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Aquaculture and Wild Catch

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Seafood industry. The Seafood industry can be described as having four main sectors:

  • Aquaculture (offshore, inshore and onshore)
  • Fishing (commercial)
  • Seafood processing and wholesaling
  • Fisheries compliance.

The industry includes more than 7,000 commercial businesses that collectively employ approximately 17,000 people. Nearly 70% of these businesses focus on fishing. Over 60% of commercial businesses are non-employing operations, and over 30% employ fewer than 20 people. Many industry operators are under pressure due to Australia's continued reliance upon seafood imports. Small businesses without the means to compete have been forced to exit the industry. This has increased the market share of the leading businesses, with the four largest aquaculture operators accounting for 40% of industry revenue.

Nationally recognised training for the Seafood industry is delivered under the SFI – Seafood Industry Training Package.

For information on Food Production and other Agriculture sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Aquaculture and Wild Catch IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The employment levels in the Aquaculture, Fishing and Seafood Processing industries fluctuated between 2000 and 2018. In 2018 there were around 6,800 workers employed in the Aquaculture industry, which is projected to increase to 8,500 by 2023. There were around 5,800 workers employed in the Fishing industry in 2018, which is projected to decrease by 2023. There were around 4,000 workers in the Seafood Processing industry in 2018, which is projected to increase to 5,700 by 2023.

In the Aquaculture industry, the occupation with the largest proportion of employment is Aquaculture Farmers (33.4%) followed by Aquaculture Workers (11.4%). While employment for Aquaculture Farmers is projected to decline between 2018 and 2023, it is projected to increase for Aquaculture Workers.

In the Fishing industry, the occupation with the largest proportion of employment is Deck and Fishing Hands (53.4%) followed by Marine Transport Professionals (12.2%).  Employment for Deck and Fishing Hands is projected to remain stable between 2018 and 2023, while a small increase is projected for Marine Transport Professionals.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Aquaculture and Wild Catch-related qualifications have slowly declined each year between 2015 and 2018. Program enrolments peaked in 2015 at around 1,420 and fell to a low of about 1,070 in 2018. Program completions rose slightly each year between 2015 and 2017, and then declined between 2017 and 2018. Program completions peaked in 2017 at almost 600 and fell to less than 360 in 2018. Subject-only enrolments declined between 2015 and 2016 and then rose between 2016 and 2018.

Certificate III level qualifications were the most common in 2018 with more than 520 enrolments, followed by certificate II level qualifications with just under 430 enrolments. There were just less than 50 enrolments in certificate IV level qualifications. Almost three-quarters of program enrolments were in aquaculture qualifications. The majority of students have an intended occupation of Aquaculture Worker.

Private training providers delivered approximately half of all training and TAFE institutions delivered 43%. Approximately 81% of subjects were Commonwealth and state funded. Tasmania has the highest proportion of student enrolments with 30%, followed by Western Australia with 29%, and New South Wales with 10%.

Between 2010 and 2016, apprentice and trainee commencements more than halved, from almost 230 in 2010 to less than 110 in 2016. Commencements rose between 2016 and 2018, and in 2018 there were nearly 200. Although completions remained relatively stable between 2012 and 2017, overall completions have declined between 2010 and 2018, from the peak of more than 120 in 2010 to less than 50 in 2018. In 2018, the most common intended occupation for apprentices and trainees was Aquaculture Worker. The majority of apprenticeships and traineeships were in Tasmania in 2018 (84%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Aquaculture and Wild Catch IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast states that the top generic skills for the Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry range from learning agility and information literacy, through to communication and virtual collaboration skills, language, literacy and numeracy (LLN), and managerial and leadership skills. Technology is rated as the fifth most important generic skill for the industry.

The Aquaculture and Wild Catch IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast identified a range of significant challenges that impact on the uptake and implementation of industry training, including:

  • Declining and ageing workforce
  • Attracting and recruiting young people
  • Restrictions on visa programs for skilled migration
  • Limited options for subsidised training
  • Geographical and regional dispersion of businesses
  • Limited access to registered training organisations (RTOs)
  • Competing industries
  • Regulation and licensing implications.

The key priority skills identified by the Aquaculture and Wild Catch IRC that will require future projects are:

  • Development of the crocodile farming market
  • Increased use of FishTech and Aquabotics in operations
  • Development of partnerships with traditional owners for industry operations
  • Potential development of Indigenous enterprises related to aquaculture and wild catch, including customary fishing.

Crocodile farming is an expanding opportunity in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. The challenges of crocodile farming are unique in that it involves one of the world's oldest and most dangerous predators and, while risks may be minimised, there are potentially fatal consequences for both workers and animals. There has been significant growth in crocodile farming and associated markets based on crocodile skins, meat, by-products, tourism and conservation. The proposed Crocodile Farming project aims to develop a qualification and units of competency to support crocodile farming. The key drivers for the project include:

  • Providing training for a sector with inherent safety risks currently not serviced by the VET sector
  • Increasing the skilled workforce availability
  • Supporting a developing sector to bring value across Northern Australia
  • Protecting the high quality and reputation of the sector
  • Developing relevant skills to support local and remote economies and Indigenous communities.

There are major procedures and technologies emerging for real-time, distant operations in aquaculture, wild catch, fishing and fisheries compliance. Skills and training are needed for workers using remote control centres, cybernated processes and technologically-enhanced equipment. Expansion in the Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry is leading to technologically-advanced medium- and large-sized enterprises with the capacity to evolve their operations further. With the growing potential and decreasing cost of FishTech and Aquabotics, industry operators are expected to increasingly adopt real-time, distant operations and uncrewed vessels and vehicles to enable more efficient monitoring, welfare and biosecurity practices, even in offshore aquaculture and wild catch operations. Many employers are undertaking planning and scoping exercises with a view to introducing these technologies, while some businesses, such as Huon and Tassal in Tasmania, are already using remote centres to control and automate their distant operations.

With this rapid rate of technological change, a new generation of leadership is being developed and traditional occupations and roles are evolving. Technology is now undertaking diverse activities previously completed by workers, including diving operations, on-deck vessel work, harvesting, hatchery and sample collections. Updated workforce training is needed to facilitate the transferable and specialised skills required. The proposed FishTech and Aquabotics: real-time, distant operations project aims to review specific units of competency to ensure that the skills required for an emerging work function, distant operations, are incorporated into existing units or covered in new units. The key drivers for the project include:

  • Changes in technology which improve safety and efficiency
  • Building the Australian Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry in line with broadly-supported strategies, policies and recommendations
  • Enabling smaller operators to introduce new technologies with skilled worker availability
  • Assisting industry in adjusting to changing fish movements and the introduction of new species
  • Maintaining and improving the quality of industry products
  • Ensuring compliance and regulation activities keep up with technological development.

The 2019 report Sustainable Fishing Families: Developing Industry Human Capital Through Health, Wellbeing, Safety and Resilience, for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), states that the health, safety and wellbeing of fishers and their families is vital to the ongoing strength and productivity of the commercial Wild Catch industry. In recent years, concern for the health, safety and wellbeing of the professional Wild Catch industry has been growing in Australia. In response, the Sustainable Fishing Families project conducted the first national survey of the health, safety and wellbeing of the Australian professional fishing industry in 2017. The results of the survey provide a baseline for the state of the Wild Catch industry members across a range of indicators, including reported physical and mental health, factors affecting health and safety, factors affecting levels of stress, health and safety behaviours, and access to health services and information. The project also conducted and evaluated an intensive pilot program on health, safety and wellbeing tailored specifically for fishing families. The program was modelled on an existing and highly successful program with farming families, Sustainable Farm Families.

The report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, highlights that in the Fisheries and Aquaculture industry, disruptive technologies have the potential to change fishing activity by providing fishers with more information so that fishing is safer (e.g. weather forecasting), more precise (e.g. satellite positioning) and more predictable. Emerging technologies for gathering information and storing it safely have the potential to improve compliance with regulations and traceability, so that the sustainability and management of fish resources will improve substantially. New disruptive technologies affecting the sector include mobile internet (e.g. providing real-time market prices for fish), advanced robotics (e.g. automatic fish filleting) and the 'Internet of Things', or interconnectedness among systems, devices and advanced sensors (e.g. electronic fish tags). Disruptive technologies can offer new ways for the industry to do business so that it is more sustainable and more resource and energy efficient while creating new decent work opportunities, including opportunities for women and youth.

The disruptive technologies are becoming increasingly affordable and promise to change behaviour and the economy, even for small-scale fishers. It is important that effective management is in place so that emerging technologies are used to improve rather than undermine the sustainability of fisheries. Similarly, it is essential to address barriers to fishers' and fish farmers' access to new technologies, and to build their capacity to take advantage of disruptive technologies. If well managed, disruptive technologies offer immense opportunities to enhance the technical and financial efficiency of the industry, to create new work opportunities, to improve food security and livelihoods and to contribute to the 2030 Agenda, especially Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Aquaculture Association of Queensland Inc (AAQ)

Aquaculture Council of Western Australia (ACWA)

Australian Abalone Growers Association (AAGA)

Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA)

Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries

Australian Freshwater Crayfish Growers Association SA

Australian Freshwater Crayfish Growers Association VIC

Australian Marine Finfish Farmers Association (AMFFA)

Australian Mussel Industry Association (AMIA)

Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA)

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA)

Australian Trout & Salmon Farmers Association

Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA)

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)

Freshwater Native Fish Association (FNFA)

Great Australian Bight Fishing Industry Association Inc (GABIA)

Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association (MBSIA)

National Aquaculture Council (NAC)

National Seafood Industry Alliance

Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) Industry Pty Ltd

Northern Territory Seafood Council

NSW Aquaculture Association Inc

NSW Professional Fishermen’s Association (PFA)

NSW Seafood Industry Council

Oysters Australia (OA)

Oysters Tasmania

Pearl Producers Association (PPA)

Queensland Aquaculture Industries Federation Inc (QAIF)

Queensland Crayfish Farmers Association Inc (QCFA)

Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA)

Queensland Seafood Marketers Association (QSMA)

SA Mussel Growers Association (SAMGA)

Scallop Fishermen’s Association of Tasmania (SFAT)

Seafood Importers Association of Australia (SIAA)

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA)

Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV)

Seafood Processors and Exporters Council (SPEC)

Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association Inc (SPFIA)

South Australian Aquaculture Council (SAAC)

South Australian Oyster Growers Association (SAOGA)

South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA)

Southern Shark Industry Alliance Inc (SSIA)

Sustainable Shark Fishing Association (SSFAssn)

Tasmanian Abalone Council Ltd

Tasmanian Abalone Growers Association (TAGA)

Tasmanian Salmon Growers Association (TSGA)

Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council (TSIC)

Tasmanian Shellfish Executive Council (TSEC)

The Master Fish Merchants' Association of Australia (MFMA)

Victorian Abalone Growers Association

Victorian Abalone Industry Committee (VAIC)

Victorian Bays and Inlet Fisheries Association

Victorian Eel Fishermen’s Association

Victorian Rock Lobster Association

Victorian Scallop Fishermen’s Association Inc (VSFA)

Victorian Trout Farmers Association

Western Australian Fishing Industry Council Inc (WAFIC)

Western Rock Lobster (WRL) Council

Wildcatch Fisheries SA (WFSA)

Regulatory bodies

Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA)

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Department of Agriculture – Fisheries

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries – QLD

Department of Primary Industries – Fishing NSW

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development – Fisheries WA

Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment – Sea Fishing and Aquaculture TASure division

Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA)

Employee associations

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)

National Union of Workers (NUW)

 

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2023
    • 020 Aquaculture
    • 041 Fishing
    • 112 Seafood Processing
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • Aquaculture Farmers
    • Aquaculture Workers
    • Meat, Poultry and Seafood Process Workers
    • Agricultural Technicians
    • Deck and Fishing Hands
    • Marine Transport Professionals.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2018, May quarter
    • 020 Aquaculture
    • 041 Fishing
    • 112 Seafood Processing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.
    • 020 Aquaculture
    • 041 Fishing.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • SFI – Seafood Industry Training Package
  • Aquaculture
    • SFI10100 - Certificate I in the Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI10104 - Certificate I in Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI10111 - Certificate I in Aquaculture
    • SFI20100 - Certificate II in the Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI20104 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI20111 - Certificate II in Aquaculture
    • SFI30100 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI30104 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI30111 - Certificate III in Aquaculture
    • SFI40100 - Certificate IV in the Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI40104 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI40111 - Certificate IV in Aquaculture
    • SFI50100 - Diploma of the Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI50104 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Aquaculture)
    • SFI50111 - Diploma of Aquaculture
  • Other Seafood and Fishing
  • SFI10200 - Certificate I in the Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI10204 - Certificate I in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI10211 - Certificate I in Fishing Operations
  • SFI10500 - Certificate I in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI10504 - Certificate I in Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI10511 - Certificate I in Seafood Processing
  • SFI20200 - Certificate II in the Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI20204 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI20211 - Certificate II in Fishing Operations
  • SFI20404 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance Support)
  • SFI20411 - Certificate II in Fisheries Compliance Support
  • SFI20500 - Certificate II in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI20504 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI20511 - Certificate II in Seafood Processing
  • SFI20600 - Certificate II in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI20604 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI20611 - Certificate II in Seafood Industry (Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI30200 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI30211 - Certificate III in Fishing Operations
  • SFI30300 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Fishing Charter Operations)
  • SFI30304 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Fishing Charter Operations)
  • SFI30311 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Environmental Management Support)
  • SFI30400 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI30404 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI30411 - Certificate III in Fisheries Compliance
  • SFI30500 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI30504 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI30511 - Certificate III in Seafood Processing
  • SFI30600 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI30604 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI30611 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI30699 - Certificate III in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI30705 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Environmental Management Support)
  • SFI31204 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI32204 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations - Marine Engine Driver II)
  • SFI33204 - Certificate III in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations - Master 5/Skipper 3)
  • SFI40200 - Certificate IV in the Seafood Industries (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI40211 - Certificate IV in Fishing Operations
  • SFI40311 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Environmental Management)
  • SFI40400 - Certificate IV in the Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI40404 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI40411 - Certificate IV in Fisheries Compliance
  • SFI40502 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI40504 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI40511 - Certificate IV in Seafood Processing
  • SFI40600 - Certificate IV in the Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI40604 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Seafood Sales and Distribution)
  • SFI40611 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry Sales and Distribution
  • SFI40705 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Environmental Management)
  • SFI41204 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI42204 - Certificate IV in Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations - Marine Engine Driver I)
  • SFI50200 - Diploma of the Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI50204 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Fishing Operations)
  • SFI50211 - Diploma of Fishing Operations
  • SFI50300 - Diploma of the Seafood Industry (Fishing Charter Operations)
  • SFI50304 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Fishing Charter Operations)
  • SFI50400 - Diploma of the Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI50404 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Fisheries Compliance)
  • SFI50411 - Diploma of Fisheries Compliance
  • SFI50502 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI50504 - Diploma of Seafood Industry (Seafood Processing)
  • SFI50511 - Diploma of Seafood Processing.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

SFI – Seafood Industry Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Aquaculture and Wild Catch IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 01 Nov 2019
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