Report Synopsis

The Australian Barramundi Farming Industry. Can Australian Barramundi be the white fish equivalent to Salmon?

Dan Richards

Aquaculture is the fastest growing global protein industry and in 2015, for the first time in history, more seafood was consumed from aquaculture sources than from wild caught industries. Global aquaculture industry production leaders, salmon and marine shrimp, have successfully stimulated demand to absorb their growing production (Rabobank, 2017).

The Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) industry is growing strongly and can potentially become the white fish equivalent to salmon. Australian domestic production of Barramundi is projected to increase by 60% in the next two years (ABFA, 2017). In 2014, the global production of farmed Barramundi was 71,581t some 32 times smaller than global salmon production of 2,300,000t (FAO, 2014).

The objective of this Nuffield report was to look at key factors influencing the likelihood of the development of Barramundi as a premium aquaculture species and to assess Australia’s ability to capture this production and market opportunity. This project examined three areas including genetics (creating the potential), management (realising the potential) and disease (destroying the potential). The author visited aquaculture and other farming operations, met with aquaculture regulators, research facilities, veterinary laboratories and attended various conferences and trade shows. Each interaction has led to a better understanding of the range of issues to consider.

The key shortcomings of Barramundi compared to salmon are its potential for skin and fillet discolouration (melanisation) and lower flesh yield (higher bone ratio) resulting in lower processing recoveries. Significant improvements in the performance of Barramundi will be achieved through research and development into genetic improvement. For the ongoing competitiveness of Australian Barramundi farming, investments into genetic breeding programs are essential.

Ongoing commitment by all Australian farmed Barramundi producers to maintain and improve quality standards is required to ensure that consumers have consistently positive experiences when eating Australian product. The industry can learn from the salmon industry in terms of its development of a range of value-added consumer ready products that are easy to use and identify in the market.

Barramundi production has few bacterial or viral diseases endemic to Australia that could cause mass mortality in the wild or farmed conditions. A number of key disease risks have been identified in imported Barramundi products. The risk of disease introduction has been assessed as moderate. Enhancement of Australian biosecurity regulation of imported Barramundi products is required to prevent introduction of new Barramundi diseases into Australia.

It is hoped that this distillation of a Nuffield Farming Scholarship experience can contribute to the betterment of the knowledge base and the advancement of the Australian Barramundi farming industry

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