Despite having the third largest fishing zone in the world, Australia’s fisheries resources are not as abundant or productive as those in many other parts of the world and many fish species are being heavily exploited by commercial and recreational fishers. Not surprisingly there is a growing interest in aquaculture and development of marine finfish farming in Australia has risen over the last decade. This is dominated by Atlantic salmon, and blue-fin tuna. There is also increasing interest in enhancement of wild stocks through release of hatchery reared juvenile fish.
Marine fish farming and enhancement are potentially aquaculture growth areas in NSW. However, a number of technical constraints currently limit their expansion. First, there is no reliable supply of cheap, high quality juvenile fish with aquaculture potential. Second, the temperate coastal waters are too cold for commonly farmed tropical species like barramundi and too warm for salmonids like atlantic salmon which are farmed in Tasmania. NSW DPI researchers have therefore selected, bred and reared new native species for farming and enhancement. Species under investigation as potential farming candidates at the PSFC include snapper and mulloway.
Snapper and mulloway fetch a high market price and wild stocks are declining. Snapper was first artificially bred in Japan where it is called red sea bream and today over 65 000 tonnes are cultured each year. In contrast, mulloway were bred for the first time at PSFC in 1992. Ten years of intensive research by NSW DPI supported by grants from the Fishing Research and Development Corporation and through collaboration with the CRC for Aquaculture resulted in successful pilot-scale breeding and growout in sea cages of snapper and mulloway. Several companies are now growing snapper and mulloway commercially in NSW. Mulloway were also successfully stocked by NSW DPI into a coastal lagoon to enhance recreational and commercial catches.
NSW DPI is currently undertaking research which could prove critical to the future development of a marine fish farming industry in New South Wales. Research is being carried out to develop commercial hatchery techniques for snapper and mulloway to allow sustainable production of high quality, cheap fingerlings, and to assess the suitability of inland saline groundwater for growout of snapper and mulloway.