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 Social and Economic Evaluation of NSW Coastal Aquaculture, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, is a sister study to a two-year investigation of the value of professional fishing to communities.