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Australian Aquaculture and Mariculture - Fish, Prawns, Trout, Crayfish, Tuna, Crabs, Shellfish and more

Updated on July 1, 2017
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John uses scientific skills (PhD) and 30 years experience as a home gardener to develop reviews & advice about gardening, organic methods

Aquaculture in Australia © janderson99-HubPages

Aquaculture is generally defined as 'intensive farming of various aquatic organisms including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, algae and aquatic plants in ponds or cages through the rearing, stocking, feeding and husbandry practices'.

Aquaculture has massive potential worldwide as a source of protein with world wild fishery production forecast to begin declining in the next ten years.

Australia has a fantastic aquaculture potential and a thriving aquaculture industry based on its outstanding native fish (such as Silver perch, Murray cod, Tuna and Barrumundi), seahorses, rayfish species (yabbies, marron and redclaw freshwater crayfish) and a number of shellfish (abalone, pearls, oysters).

Blue-fin Tuna

Aquaculture can be carried out in brackish water, freshwater or marine water and can take various forms, which can include:

  • a hatchery farm which is producing various immature organisms such as fertilised eggs, small larvae or juveniles and fingerlings
  • a nursery operation which is rearing small larvae to fingerling or juvenile size for release or grow-out
  • a grow-out operation which is growing fingerlings or juveniles to a commercial marketable size.
  • cage culture where the juveniles are caught in the wild and reared in cages
  • intensive re-circulation systems where the water is re-cycled in an intensive 'factory' system

Farming can be extensive, such as cage or pond culture, semi-intensive with smaller highly managed ponds or fully intensive, depending on the level of management required for the farming area and how densely are the stocking rates.

Aquaculture is not restricted to aquatic animals and can be used to culture aquatic plants and algae for human consumption and other uses. The farming can produce ornamental species and pharmaceutical products like the seahorse farming that occurs in Victoria and Tasmania, and is not confined to food products. Aquaculture can also be focused on producing millions of juvenile fish for re-stocking native species back into their native habitats.

Aquaculture can also be operated as an integrated aquaculture/agriculture system with most focus on maximising the benefits of water allocations and for productive use of waste nutrients and re-cycled water.

Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing primary industries in Australia.In fact it is the fastest growing food production sector worldwide. There is a fantastic range of ventures throughout Australia which you can visit and learn about first-hand about their operations and taste some of their fresh produce. There are many large Visitor Centres in every state and most operators provide guided tours. Some examples are:

  • The South Australian Seafood and Aquaculture Trail - You can discover and taste the fresh seafood by journeying along the Seafood and Aquaculture Trail on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The Trail combines aquaculture, fresh seafood outlets, dining and many aquaculture experiences. See the huge Southern Bluefin in their offshore cages and watch all types of seafood being farmed and processed. There are more than 12 tours available, stretching from Ceduna to Whyalla along the beautiful coastline of Eyre Peninsula.
  • Broome, WA's Manbana Hatchery and Discovery Centre This magnificent visitor centre is owned and run by Indigenous people and is a unique multi-species hatchery that incorporates a world-class discovery centre for visitors.
  • The Cleanseas Aquaculture in Arno Bay South Australia is the home of the magnificent Kingfish and cultures marine finfish with a hatchery and a range of grow-out sea cages. It has produced Yellow Tail Kingfish and Mulloway fingerlings for more than 10 years.

Tuna cages South Australia

Species Farmed in Australia

There is a huge range of Aquaculture Species in Australia. Below is a list of the most common species:

Abalone - Abalone are highly valued, with a major export industry being based on wild caught abalone in the southern states. Research is continuing but several companies have sucessfully bred and reared abalone from growout systems in South Australia, Victoria,  and Tasmania

Mussels- The Australian mussel industry is based on culturing the blue mussel (Genus mytilus) which occurs naturally all along the southern coast of Australia from Fremantle on the west coast to Cape Hawke on the east coast , including the waters around Tasmania. The blue mussel is currently produced in all Australian states except Queensland, with Victoria and Western Australia the largest producers. Mussels are usually grown on ropes suspended beneath buoys.

Edible Oysters - Historically, the famous Sydney rock oyster has been the major edible oyster farmed in Australia. Recently the production of the Pacific oyster has increased substantially, especially in Tasmania and South Australia. The four major species of oyster that are farmed in Australia are the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), Sydney rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata), the backlip oyster (Saccostrea echinata), the milky or northern oyster (Saccostrea amasa) and the native flat oyster (Ostrea angasi) .

Pearl Oysters - A number of commercial species of pearl oyster are found in Australian waters that are cultured for pearls and shells, usually in wire baskets suspended below offshore buoys. The major farmed cultured pearl oyster is the silver or gold lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima). Pearl farming occurs all along the northwestern coast from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Exmouth in Western Australia. The most famous area is Broome in Western Australia.

Atlantic salmon - (Salmo salar)were first introduced into Australia in the 1880s, firstly into Tasmania by local fishing clubs and then into New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Commercial Atlantic salmon aquaculture production in off-shore cages began in Tasmania in the mid 1980s and currently salmon are farmed in Tasmania and South Australia.

Prawns - Shrimp and prawn farming started in Australia in 1984 and the industry has expanded rapidly ever since. The worldwide species of giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is the most common species farmed and is produced in Queensland, Northern Territory and News South Wales. Other species farmed are the brown tiger prawn (P. esculentus), kuruma prawn (P. japonicus) and banana prawn (P. merguiensis). The main impediment to prawn farming is that it has been based on collecting brood females from the wild, but there have been recent attempts to close the life-cycle and breed the prawns in ponds.

Freshwater Crayfish - The three main species of freshwater crayfish grown in farms in Australia are the redclaw, the yabby, and the marron. Generally the temperate yabby is smaller and harder to rear and not as high yielding as the tropical redclaw. The West Australian marron is larger but is a slower growing species. The redclaw, endemic in northern Queensland and Northern Territory streams, is regarded by many as the 'crown-jewels' of aquaculture due to its suitability for intensive production. The Redclaw has a wide range tolerance of environmental tolerances, is very fecund, and is capable of rapid growth It achieves a large size, tolerates high densities and is relatively disease free. The only problem for farmers is that it breeds too easily and at too young an age. This means that it breeds before it can be harvested, and the juveniles compete with the adults for food. The species has been exported to a large number of countries including USA and China. All three species are grown in earthen ponds. Farmed freshwater crayfish are exported and sold domestically to restaurants.

Southern bluefin tuna - The first commercial cage production of southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) began in the mid 1990s and there are now more than 15 tuna farms on 18 sites. Captive breeding has also been successful. but not for commercial production. The juvenile tuna are caught offshore an 'herded' back to shore in huge nets towed by tugs. The tuna are transferred to sea cages and reared to market size.

Crocodile Farming - There are more than 20 commercial crocodile farms in Australia, in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. The crocodiles are farmed for meat and for their skins which are exported. Most crocodile farms have well developed tourist facilities.

Scallops - The worldwide farming of scallops is one of the largest, both in terms of tonnage and value of production. Several countries have developed scallop farming industries including Japan, China and Chile. South Australia has 3 species of scallops that have commercial value and good potential for aquaculture - Queen scallop (Chlamys bifrons), King scallop (Pecten fumatus) and Doughboy scallop (Mimachlamys asperrima)

Marine Finfish - The marine finfish aquaculture industry is well developed in Australia based on a wide range of suitable species - yellowfin tuna, coral trout, mangrove jack, barramundi, bream, snapper, yellowtail kingfish, whiting and flounder. There are many finfish farms in all Australian States

Freshwater Finfish

Exotic Trout - A number of salmonid fish species have been introduced into Australia including: the rainbow trout (Oncorrhynchus mykiss), the brown trout (Salmo trutta), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and chinook salmon (Oncorrhynchus tschawytscha). Brown and Rainbow trout are the most common species grown in Australia mostly New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Trout are produced for human consumption, for stocking into lakes and rivers and for fish-out operations where visitors can catch trout in ponds.

Ocean Trout - Rainbow trout are exotic to Australia and were introduced from the west coast of America. Rainbow trout grown in offshore cages in saline waters are marketed as Ocean Trout.

Barramundi - (Lates calcarifer) has a natural distribution that extends from Ashburton River in Western Australia, along the northern coast and throughout the Northern Territory, extending down the Queensland coast to Maryborough.The Barramundi aquaculture industry can be divided into three categories: intensive production in indoor facilities, cage culture in freshwater ponds and sea cage culture in offshore marine cages or in estuarine waters.

Silver Perch - The silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) is an endemic freshwater fish found naturally in the interanl rivers of the Murray Darling Basin. Most silver perch are farmed in earthern freshwater ponds, though there has been interest in rearing them intensively using re-circulated water in tanks.

Murray Cod - The much sought after and iconic murray cod (Maccullochella peeli) is highly valued for commercial and recreational fishing and for conservation purposes. It is Australia's largest freshwater fish and is endemic to the Murray Darling Basin, in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Murray cod are now reared by many farms primarily for stocking into farm dams and for supplementing natural stocks in rivers ands lakes.

Yellowtail Kingfish - The yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi) is currently farmed in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia.

Snapper and Mulloway - Snapper (Pagrus auratus) are a much prized species found in near-shore temperate waters along the coast in the southern Australian states. The juvenile snapper are being reared in the estuaries along the coast. When the snapper grow and mature into adults they move offshore and enter the commercial and recreational fisheries. Farms for rearing both snapper and mulloway have developed in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia.

Eels - Two species of eel native to Australian waters have been assessed for aquaculture - Longfin eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) and Shortfin eel (Anguilla australis).

Ornamental and Aquarium Fish - Commercial culture of aquarium fish began with goldfish and has recently expanded to a wide range of other species including native species such as rainbow fish, Saratoga and blue-eyes. There is great potential for expansion of this industry.

Seahorses - Seahorse Australia, one of the first commercial seahorse farms established in the world, was developed in 1998 at Beauty Point in Northern Tasmania.The initial focus was on the Australian Pot-bellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) which were reared for the export aquarium market. There are at least 14 other seahorse species in Australia, and 90 species of pipehorses and pipefishes offering great potential for expansion of the industry.

Mud Crabs and Sea Cucumber - Australia's first commercial mud crab and sea cucumber hatchery has been developed at Hervey Bay on the central coast of Queensland.There are now a number of commercial mud crab farms throughout northern Australia.

© janderson99-HubPages

© 2010 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hello, I would like to know the information of the companies which have sucessfully bred and reared abalone from growout systems in South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania. Many thanks in advance.

  • Aussieteacher profile image


    8 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

    Welcome to another Aussie. I can't wait to get home and get some good fish. The fish in China is different and I'm sick of spitting out bones. I'm hoping for a good sized barramundi when I get back next month. Yum.


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