Aquaculture is one of Australia's fastest growing primary industries. As indicated in the section Value of fisheries production, the 1999-2000 farmgate value of production was $678m, compared with $188m in 1989-90. The major sectors contributing to this growth were pearl and edible oysters, Atlantic salmon and southern bluefin tuna.
Australia has enjoyed a relatively long history of success in farming the Sydney rock oyster. Pearl culture operations, prawn, barramundi, freshwater crayfish and ornamental fish farming operations are also now well established. The production of juveniles of several species of fin fish, molluscs and crustaceans has been undertaken for some years, initially for restocking wild populations and more recently as stock for grow-out operations providing mature fish to restaurants and export markets.
Australian aquaculture is expected to continue to show strong growth for the next 10 years and, on current estimates, the value of production will be in excess of $1b by the end of this period. The industry provides regional development and employment opportunities in rural Australia, as well as contributing to export growth.
An Aquaculture Action Agenda was jointly announced by the Federal Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and Industry, Science and Resources, on 24 May 2000. The boost provided by the Action Agenda program will assist government and industry to develop strategies which maximise industry growth opportunities, increase export opportunities, improve innovation and expand the skills base of people working in the industry.
Developmental work is taking place in a number of areas including in a range of fin fish, freshwater crayfish (marron), mussels and algae. Research is continuing into the hatchery rearing of species such as abalone, scallops, giant clams, and flat and pearl oysters. Over half by value of the established aquaculture output goes to markets other than for direct consumption. However, the output of the newer industries goes mainly to markets for direct consumption.
The operational responsibility for the development of aquaculture in Australia rests with State and Territory Governments. A number of States have aquaculture and coastal development plans in place. These plans take into account the needs of the various user groups and provide a focus for aquaculture as an industry and as a legitimate user of water and land resources.
Aquaculture provides a basis for improved biological understanding of Australia's native marine and freshwater species and can be used to re-establish populations of endangered aquatic species. Aquaculture also improves the catch in both recreational and commercial fisheries through restocking programs.