Within a global context, aquaculture is the primary means by which the shortfall in world fisheries production is expected to be met in future generations.  Indeed according to the most recent FAO statistics (1996), current world aquaculture production has grown at an average annual rate of almost 10% since 1984, compared with 3% for livestock meat and 1.6% for capture fisheries production (R&D Plan for Integrated Agri-Aquaculture Systems 1999-2004).

Searle Aquaculture

With increasing pressure on wild fish stocks, aquaculture is a growing industry in NSW.  More than 1,500 full and part time jobs, predominantly in regional NSW, with approximately 3,000 further jobs caused by the flow on effect. Aquaculture product accounts for over 30% of Australian fisheries gross value and has been the fastest growing primary industry in Australia with a growth of over 8% per year.

In Northern NSW, the predominant aquaculture types include: Oysters, prawns and fingerling hatcheries.  By economic value, oyster production is the main aquaculture activity in NSW; the oyster industry in 2007/2008 was worth $41 million.  Oyster production in northern NSW occurs in the Tweed, Brunswick, Richmond & Clarence Rivers.  Hatcheries that produce fingerlings for aquaculture farms, stocking of farm dams and aquarium fish are also located throughout NSW (DPI 2009).

The value of aquaculture production in Australia reached  $773.2million in 2001/2002  and is projected  to increase  to $2.5 billion by 2012. The Northern Rivers is poised to capture a significant proportion of this projected growth. A growing number of viable aquaculture investment opportunities are being generated by the drive to satisfy increasing domestic and export demand, and by the competitive advantages that this region offers.  Located in a Temperate Zone, the Northern Rivers region provides an excellent climate for aquaculture and is not subject to the climatic extremes of many southern and tropical areas.

Compared with many overseas locations, the Northern Rivers offers a clean growing environment for most forms of aquaculture. It does not suffer from poor water quality that has  caused losses amongst aquaculture industries overseas. Strict national and state level controls have been established to maintain this freedom from some of the worst exotic diseases. It does not have problems with heavy industry pollution, and controls are in place to protect estuaries, coastal areas and groundwater systems from contamination by sewerage, agricultural pesticides, fertilisers and urban runoff.

To assist in developing the aquaculture industry in the Northern Rivers the New South Wales Government has produced the NSW North Coast Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy. This Strategy is designed to assist investors in simplifying the development approval process and by providing appropriate support to ensure that the aquaculture enterprises are established and operated in a sustainable manner.

Image of Searle aquaculture, courtesy of  Dr. Amanda Reichelt-Brushett .