The fin-fish industry's contribution to the Tasmanian economy and
This chapter examines the importance of the fin-fish aquaculture
industry to the Tasmanian economy and the improvement of workforce
participation rates for the state. It also examines the industry's significant
investment in training and education, and the role it plays in revitalising
rural and regional communities, particularly those suffering from the downturn
in traditional industries such as forestry and mining.
Economic value of the fin-fish aquaculture industry
The committee received numerous submissions highlighting the importance
of the aquaculture industry to the Tasmanian economy. The following paragraphs
outline this evidence
Direct economic contribution
In 2012–13, the gross value of overall fisheries production in Tasmania
was $696 million, with salmonid aquaculture contributing $489 million.
A 2015 report by KPMG found that the Tasmanian salmonid industry has a turnover
of $1.12 billion and represents 2.3 per cent of Tasmania's gross state
It is Tasmania's most valuable primary industry in terms of the value of
The real gross value of Tasmania's aquaculture production has increased
significantly over the past decade, as shown by Figure 7.1. Although the
majority of the economic benefits from the industry are experienced within
Tasmania, the salmonid aquaculture industry also contributes over $115 million
to mainland economies.
Figure 7.1: Real gross value of Tasmanian fisheries production,
Source: M Stephan and P
Hobsbawn, Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2013, ABARES
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2010/208; reproduced in
Department of Agriculture, Submission 10, p. 3.
Australia's farmed salmonids are almost entirely from Tasmania. At a
national level, production increased from 16,686 tonnes in 2003–04 to 41,615
tonnes in 2013–14. The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture indicated that
the volume of Australian salmonids production is forecast to continue to grow with
a forecasted expansion of 3500 tonnes in 2014–15. In 2015–16, the volume is
forecast to expand by a further 2300 tonnes, due in part to the planned
industry expansion of production in Macquarie Harbour. Over the medium term,
salmon production is projected to reach 61,400 tonnes by 2019–20.
Currently, Tasmanian aquaculture salmonids are primarily produced for
domestic markets and only contributed $14 million of the total Tasmanian
fisheries export value of $144 million in 2013–14. However, 81 per cent of
salmonid exports from Australia over the past decade originated in Tasmania.
Indirect economic effects
It is clear that Tasmania's fin-fish aquaculture industry has strong
links with other sectors of the economy, such as the service and transport
industries. These links generate a multiplied output or turnover effect and
expand the capacity and depth of the economy.
A report from the Australian Innovation Research Centre published in 2012 highlighted
these links and commented that it is:
...vital that Tasmania strengthen and grow its private
sector...[as] expanding Tasmania's private sector is the key to long-term
diversification and economic security for Tasmanians.
The aquaculture industry provides direct employment and supports
ancillary businesses which have proved valuable for local economies. The
committee received submissions from a number of companies detailing the work
they undertake in support of the aquaculture industry. This includes in
electrical and mechanical services, refrigeration, metal fabrication,
logistics, transport, and concreting and construction.
Without the aquaculture industry, these companies would suffer negative
consequences. For example, Scielex Pty Ltd stated that:
We have little doubt that our organisation exists in its
present form because of the presence of the aquaculture industry in Tasmania...if
there was any reason that the Tasmanian aquaculture industry was undermined or
restricted, then it would have a direct negative impact on our company.
Duggans Pty Ltd, a family owned business which has been based in the
Huon Valley for the past 88 years, stated in its submission to the committee
Since commencing in the mid 1980s the salmon industry has
grown to provide both direct and indirect employment in the Huon Valley and
economic activity...Without the rise of industries such as the aquaculture
industry, many of our regional centres would be ghost towns with high unemployment
and little economic activity.
Duggans Pty Ltd also indicated that although it is not directly
involved in the aquaculture industry:
...its future and the jobs of its employees depend upon the
economic activity of the salmon industry to create demand for housing,
commercial buildings, roads, and concrete and quarry products it produces.
In addition to businesses carrying out work in support of the fin-fish
aquaculture industry, there is also considerable flow-on economic activity to
the rest of the community. The Australian Workers' Union stated that:
...the indirect impact has been flow-on activity which has
meant that existing businesses within those regions have been able to have
enough turnover as a consequence of the growth of aquaculture so that the
communities have remained robust.
Jobs, skills and workforce development
The importance of the fin-fish aquaculture industry for employment,
skills and workforce development in Tasmania is significant. With Tasmanian
educational attainment and employment rates generally lower than those in the
rest of Australia, the industry provides not only employment opportunities, but
also opportunities for skills improvement of the Tasmanian workforce.
In Tasmania, less than one in five (18 per cent) of 15 to 19 year
olds in Tasmania have Year 12 or equivalent qualifications compared with one in
four (26 per cent) nationally based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011
census data. Similarly, for 20 to 24 year olds, 57.4 per cent of Tasmanians
have Year 12 or equivalent qualifications, compared with 69.9 per cent
The 2011 census also indicated that the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds
in Tasmania who have attained advanced diploma, diploma and certificate level
qualifications (34 per cent) is now higher than the percentage nationally
(30 per cent).
However, participation in higher education in Tasmania is still lower than the
Australian average. In Tasmania, only 22 per cent of people aged 25 to 34 have
bachelor degree or higher qualifications compared to 32 per cent nationally.
Adult literacy levels in Tasmania are also lower than the rest of
Australia. The ABS found, in 2006, that literacy skills of Tasmanians aged 15
to 74 years were the lowest in the nation, and there had been no improvement
since they were measured in 1996.
The ABS also found that around half of the Tasmanian population aged 15 to 74 years
lack the literacy skills needed to cope with the demands of everyday life and
work. For example, 49 per cent of adult Tasmanians, or approximately 174,000
people, do not have the basic skills needed to understand and use information
from newspapers, magazines, books and brochures.
Tasmania's rate of adult literacy is influenced by a range of factors
including the higher prevalence of older persons in the population, and lower
school retention rates and post-school qualifications. Recent information from
the ABS also suggests that Tasmanians in regional municipalities tend to have
lower literacy levels compared to those living in major metropolitan areas.
The estimated unemployment rate in Tasmania was 6.9 per cent in June
2015, compared to the national average of 6 per cent. Tasmanian employment was
estimated at 238 900 persons in June 2015, a participation rate of 60.9 per
Workforce participation is likely affected by a range of factors including the
levels of adult literacy, and availability of alternative employment in rural
areas where industries such as forestry and mining have declined.
The fin-fish aquaculture industry provides employment in 26 of the 29
local government areas. Crucially, the industry is responsible for 31 per cent
of private sector employment in the Huon Council Area, 14 per cent in the West
Coast Council Area and almost 10 per cent in the Tasman Council Area. The Huon
and Tasman areas have all been significantly affected by downturns and closures
in the forestry and mining sectors.
The Australian Workers' Union noted that:
...as the forest industry has shrunk and reduced and as this
industry [aquaculture] has grown, this industry has been able to provide a
well-trained, stable, full-time employment opportunity in those regions which
quite simply would not otherwise be there.
The Tasmanian fin-fish aquaculture industry currently employs 1571
people and supports a further 3769 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in both
Tasmania and the rest of Australia. In April 2015, the industry employed one
out of every 100 persons in the state and accounted for 10 per cent of FTEs in
the Tasmanian agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.
As has been previously noted, the industry is expanding. The 2012 Australian
Innovation Research Centre report stated that it is estimated that new farms
could create a further 800 FTE jobs in the near future. Beyond this, as many as
a further 1000 farming and 100 processing FTE jobs could be created, with
support for a further 1233 FTE jobs.
For example, in July 2015 Huon Aquaculture opened its new $12 million
Smokehouse and Product Innovation Centre at Parramatta Creek. This created an additional
70 jobs in north Tasmania.
Employees in the salmonid industry earn more than other employees in
other sectors in Tasmanian: the average weekly wage for salmonid industry
employees is almost double the Tasmanian average which is significant in the
context of the largely rural and regional nature of the industry.
According to the Australian Workers' Union:
All of the aquaculture companies, with the exception of Van
Diemen Aquaculture in the Tamar Valley, have in place enterprise agreements
with the union. We are currently in the process of concluding an enterprise
agreement with Van Diemen Aquaculture. The effect of those enterprise
agreements is that the average earnings of people in aquaculture are
approximately $1,200 a week, compared to the Tasmanian community average
earnings of about $700 a week. So when we talk about a living wage we are
talking about a wage which can support the livelihoods of families and keep
them within the communities that they have grown up in.
The importance of the salmonid industry to local communities was
emphasised in evidence. The Australian Workers' Union stated:
The aquaculture industry supports communities with two
fundamental foundations on which those communities can build and prosper:
firstly, a living wage and livelihood rather than a minimum safety-net wage;
secondly, a highly skilled workforce with a stable, reliable, full-time
employment rather than unskilled, itinerant or casual work. The significance of
those two foundations cannot be overstated in the role that they play in
contributing to healthy and robust regional communities within which they
The Australian Workers' Union went on to give the example of the Huon
Valley where approximately 600 people are directly employed in aquaculture.
This area at one time had large orchards, however:
...the type of work that is available in that region if you did
not have aquaculture is itinerant, unskilled casual work. It is not the sort of
work or the sorts of earnings which can sustain the community in itself. So it
is fundamentally a part of sustaining that part of Tasmania. We know from our
experience with mine closures on the west coast that if you have a single
industry which plays a significant role in underpinning the community and that
industry disappears, the community suffers very seriously and shrinks very
quickly and the services that are available retreat.
Training and skills development
The TSGA highlighted the diversity of skills required in the industry,
with Dr Adam Main, Chief Executive Officer, commenting that skilled
people are employed by the industry in such areas as human resources, IT,
processing, aquaculture innovation, science, quality control, marketing and
distribution. Dr Main added that:
Their expertise and expanding skills are fundamental to the
industry as it moves forward. It is this self-belief and passion that reinforce
our sense of providence. Tasmanian salmon is produced by truly local teams, and
this is invaluable in the way we market our product.
The committee received a number of submissions which also highlighted
the importance of training and skills certification, both for current
aquaculture employees, and for the future development of the industry. The Huon
Valley Trade Training Centre (HVTTC) described the salmonid industry as an
'advanced technological industry' that requires highly skilled employees. This
is in contrast to industries such as resource extraction, and has required a
'fundamental change' in the employment profile in areas such as the Huon Valley.
The Australian Workers' Union similarly commented that the Tasmanian
salmonid industry supports a well-qualified workforce with staff trained in a
wide variety of farm and factory skills.
The industry has a long-term commitment to the improvement of skills of
employees and providing opportunities for young Tasmanians. Dr Main stated:
...a major initiative of TSGA and its members is to improve VET
training in Tasmania, to improve access to apprenticeships and work experience
for young Tasmanians. This is all about uplifting skills and providing
employment pathways for young regional Tasmanians into our industry.
Other submitters supported the industry's commitment to improving the
skill base of its workforce. Seafood Training Tasmania, for example, stated
...the Tasmanian Aquaculture industry has a long history of taking
formal training seriously with over 75% of the current marine operations
trained at Certificate 3 and above!...[as this] does not include the many
employees holding [other] trade and tertiary qualifications the real number
holding Cert 3 and above qualifications is closer to 90%!
With the expansion of the industry, and the recognition of the need to
ensure a stable and skilled workforce, Skills Tasmania and the Tasmanian
Seafood Industry Council developed the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Workforce
Training opportunities such as school-based apprenticeships, traineeships, work
experience and support for tertiary education are available.
Seafood Training Tasmania (STT), a not-for-profit registered training organisation,
stated in its submission that it now provides 18 nationally-recognised
qualifications and has more than 1200 participants annually. Over 60 per cent
of enrolments come from the Tasmanian salmonid industry. While its training has
mainly been mainly directed at upskilling existing employees, demand has now
emerged at four regional Trade Training Centres for Certificates in
Aquaculture. Currently, there are 95 school-based students undertaking these
The industry has strong links with the STT with industry representatives
sitting on the STT board. In addition, the industry provides access to 'the
latest plant and equipment, including vessels and training rooms to enable STT
to deliver the right training in the most appropriate region'. The STT
From our observations over the last 3 decades the Tasmanian
fin-fish industry has proven itself to be an outstanding example of innovation
that has provided significant employment in those areas of Tasmania that need
it the most.
The HVTTC is funded by the Australian Government's Trade Training
Centres in Schools Program. Training is delivered under a Partnering Agreement
with STT and is supported by industry including Tassal, Huon Aquaculture,
Petuna, and Skretting. Representatives of Tassal and Huon Aquaculture sit on
the board of HVTTC and assist with the selection and induction of the students
into the program, and provide ongoing technical support, training opportunities,
site visits, and work-placement opportunities for the students.
The HVTTC commented that a workforce development model around Australian
School-based Apprenticeships has been developed in partnership with the
salmonid companies. In its first year of operation, this has been taken up by
six students, providing them with work and training while at school, assisting
with retention. There is also guaranteed employment at the end of Year 12 and
support for tertiary studies as required. This program has now become a model
for other industries in Tasmania.
The HVTTC concluded:
...the Tasmanian salmon industry is vital to the employment
future of Tasmania's young people, particularly in regional areas, and is an
internationally recognised model of industry and school partnerships.
The committee also heard evidence from companies which provide support
to the aquaculture industry about the ways in which they are 'investing in
youth as future leaders'
through the provision of apprenticeships and training. Degree C Pty Ltd indicated
that they have 'been able to provide training to our tradespeople and a large
number of our 40-plus apprentices'.
Degree C Pty Ltd also highlighted the importance of the opportunities
provided by the aquaculture industry and stated that:
If the aquaculture industry were to suddenly disappear, the
loss would be huge...The opportunity for training and upskilling of tradespeople
and apprentices will be lost, as this industry provides training and learning
opportunities that cannot be gained elsewhere.
The committee recognises the important contribution of the fin-fish aquaculture
industry to the economic prosperity of Tasmania. It is providing direct
employment opportunities for over 1500 people and more than twice that many
Significantly, many of those who are employed directly by the industry
are working in regional areas. These are areas which have, in the past,
suffered as a result of contracting employment opportunities through downturns
in traditional industries, notably forestry and mining. With expansion of the
industry, greater employment opportunities will become available which the
committee considers will further enhance community wellbeing in regional
The committee saw at first hand, during its inspection of fish pens on
the Huon River, the commitment of the industry to supporting local businesses. For
example, the large black plastic pipes used in construction of the pens are
made by Zest, a company based at Wynyard on the north west coast of Tasmania. This
commitment to local businesses creates many additional employment and training
The aquaculture industry requires an appropriately skilled and stable
workforce across all areas of activity. The fin-fish companies, and indeed the entire
seafood industry in Tasmania, have actively supported training and education
programs. These range from upskilling of those already employed in the industry
to school-based apprenticeships and tertiary education opportunities. Given the
poor levels of educational attainment and literacy in Tasmania compared to the
rest of Australia, the contribution and support of the aquaculture industry for
education and training is significant. For many young Tasmanians, this provides
opportunities which that are not available elsewhere. With the industry
continuing to expand, it is expected that further benefits from the skilling of
the workforce will emerge.
It is the committee's view that the success of the fin-fish aquaculture
industry is inextricably linked to the future economic prosperity of Tasmania.
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