While 90% of Australia’s abalone is harvested in the wild, the farmed sector is growing rapidly with the highly lucrative Asian shellfish market. Abalone aquaculture is concentrated to the south of Australia in WA, SA, Victoria and Tasmania. There are around 20 farms that produce about 725 tonnes of abalone every year, with production volume increasing by about 25% every year. The main species cultivated is the greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata), with smaller production of the blacklip abalone (Haliotis ruba).
The Australian farmed barramundi industry started in the mid 1980’s. It is now farmed throughout Australia (except Tasmania) by about 100 licensed farmers, producing around 3,500 tonnes of Barramundi every year. There is every indication that the industry will continue to expand, with growth coming from existing farms and new entrants to the industry.
Australian oyster growers farm three main species of oyster in coastal waters: the Sydney Rock oyster (Sacostrea glomerata), the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), and the Native / Flat oyster (Ostrea angasi). The Milky oyster (Sacostrea cucullata) and the Blacklip oyster (Striostria mytiloides) are also found in small volumes.
Mulloway (Argyrosomus jappnicus) is an endemic species that is found along the southern coastline of Australia from Southern QLD to WA. Traditionally, Mulloway have been wild-caught, with SA accounting for the bulk of production. They are however an ideal fish for aquaculture being hardy, fast-growing and highly adaptable. They naturally live in a range of salinities and prefer slightly turbid water, especially when juveniles. They also have a natural preference to form schools and spend long periods of time ‘hovering’ rather than swimming.
The aquaculture of mussels in Australia is focused on the production of a native species of blue mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. Concentrated in the south of country, there are about 25 mussel farms spread across SA, Tasmania, Victoria, Tasmania and the south coasts of both NSW and WA.
The pearl industry in Australia is focused across the northern states and territories, with Broome generally acknowledged as the pearl capital of Australia. Traditionally the industry is focused on the production of South Sea pearls from the Pinctada maxima oyster, although there is an emerging black pearl industry from Pinctada margaritifera oysters, and Akoya pearls from Pinctada fucata martensi oysters.
Prawn farming is Queensland’s largest aquaculture sector, with industry focused on the cultivation of two native species; the black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) and the banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis). Requiring temperatures above 25oC during the production season, the vast majority of farms (95%) are located in Queensland, with a small of number located in northern NSW.
Salmonids (Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout) are the largest contributor to the Australian aquaculture industry, accounting for roughly 50% of production by volume (~43,000 tonnes annually). Worth $0.5 billion every year it also accounts for 50% of our aquaculture production by value.
SOUTHERN BLUEFIN TUNA
The birth of the Southern Bluefin Tuna ranching industry in 1991 saw fishermen move from catch and kill, to harvesting live fish for fattening. Incorporating aspects of both wild-capture and aquaculture, the Southern Bluefin Tuna industry is now one of the most important seafood sectors to the export market, with 90% of product heading overseas (mostly to the Japanese sashimi market and the US). More than 95% of Australia’s total catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna is taken through ranching, with the remaining 5% taken on long-lines.
Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) is indigenous to Australia, found year round in both temperate and tropical waters surrounding the mainland. The aquaculture of the species was first pioneered by Clean Seas Tuna in the late 1990’s, and despite a few set-backs is heralded as one of the great successes of Australian aquaculture.