Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms for the purpose of trade, business or research.
In South Australia, aquaculture is undertaken on land in tanks and ponds to raise species such as abalone, barramundi, Murray Cod, Rainbow/Brown Trout, yabbies and marron. Aquaculture in marine waters include Southern Bluefin Tuna, Yellowtail Kingfish, Blue Mussel, Pacific Oyster and abalone, and methods used are cages, long lines and/or racks depending on the species that is being cultured.
How we regulate
The EPA is a mandatory referral agency under the Aquaculture Act 2001 for all aquaculture licence applications and amendments, and for lease conversions that occur outside an aquaculture zone.
The EPA is also a mandatory referral agency under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 for development applications relating to land-based aquaculture depending on the nature of the proposed activity. It has the power to add conditions and can direct refusal of an application.
The EPA also provides advice to PIRSA on the development of aquaculture policies and environmental monitoring programs for industry.
When assessing aquaculture proposals, the EPA must have regard to, and seek to further, the objects of the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act), and have regard to the general environmental duty and relevant environment protection policies. This includes:
- Water quality – addition of nutrients into any waters resulting from uneaten feed and faeces; use of chemicals and fuels on aquaculture sites; increased turbidity from algal blooms; impacts on aquatic animals and vegetation from pollution
- Waste – disposal of mortalities and processing waste; cleaning of infrastructure; removal of biofouling; settlement of uneaten feed, faeces and other organic matter resulting in anoxic sediments
- Site contamination – chemical and fuel spills
- Noise – storage, cooling and processing facilities; pumps; filtration equipment; vessels entering and leaving the harbour at variable hours, maintenance; equipment cleaning.
- Odour – management of organic waste including disposal of mortalities and fish waste; decomposing biofouling on equipment such as cages and racks.
All aquaculture operations are expected to comply with EPA legislation and have a general environmental duty to avoid causing environmental harm. This harm can occur both within and outside the boundary of the aquaculture site.
- Environmental guidelines – information for applicants for:
Codes of practice
The EPA has produced environmental codes of practice for oyster and abalone growers which describes how farmers can meet EPA requirements. This is achieved by identifying potential environmental issues associated with farming oysters and abalone, and provides management strategies to address these issues.
The codes specify mandatory requirements that must be complied with and best environmental practices that are generally outcome-based to allow growers to continue their own individual methods of farming oysters.
Checklists for oyster growers
The EPA has produced a series of checklists for the 4 key components associated with oyster farming. These checklists enable oyster growers to undertake a self-audit of their business. These checklists could also be used by relevant government agencies to assess compliance with EPA legislation during site visits.
- Marine farming sites – where the oysters are farmed
- Oyster depots – where grading, packing, and equipment maintenance and storage takes place.
- Use of vehicles and vessels – operation and maintenance of vehicles and vessels used on the farm such as oyster punts, tractors and forklifts.
- Hatcheries – facilities used to grow oyster spat.
If you have any comments or suggestions for improvement on both the codes and the checklists, please contact the EPA via email.
- Managing aquaculture stock mortalities
- Feasibility study for the management of waste oyster baskets
- Change@SA Project reducing red tape for the tuna industry
- Wastewater lagoon construction
- CCA timber waste − storage and management
- Bunding and spill management
- Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines
- Code of practice for material handling on wharves
- Code of practice for vessel and facility management (marine and inland waters)
Whose responsibility is it to license aquaculture activities?
What is EPA's role in aquaculture?
PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture is responsible for the licensing and management of aquaculture in South Australia. However all aquaculture licence applications are referred by PIRSA to the EPA for assessment.
The EPA has the ability to stipulate licence conditions or refuse licence applications if there is evidence the proposed activity is unlikely to meet their environmental requirements under the Environment Protection Act 1993. For further information on the management of aquaculture, contact PIRSA on 08 8226 0900 or email.
Whose responsibility is it to monitor environmental impacts from aquaculture?
Monitoring environmental impacts is the responsibility of industry operators as defined in Aquaculture Regulations 2016.
Equipment (eg ropes, netting, feedbags) from fish farms has been found washed up on the shore. Who do we report this to?
Under the legislation, an aquaculture facility must clean up any washed-up equipment as soon as practicably possible.
Whose responsibility is it to respond to noise and odour coming from a land-based fish farm (or farm depot)?
A proposal for land-based aquaculture is required to obtain a development approval from the local council. The management of noise and odour is addressed during the development assessment process. Consequently concerns with these issues should be directed towards the relevant local council.
A fish farm is depositing waste/wastewater into a catchment area, stormwater or waterway. Who should I talk to?
Tuna or finfish processing vessels in Port Lincoln appear to be discharging blood into the bay, possibly attracting sharks. Whose responsibility is it to respond to that?
For tuna, the discharge could be coming from either large factory freezer vessels or smaller harvest vessels. The processing of tuna on board large factory freezer vessels is a licensed activity managed by the EPA. These boats are not permitted to discharge any waste and are required to hold and dispose of all waste in accordance with their licence conditions. In the event that blood or other waste is being discharged from the processing boat, the EPA is the correct point of contact.
Harvest boats for finfish and tuna are directly associated with farming activities licensed by PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. These boats are used to dispatch and store fish prior to transport to the freezer vessels or land-based processing facilities. These harvest vessels are required to contain all blood and waste on board the vessel. If the vessel discharges waste, it is a contravention of the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015. In this case details of the incident should be forwarded to either the EPA, or PIRSA on 8226 0900 or email.
There is a large algal bloom occurring in the water near a fish farm. Could this be caused by the farming activity? Who is responsible for addressing this issue?
Algal blooms can be caused by a number of reasons and can also be a natural event in both marine and freshwater environments. However if there is a suspicion that it is caused by a fish farming activity, PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, being the regulatory agency for aquaculture, can be contacted on 8226 0900 or email.