Tasmania produces more seafood by value than any other Australian State and has an international reputation for reliable quality. The ‘beach value’ of all fisheries is well over $1 billion now, with the fast-growing Atlantic salmon industry reaching twice the total value of all other fisheries for the first time in 2015. The ‘beach value’ of farmed salmon was $738 million as of 2017 and salmonid production was the State’s biggest single primary industry.
Wild catch rock lobster ($83 million), wild catch abalone ($84 million) and farmed oysters ($26 million) were also important, along with mussels, octopus and squid.
The State of Islands is the world’s largest supplier of wild abalone, producing 25 per cent of total global production. There is an emerging abalone aquaculture sector. In 2017, abalone contributed $84 million to Tasmania’s export earnings.
Tasmania’s seafood platter can include fresh and smoked salmon, large and cocktail-sized abalone, sweet-fleshed rock lobsters, ocean trout, oysters, blue mussels, scallops, smoked eel, salmon caviar, sea urchin roe, octopus and squid, along with a range of outstanding scale fish from the unpolluted Southern Ocean. The wild catch may include bluefin and yellow-fin tuna, blue eye (trevalla), blue grenadier, pink ling and many others.
The cool, clean Southern Ocean washes around Tasmania, providing one of the world’s healthiest environments for the raising of succulent shellfish and table fish of delicate flavour. Aquaculture comes naturally to Tasmanians. They have 3,200km of coastline and are far from major sources of marine pollution. Local businesses have developed world-class handling methods; sophisticated quality-assurance and transport systems; and they enjoy world-class research back-up. Atlantic salmon, ocean trout, Pacific oysters and blue mussels are big business. There are abalone farms and a sea horse hatchery. Likely future successes will include rock lobster, short-finned eels, clams, sea dragons and edible seaweeds.
With the growth of aquaculture, especially since the mid-1980s, Tasmanians have developed expertise in a range of related manufacturing and research activities. Local operators have a reputation for flexibility and a capacity to use a lateral approach to problem-solving. One prominent Australian fish-farmer says: “If I have a problem I go to Tasmania. Businesses there have an old-fashioned approach and don't restrict themselves by being inflexibly specialised.”
The marine farming sector has been through a period of rapid growth and business rationalisation. Atlantic salmon dominates the value of the sector, but Pacific oysters and blue mussels are growing in economic importance.
As the global supply of seafood from wild fisheries is limited, aquaculture has the opportunity to meet growing world demand through increased production. Aquaculture is the world’s fastest-developing source of animal protein, growing by more than 60 per cent over the past decade. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that by 2025 over half of all seafood consumed globally will be farm produced. People around the world want to eat more seafood and Tasmania can supply its share of a safe and sustainable product.
Aquaculture operations in Tasmania consistently produce higher-value/premium products and we have some distinct advantages when it comes to growing, processing and selling to domestic and export markets:
- We have access to clean waters and a healthy environment.
- Our aquaculture industry has a reputation for high environmental performance and a legislative framework that ensures this is maintained.
- We have world-leading food safety, animal health and animal welfare standards. Tasmanian seafood is ‘safe food’.
- Tasmania’s geographic isolation and biosecurity measures mean we are free from diseases and pests commonly affecting aquaculture production elsewhere in the world.
- We have good trading conditions and proximity to key emerging Asian markets.
The CEO of the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, Dr Adam Main, said: “Our key message is that when you eat Tasmania’s farmed seafood you are supporting great Australian industries and enjoying the freshest produce available because it is grown locally”.
Facts and figures
- Tasmania is the only State capable of supplying ocean trout 12 months of the year.
- About 4 million oysters are harvested every year, generating income of more than $24 million.
- Scientists in Tasmania have developed superior Pacific oysters that grow faster and look and taste better.
- Tasmanian oysters can be improved through genetic selection because they are farmed in a closed system. In most other parts of the world stocks are recruited from the wild, so genetic control is impossible.
- Australia’s biggest mussel producer, Spring Bay Seafood near Triabunna, has achieved Friend of the Sea certification – an international badge of environmental sustainability.
- Quota units in the abalone fishery are owned by numerous operators and investors. To fish for abalone you must have one of the 125 abalone dive entitlements.
- Two abalone species are harvested in Tasmania: blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra); and greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata).
- Tasmania’s use of high resolution GPS and depth data in assessing abalone resources is a world first.
- The vast majority of the Tasmanian abalone catch is exported live to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan.
- Tassal, the State's largest salmon farmer, was ranked world No 1 by seafoodintelligence.com in 2016 for sustainability reporting and transparency.