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Rapid expansion warrants more research

AUSTRALIA - Aquaculture is a diverse and rapidly expanding industry that makes a significant contribution to regional development in all Australian states. The Commonwealth Scientific Industry Research Organisation is developing improved breeds, feeds, and health and environmental management systems to support the sustainable growth of Australian aquaculture.

CSIRO aquatic disease expert warns Australia at risk of emerging threats for aquaculture

Aquaculture contributes about a third of Australia’s total fisheries production, with a value of A$743 million in 2002-03, and four per cent average annual growth in the past decade. By 2030, more than half our seafood will be farmed.

Dr Steve Crane specialist with CSIRO's Fish Disease Laboratory says expansion of Australia's aquaculture sector will inevitably bring new diseases in fish and shellfish, to the region and that may stretch resources.

"We've got ageing equipment and our aquatic animal health specialists are ageing too, they're coming up to retirement," he said.

He said the industry need to address the problem if it is going to realise its potential.

CSIRO is helping the industry to improve breeds, feeds, and develop health and environmental management systems that support the sustainable growth.

Globally aquaculture faces many major challenges including:

  • managing the health, production efficiency and genetic improvement of aquaculture species
  • developing endemic species
  • sourcing alternative proteins and oils for animal feeds.
CSIRO is working with industry, research and funding partners to meet these challenges and develop sustainable healthy and environmentally sensitive management systems.

Better breeds
With a focus on prawns, Atlantic salmon, Pacific oysters and abalone, CSIRO aquaculture breeds research is:

  • using DNA markers to trace the genetics of wild founder populations and farm stocks, and identify genes linked to economically important traits
  • working with commercial partners on selective breeding for improved growth, disease resistance, performance on alternative diets and product quality.
Alternative feeds
Fishmeal is the main protein source in aquaculture feeds for most species, but the demand is set to outstrip supply.

Two approaches are being taken to develop higher-performing aquafeeds with reduced fishmeal content:
  • replacing fishmeal with terrestrial protein sources such as lupins
  • applying biotechnology to develop alternatives to wild-harvest fish as sources of omega-3 oils.
Health checks
Systems for ensuring the health of aquaculture environments, animals and products are being developed in research that:
  • monitors and models nutrient flows associated with aquaculture to help manage its environmental impact
  • supports aquatic animal health through advanced diagnostics, vaccine development and selective breeding for disease resistance
  • investigates high-pressure processing of seafood to extend safety and shelf life while retaining texture, flavour and nutritional value
Diverse facilities
Several CSIRO laboratories have aquaculture and specialist research facilities.

A seawater facility at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research near Brisbane houses breeding and grow-out tanks for crustaceans, finfish, molluscs and other marine animals. A biosecure facility can produce specific pathogen free animals for research and industry.

Smaller-scale aquaria, and advanced genetics and chemistry laboratories, are located at Hobart, Tasmania, and Armidale, New South Wales.

Also at Hobart is the Collection of Living Microalgae, a resource for studies into the growth, physiology, taxonomy, bio-diversity, chemistry and genetics of microalgae, an important component of aquaculture feeds.

The Australian Animal Health Laboratories, a national centre of excellence in disease diagnosis, research and policy advice, supports aquatic animal health research conducted by CSIRO Livestock Industries.

High-pressure processing research is conducted by Food Science Australia at processing facilities in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Find out more about CSIRO's at: