NSW regional communities with a strong aquaculture industry reap social as well as economic benefits, a new report has found.
Research led by social scientist Kate Barclay, at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), has for the first time put a value on aquaculture as a driver of community wellbeing, as well as more familiar indicators such as tourism, employment and economic sustainability.
Associate Professor Barclay said the project team’s findings showed the aquaculture industry to be worth more than $226 million to the economy in coastal regional NSW, and employing about 1750 people in 2013-14.
“Understanding the role played by farming oysters, prawns and fish in the social and economic lives of our coastal communities is vital,” said Associate Professor Barclay.
“How do communities benefit from productive sustainable oyster and prawn farms and from some of the new and emerging aquaculture ventures appearing in NSW? Our collaboration of social scientists and economists set out to answer those important questions.”
The researchers found:
A vibrant aquaculture industry and local tourism are mutually beneficial. Fresh, local seafood and healthy waterways are strong drawcards for tourists. Tourists are an important market for the aquaculture industry – three in four coastal visitors said eating local seafood is an important part of their coastal holiday experience.
Aquaculturists are key drivers of environmental management. They rely on clean water for their businesses and push councils to maintain and improve water quality.
The aquaculture industry is an important employer of young people seeking entry-level jobs in their communities.
Historically the oyster industry has been a great source of employment for Aboriginal people, especially around the Port Stephens area. There is potential for aquaculture to provide job opportunities for employment and also business ownership, to enable people to work on their country.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries Deputy Director General Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan, said the aquaculture report underlined the need to consider aquaculture within the broader context in which it operates.
“We need to think differently about how we assess the NSW aquaculture industry. It contributes much more to communities than just the ‘farm gate’ value of production,” he said.
“Aquaculture contributes to community wellbeing through local employment, responsible management of the waterways, supporting the tourism industry, and provision of sustainable seafood.”
History: Aquaculture was practised by Aboriginal people before colonisation. Archaeological evidence and community knowledge indicate Aboriginal people used traps to capture and hold fish, and to farm eels. They also transported yabbies to restock waterholes. Commercial aquaculture in NSW started with oyster farms in the Georges River in the 1870s. Fish and prawn farming started in NSW in the 1980s.
NSW aquaculture: In 2015 there were 308 oyster businesses and 150 other aquaculture type businesses, including farms and hatcheries.
Economy: In the 2013-4 financial year across NSW, aquaculture and the secondary sector (wholesaling, processing) had a likely output of $226m, including $134m in added value, and $69.3m in household income. Aquaculture plus the secondary sector involved a total of 1,758 full-time equivalent jobs.
Regional tourism: 89% of NSW residents expect to eat local seafood when they visit the coast, 76% feel that eating local seafood is an important part of their coastal holiday experience, and 63% would be interested in visiting an aquaculture facility while on holidays.
Local food production: The NSW general public believes the NSW seafood industry is important for local food security – 94% agree it is important we produce our own seafood in NSW. They also want to know where their seafood comes from – 72% were “extremely” or “very” interested’. 96% of NSW coastal residents indicated that the desire to support their local community was a major motivation in purchasing local product.
Community trust in a sustainable industry: 71% of the NSW public in coastal communities believe the aquaculture industry can be trusted to act in a sustainable manner; 70% percent support the continuation of the industry.