Aquaculture now the largest income sector from the seafood industry

Australia’s aquaculture sector continues a trajectory of steady growth, but the entire industry has experienced disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s aquaculture sector has been steadily increasing in both value and share of gross value of fisheries production (GVP). The GVP of the Australian aquaculture sector grew 10% per cent in 2019-20.

While total Australian fishery and aquaculture GVP in 2019-20 decreased slightly by 2% to $3.15 billion, higher aquaculture GVP offset lower GVP in the wild-catch sector.

Last year aquaculture made up just over half of the total GVP share of the Australian fisheries and aquaculture industry, which is up from 43% in 2015-16 and 34% in 2005-06.

Much of this has been reflected in Tasmania’s growing salmon aquaculture industry, which is now worth 35% of national fisheries and aquaculture GVP.

However, market disruption during COVID-19 has impacted the decrease in wild-catch production, mostly due to decreased exports of rock lobster and abalone, with fishery product exports down 8% to $1.41 billion in 2019-20.

This created a 12% contraction in the GVP of the wild-catch sector, and this trend isn’t limited to exports. Domestically, buyer behaviour has also changed. Australians consumed around 335,000 tonnes of seafood in 2019-20, a decrease from around 341,000 tonnes in 2017-18, including imported seafood products.

The total value of fishery and aquaculture products imports decreased by 4% to $2.2 billion last year, driven mostly by decreased imports of prawns, squids and octopus.