The Following is the current list of major issues applicable to the NSW Aquaculture Industry.
- NSW DPI Policy Change. NSW DPI lack of support and encouragement for small scale family farmers is detrimental to industry development in NSW. The NSWAA believes the industry could be greatly enhanced by 1000 small family farmers each producing 2-5 tonnes of seafood/year.Current NSW Government policy is to dissuade family farmers from the industry and attract only large scale multi-million dollar investors-this policy needs to change. The most successful aquaculture industry in NSW is the oyster industry, based on the family farmer model. Why does NSW DPI reject this model for land based aquaculture?
- Extension service. The lack of on farm extension is still a serious problem with strong support across the industry for the reinstatement of this position as a permanent position. We need a permanent land based extension officer to help the development of the industry.
- Quarantine, Disease & Bio-security. Australia is disease free of many of the major diseases devastating the overseas aquaculture industry. Most native fish and crayfish are susceptible to these diseases so all or native species are at risk not only our aquaculture species. Keeping foreign diseases out is a high priority.
- Cheap Imports. Australia has strict rules and regulations relating to aquaculture. These regulations and restrictions ensure the protection of the environment; ensure the produce is produced sustainably and that everything produced in Australia is safe for the farmer to produce and the consumer to eat. To meet all these regulations requires a considerable amount of expenditure making Australian seafood very safe to eat but very expensive.The Australian government then allows cheap imports into Australia that have few if any regulations to protect the environment and compete with Australian produced produce. This is unfair. If the aquaculture product produced overseas is not produced to the same environmental standards that we use here, then there should be an environmental levy on that imported seafood to level the playing field and protect the environment.
- Training. There is a major shortage of qualified aquaculturalists capable of operating/managing large commercial aquaculture facilities. The industry will continue to struggle without competent qualified staff to run aquaculture facilities.
- Marketing. Over 78% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported from overseas. Australia has the cleanest and greenest seafood in the world and all our aquaculture produce is sustainably grown to the highest safety standards for the consumer, yet we do not tout our benefits loudly or regularly. Better marketing campaigns are a high priority issue. The Australian Seafood Industry needs to be more pro active and start screaming its benefits and sustainable practices from the roof tops.
- Costs and Incentives. The aquaculture industry is suffering from rising production costs, whether electricity, feed, labour, water, permits or licences. Everything keeps rising except the sale price of the produce. Many overseas farming operations are subsidized yet in Australia it’s the opposite, most government departments target aquaculture as cash cows for milking. There are no tax incentives, no electricity discounts, no water waivers or discounts. We need to get government incentives to grow the aquaculture industry.
- Finance. Lack of institutional lending to the aquaculture sector both in start-ups and established operators. It is extremely difficult to get a loan for an aquaculture operation.
- Regulation and access to land or sites. It is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find a site on which to conduct aquaculture. Once you have found a site, gone to all the expense of getting approvals. The whole operation can then be halted by green groups, progress associations or other wingers. There seems little or no security in the aquaculture industry.
- Bio-security and lack of insurance. If for example you have disease outbreak on your fish farm by law you must notify NSW Fisheries. A National bio-security plan comes into place. They come out to your farm, quarantine it, find all your customers that you have sold fish to and quarantine them or confiscate the produce, they then sterilize your ponds killing all your fish and brood stock and don’t allow you to sell any more produce from the farm till they give you the all clear in a few months or years. Basically they destroy you and your business to protect the environment and the community all at your expense.There is NO compensation. It is absolutely ridiculous to expect any aquaculturalist to contact the authorities to protect the environment and the community when he knows that if he does so his life is over. There needs to be some sort of insurance plan provided by the community to compensate those that notify the authorities of issues that may endanger the environment or community. All these fancy bio-security plans are useless unless their is compensation available. Otherwise the normal farmer will struggle on alone and the community and environment will ultimately suffer.
- Minor use Permits (MUP). Permission to use chemicals in the aquaculture industry and the cost and difficulty of obtaining MUPs is an ongoing issue.
- Feed and the feed war. Increasing price of aquaculture feeds is an industry issue. Plus the growing concern about content in pelletized feed. From the prawn farmers perspective “CSIRO have developed a sustainable feed for prawn farmers – Novacq – issue is getting this commercially available to all prawn farms”.
From the NSW Aquaculture Association perspective this is what our members consider are the major issues in 2015.Robert B McCormack Secretary/Treasurer NSW Aquaculture Association Inc.