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The evolution and future outlook of environmental monitoring for South Australia's Aquaculture Industry

Peter R. Lauer* and Jade Davison
PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture
GPO Box 1625
Adelaide, South Australia, 5001

PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture’s Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMP) programs have been in place since the early 1990’s, commencing with the intertidal oyster sector then expanding to other sectors overtime. EMP requirements were initially outlined as licence conditions for each industry sector until being legislated as regulations in 2005.

An EMP is mandatory for all aquaculture operations and allows for ongoing assessment of environmental performance. Licensees must undertake an annual EMP – the requirements for which depend on the type of aquaculture operation and the associated environmental risks.
For marine-based aquaculture, EMPs focus on the health of the seafloor and include underwater video monitoring and for finfish farming, an examination of benthic invertebrate communities (known as ‘infauna’). EMP reports must contain farm management information relating to feeding practices, chemical usage, as well as details of any known wildlife interactions. For land-based aquaculture, EMPs focus on the quality of discharge water.

Monitoring requirements depend on the scale of aquaculture operation and the degree to which effluent water is treated prior to release – accredited laboratories test for a number of organic pollutants defined by South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority.

Following the review of the Aquaculture Act 2001, a review has commenced on the Aquaculture Regulations 2005. The review of the regulations provides PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, other relevant government agencies and industry sectors with an opportune time to review the current requirements in place to determine their ongoing effectiveness, and if recent advancements in technologies can provide a more robust and cost effective environmental monitoring process.

EMPs are a crucial tool underpinning the ongoing adaptive management of the South Australian aquaculture industry. Information from EMPs is used to assess not only the environmental impacts from an aquaculture activity at the site scale, but the information is also used to determine the requirement for larger scale zone development. The revised EMPs will aim to better integrate the risks of the site and regional consequences from aquaculture activities.

As the industry continue to grow, it is important to ensure that aquaculture keeps on being a responsible and legitimate user of marine and freshwater resources; EMPs offer a transparent approach to achieve this goal.