AIMS scientists are engaged in an international project aimed at establishing sustainable capacity thresholds for tropical finfish cage aquaculture. Field studies have now been completed at a large barramundi farm in the Northern Territory and at grouper farms in South Sulawesi and Lampung provinces, Indonesia. Data from these studies are being used to develop planning tools that will be initially applied in Indonesia, but will be applicable throughout the region.
This project, "Planning tools for environmentally sustainable tropical finfish cage culture in Indonesia and northern Australia", was funded by ACIAR to link AIMS' scientific expertise on tropical coastal processes to research on the environmental effects of fish cages being undertaken in Indonesia at the Research Institute for Coastal Aquaculture (RICA), in South Sulawesi and the National Sea Farming Development Centre in Lampung. A companion project based at UNSW was funded by ACIAR to research similar issues for land-based aquaculture. Expected community benefits from this work will include minimisation of local environmental impacts of cage culture at the study sites and a general framework for assisting future cage farming developments in Indonesia to be ecologically sustainable.
Although sea cage aquaculture in tropical Australia is limited (currently only one farm in Queensland), the work in Indonesia facilitates the development of planning tools for aquaculture in environments where such aquaculture is already intensive. The knowledge gained will provide answers to common questions posed by environmental managers, such as "what is the footprint (area of influence) of a sea cage farm?", and "how many sea cages can a particular environment support before there is evidence of detectable influences upon natural ecosystem processes including resilience?"