Aquaculture – National ESD Reporting Framework


Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing industries in Australia having grown in value by over 13% for the past 10 years1. It is currently valued at $743 million2 with an industry vision to achieve $2.5 billion in sales by 2010.

The industry is made up a large number of different sectors that produce over 40 species, but the five main sectors – oysters, prawns, tuna, salmon and pearls account for over 85% of the GVP. These operations are located from tropical to temperate regions and utilise production techniques that involve the use of land based, estuarine and fully marine systems.

It has been recognized that there are a number of potential impediments to achieve continued growth of this industry. These include the need for increased investment, an expansion in markets and ensuring environmental sustainability. The most important, however, is meeting the growing expectations of the community that all aquaculture sectors can clearly demonstrate that they are operating within the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

The agencies responsible for the management of aquaculture in Australia and the relevant aquaculture industries are committed to incorporating ESD into their management processes. A direct outcome of this commitment has been the development of an ESD Framework for Aquaculture, which has been generated by the FRDC subprogram in conjunction with the Aquaculture Committee of the Australian Fisheries Managers Forum (AFMF) in conjunction with the National Aquaculture Council (NAC).

The first stage in the development of this framework has been the completion of a How To Guide that documents the methods needed to enable the initial analyses of any aquaculture sector against the principles of ESD . This guide was published in June 2004.

How Does This Differ From the Wild Capture Framework?

The ESD framework for aquaculture has similarities to the ESD framework that was previously developed for wild capture fisheries. Thus, both of them help to identify the relevant environmental, social/economic and governance issues, they assist with determining the appropriate level of management response using risk assessment techniques, and they provide a reporting structure to document outcomes.

There are, however, a number of important differences. The major difference between the two frameworks is in the structure of the environmental components. For aquaculture, they are structured into three different spatial levels – (1) Whole of industry issues, (2) Catchment/Regional issues and (3) Within facility issues.

This hierarchical approach is designed to show the linkages between what is required at the operator level and the outcomes wanted by government/community at the regional and whole of industry scales.

This guide can be used to facilitate the development of reports/assessments at the whole of industry level, at a regional level, or as the basis for an EMS at the facility level. Thus, it can be used at whatever level is appropriate depending upon the questions being asked and who is asking them.

Given that most aquaculture operations are assessed/approved at an individual venture level and a large number of government agencies are usually involved in the assessment of aquaculture, the ESD framework for aquaculture can also function as a set of guidelines for coordinating processes and ensuring due diligence not just as a method for the generation of a single report on an industry.

Importantly, this ESD Framework is not designed to add more steps to the process of approvals for aquaculture leases/licences. Instead, it is designed to help minimise overlaps, redundancies and omissions 3 in the current procedures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the outcomes for both industry participants and the wider community.

What are the major components of ESD for Aquaculture?

To enable ESD to be implemented in a practical manner, it has been divided into eight major components, grouped within three main categories – contributions to ecological wellbeing, contributions to human wellbeing and ability to achieve. Each of these is split into a number of components relevant to aquaculture.

Contributions to Ecological Wellbeing

  1. Impacts on the General Environment (Whole of industry)
    Are there issues that need to be dealt with at the whole of industry level?
  2. Impacts within Catchment/Region
    This deals with the cumulative impacts that may occur from multiple facilities in the one region/catchment
  3. Impacts within Facility
    What issues need to be addressed within each facility?

Contribution to Human Wellbeing

  1. Indigenous Wellbeing
    How does the industry sector affect indigenous communities in the area where the industry operates?
  2. Community Wellbeing
    Are there local (including the industry itself) or regional communities that are dependent on the industry and/or are they supportive or negative about its operation?
  3. National Wellbeing
    How does the industry/sector contribute to national issues such as employment rates, supply of fish, economic returns, reductions in trade deficit etc?

Ability to Achieve

  1. Governance .
    Are the management processes and arrangements for the industry appropriate and efficient to enable the other elements to achieve an adequate level of performance?

  2. Impacts of the Environment
    Are there issues that may reduce or improve performance of the industry/sector that are outside of the direct control of the management agency/industry?
How does the ESD Framework operate?

There are five key elements used in the process to complete an ESD report for an aquaculture sector:

  1. identifying the issues relevant to the industry/sector/individual;
  2. prioritising these issues;
  3. completing suitably detailed reports/management strategies for each issue (dependent upon their priority,complexity and the scope of the requirements – ie whole of industry, a region or even just a single operator);
  4. compile summary background material on the industry (where relevant), the major species affected and the environments that the industry operates within. This enables the reader to put the material presented within any report into an appropriate context.
  5. using the generated material to assist individuals or industry (e.g. for use in generating EMS’s, COPs) or by agencies as the basis for demonstrating they are achieving appropriate outcomes for government (e.g. Reports to Parliament).

Detailed description of how this framework operates is presented in the “How To” Guide For aquaculture which is located below.

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