The amount of seafood (edible and non-edible) produced in Australia has steadily grown over the last decade to almost 300,000 tonnes per year. This growth is mostly driven by the expansion of prawn and salmon aquaculture and by increased tuna catch, as some wild stocks continue to recover. Australia differs from many other developed countries in that a significant proportion of Australian product, which could otherwise supply the domestic market, is sold to export markets. While the COVID-19 pandemic and trade tensions with China disrupted the normal pattern of seafood trade over the past few years, in general Australian fisheries exports are dominated by high-value products—such as rock lobster, premium tuna species and abalone—while imports largely consist of lower value products—such as canned fish and frozen fillets.
There is further potential to expand Australia’s fisheries exports into new and growing markets, which will in turn secure a more diversified market base for our fisheries products.
Developing and maintaining a diversified market base is important for minimising problems associated with having too few markets that are economically and geographically co-located.
Australia’s seafood trade
It has been estimated that 62 per cent of the edible seafood Australians consume (by weight) is imported, predominantly from Asia. New Zealand and Norway are also important sources of seafood imports to Australia. With such a long coastline and a relatively small population, people often question why Australia imports so much of its seafood.
Australia’s seafood trade explains the sources of Australia’s seafood and why, like many other developed countries, Australia is a net importer of seafood.