone aquaculture is also growing strongly and there is a well-established and valuable algae industry in WA not included in the figures above.
The industry is growing and diversifying and there are signs growth will continue. Growth is expected for finfish, abalone, algae and prawns.
Besides producing food, aquaculture can also be used for: producing nutritional and industrial compounds; boosting numbers of wild fish for recreational fishing; restoring threatened and endangered species; rebuilding important shellfish habitats; and providing ornamental fish, coral and live rock for aquariums.
Emerging sectors with capacity for growth in WA include species such as coral and artemia. New species groups such as kelp and seaweeds may also emerge.
Aquaculture can benefit Aboriginal communities through opportunities to participate in and help develop the industry. For example, by establishing businesses that provide services for projects, such as environmental monitoring, or developing land and infrastructure that can be leased to aquaculture ventures.
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.
The Government’s Statement of Commitment will stimulate investment and provide certainty to the industry and community mainly by:
ensuring access to natural resources, including coastal waters suitable for large-scale production and wild stocks for use as broodstock;
continuing to reduce unnecessary regulation; and
continuing to provide strong fish health capability within the Department, such as diagnostic services, advice and support.