Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has laid bare his ambitions to make Queensland the aquaculture capital of the world.
Mr Furner used today’s visit to the JCU aquaculture research lab in Townsville to begin his campaign to entice further aquaculture investment in North Queensland.
“Queensland stands at the foot of a mountain of potential growth in the aquaculture industry,” Mr Furner said.
“We have never been better placed to capitalise on the decades of world-class research by the Department of Fisheries and institutions like JCU.
“And with markets in Asia hungry for high quality Australian seafood products, now is the time to strike.”
Globally, aquaculture is growing faster than any other agricultural sector.
In 2013, for the first time, global aquaculture production exceeded that of beef and this trend in global growth is continuing.
Mr Furner said since he became Agriculture Minister in December last year, the untapped potential for seafood enterprises to energise regional communities had stood out.
“I have travelled extensively around the state, covering more than 40,000km, and met with farmers of all types,” he said.
“What really stuck with me was the ability for a range of investors, from family operations to multinational companies, to get involved in the aquaculture space.
“I met a farmer south of Mackay who took out two fields of cane and replaced it with a dam full of barramundi and was sending tonnes of fish to the Sydney Markets every month.
“In the coming months I will be engaging with private companies and encouraging them to invest in Queensland aquaculture projects.
“If opportunities like this harnessed and built upon, there will be a direct injection of jobs into local communities.”
Townsville MP Scott Stewart said North Queensland was primed to take advantage of the aquaculture boom.
“On the back of support and investment from the Palaszczuk Government, the North Queensland seafood production industry can lead the way on this initiative,” Mr Stewart said.
“Already we have seen successful investment in the region, but given the capacity the industry has for growth, I want to see more.
“This has the power to bring more jobs to Townsville and provide a real injection to our economy.”
Mr Furner said the Palaszczuk Government had taken the first step in paving the way for increased aquaculture investment.
“We have established the Aquaculture Industry Development Network which will facilitate private sector interactions with government about aquaculture development.
“I want to see potential proponents getting clear access to government to align our priorities toward a clear goal.
The forecast gross value of production of Queensland aquaculture for 2017-18 was $125 million, an increase of 4.4% from 2016-17 production.
More than 500 people are directly employed by the industry in Queensland.
But Mr Furner said the future of aquaculture was not just in seafood farming.
“There are a multitude of applications for products to be borne out of aquaculture and related development.
“The gains from this innovation will drive better outcomes for environmental sustainability, regional development and the Great Barrier Reef.”