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The aquaculture industry in Northern Australia is expected to grow five-fold and exceed $1.34 billion within the next decade, as found in the latest report from the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA). 

The region expects to produce more than five times its current volume of fish, prawns and other seafood products, with the potential for 2,340 jobs to be created, as long as the industry “worked together to overcome identified challenges and capitalise on the opportunities outlined in the study”. 

CRCNA CEO Jed Matz said the research, led by James Cook University (JCU), clearly envisaged the future for the whole Northern Australian aquaculture industry for the first time.

“The project team has engaged with more than 400 industry players from across the aquaculture sector, including those from Indigenous communities,” said Matz.

“The outcome of this engagement is the delivery of a set of strategic and well-supported recommendations not only focussed on addressing impediments but also providing solutions to these challenges.”

JCU professor Dean Jerry said there was between 500,00 to 700,000 hectares suitable for marine farming in earthen and lined pond, as well as 50 times that available for freshwater operations.

“Our best-case scenario outlined in this report is based on better utilisation of the available areas for expansion and growth of on-shore and off-shore facilities,” said Jerry. 

“A more coordinated approach across the sector is needed to support stronger biosecurity protocols and infrastructure investment, good RD&E and production outcomes, strong marketing efforts and an increase in global demand to fully realise our 2030 vision.”

The report also highlighted collaboration with Traditional Owners was vital to the industry’s future, with Indigenous Australians responsible for managing 45 per cent of land and sea country in Northern Australia.

“Aquaculture has been practiced for thousands of years by Indigenous Australians and understanding how communities value fishing resources and fishing access is a key component to achieving greater participation of Indigenous people in commercial fishing,” said Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) Chairperson Eddie Fry.

“By translating traditional rights and interests into tangible economic and social benefits for communities, Indigenous Australians can achieve far higher levels of economic participation and wealth creation through employment, investment and enterprise development.

“We look forward to capitalising on the opportunities outlined in the report and continuing our support of Indigenous Australians to attract co-investment in commercially viable aquaculture projects that align with community aspirations.” 

The seven recommendations in the report included:

  1. Bolster Biosecurity;
  2. Build skills to meet industry growth needs;
  3. Market Development and Access;
  4. Match and target RD&E to key industry needs and outcomes;
  5. Facilitate infrastructure development for key Aquaculture Development Hubs;
  6. Build the Northern Australian aquaculture industry as a means for Indigenous economic development and independence; and
  7. Stronger and adaptive governance of the Northern Australian aquaculture industry.

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