Northern Australia’s aquaculture industry is forecast to be worth more than $1 billion dollars in the next decade. Picture: Contributed.
Northern Australia’s aquaculture industry is forecast to be worth more than $1 billion dollars in the next decade. Picture: Contributed.

Potential in billion-dollar aquaculture industry

MACKAY is in a prime position to take advantage of a burgeoning aquaculture industry that is expected to increase five-fold in Northern Australia over the next decade.

A new Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia report shows aquaculture production north of the Tropic of Capricornia is expected to exceed $1.34 billion in value by 2030.

Greater Whitsunday Alliance chief executive officer Kylie Porter. Picture: Tony Martin.
Greater Whitsunday Alliance chief executive officer Kylie Porter. Picture: Tony Martin.

Greater Whitsunday Alliance chief executive officer Kylie Porter said the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region could capitalise on the emerging sector if there was a balance between expansion and meeting regulation.

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She said the region was particularly suited for farming prawns because of the warm waters.

The Mackay and Whitsunday regions snagged the attention of Australia's largest aquaculture and fisher operator, and seafood producer, Tassal Group Limited, last year.

TGR purchased a 7000-hectare property at Bloomsbury, north of Mackay, for $28 million in July with plans to turn it into a major prawn farm.

The State Government designated the site as one of six land-based marine aquaculture development areas, aimed at creating jobs and investment in the industry.

The Tassal prawn farm at Proserpine.
The Tassal prawn farm at Proserpine.

CRCDNA's report says the farm is expected to produce 6000 tonnes of prawns a year, contributing to the company's long-term annual production target of 20,000 tonnes, once complete.

TGR also acquired a prawn farm at Proserpine in 2018 when it bought the Fortune Group for $31.9 million.

Tassal head of engagement Barbara McGregor.
Tassal head of engagement Barbara McGregor.

TGR head of engagement Barbara McGregor last year detailed a $30 million site rehabilitation and development, which would effectively double Queensland's annual farmed prawn production and equate to more than one-third of Australia's total prawn consumption.

In Bowen, Pacific Bio's (formerly Pacific Reef Fisheries) $100m aquaculture project will serve up to 2700 tonnes of black tiger prawns per year - the company already producing 1000 tonnes per annum at its other facility in Ayr.

But a 2020 report GW3 and the CRCDNA commissioned into agribusiness supply chains showed most of the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac's aquaculture product was transported to Brisbane where it was primarily redistributed for domestic consumption.

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The report recommended all levels of government reform regulation to "increase business confidence, encourage investment and allow businesses to operate nationally".

"Regulatory burden … is especially problematic in Northern Queensland," the report said.

Ms Porter said Australia currently imported more seafood than it produced and so there was an opportunity for the region to capitalise on meeting domestic demand.