Tasmanian economy boosted by $800m from aquaculture and fisheries

New study reveals economic contribution of Tasmania's seafood farming and fishing during 2020-21, but notes slight decline from previous years.
A Pacific Oyster farm in Tasmania.

A Pacific Oyster farm in Tasmania.

Photo: Sarah Ugalde / University of Tasmania.

A recent study by the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) reveals that Tasmania's fisheries and aquaculture sectors contributed approximately $800 million to the state's economy in 2020-21, marking a slight decline from $878 million in 2018-19.

The assessment, Tasmanian Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry: Economic Contributions, covers six key sectors, including salmon aquaculture, rock lobster, scalefish fisheries, wild abalone, abalone aquaculture, and Pacific Oyster aquaculture, highlighting both challenges and growth opportunities.

While the economic value and household income from these sectors decreased, likely due to export market issues coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, employment in these sectors saw a slight increase.

“Monitoring these statistics and how they change over time helps identify challenges and opportunities for growth. This is an important step that allows State Government marine resource managers to develop strategies that will maximise the value of these industries to Tasmania," said project leader Dr Steven Rust in a press release.

Pacific oyster and abalone aquaculture market grows

The study, which did not account for the seafood processing sector, pointed out market-driven growth in Pacific Oyster and abalone aquaculture, despite overall declines in the economic values of salmon aquaculture and rock lobster fisheries.

"We found the economic value of Pacific Oyster aquaculture increased from $35 million to $42 million during those two years, while abalone aquaculture grew in value from $7 million to $11 million. This was because producers continued to improve the market value of harvests, which are sold to interstate or export markets and therefore contribute to bringing money into the Tasmanian economy," Rust said.

"Gain in these sectors was able to offset impacts from supply chain issues elsewhere in Tasmanian aquaculture due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Employment in salmon aquaculture increased, but rock lobster fishery declined

Rust noted that the value of salmon aquaculture in Tasmania fell from $650 million to $639 million due to the effects of higher logistical costs and supply chain issues over 2020-21, although employment in the sector increased.

“But despite these factors, the contribution of primary production remained resilient, while direct and indirect employment increased from 5,003 people to 5,188," Rust said.

"The rock lobster fishery also dropped in economic value from $100 million to $51 million, with employment decreasing from 611 people to 444. The value of wild abalone reduced from $81 million to $53 million."

"These major wild fisheries continue to be affected by challenging conditions, particularly relating to export markets," Rust added.

The full report is available here.

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