Southern bluefin tuna industry optimistic on growth

Tuna industry looks towards further growth

The southern bluefin tuna industry is optimistic of further growth and reaching levels of production seen five years ago as it continues to play a large role in the state's aquaculture industry.

The state government released the independent report 'Economic Contribution of Aquaculture in the South Australian State and Regional Economies' recently which showed the state's aquaculture industry had grown to $229 million in 2019-20, up eight per cent from the previous year.

Southern bluefin tuna remains the largest single aquaculture sector with $137 million, about 60 per cent, of the state's gross aquaculture production value.

The report noted there was an $8 million increase in total value for the sector due to an increase in production and the market price.

Behind them are marine finfish with $39.61 million, oysters with $24.95 million and abalone with $11.97 million.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association chief executive officer Brian Jeffriess said the industry had faced challenges in recent years, including record low prices last year and despite still making up the bulk of the state's aquaculture sector, it was still down from $290 million five years ago.

However he said the industry was being well supported by federal and state governments and there were signs of further recovery to get back to where it was, including promising tuna stock numbers and a focus on value adding.

"It's a long recovery period from the low prices last year and it won't happen overnight," he said.

"The latest stock assessment shows improvement yet again, the catch quota has gone up by 57 per cent since 2012.

"There's a real reason to be optimistic for the medium-to-longer-term because the more fish that go into the farms the bigger the industry will be."

The industry, like others was impacted by China closing the door on many Australian exports, which had prompted the South Australian Government to look at other trade avenues.

Mr Jeffriess said while the situation with China was disappointing, there was at least relief in knowing it could depend on the Japanese market in the long term.

"The problem with China is a major disappointment to us as we've invested a lot of money and effort into China and it's a geopolitical situation that is out of our control," he said.

"The Japanese market is a solid long-term market for us and will continue to be our major market."

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said aquaculture was a crucial part of the state's economy supporting thousands of jobs with about 70 per cent of those in regional SA.

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