Working through a sustainable pathway in Victoria
Native seaweeds are an important marine habitat in Victoria’s bays, inlets and coastal waters underpinning our recreational and commercial fisheries. Interest in native seaweed aquaculture in our waters is growing rapidly due to its scope to create valuable products and jobs alongside environmental benefits for Victoria. Potential opportunities range from growing food and manufacturing products, capturing carbon from the atmosphere and excess nutrients from the sea, creating marine habitat to enabling ‘climate-friendly’ livestock feed.
Seaweed aquaculture is a well-established, significant and successful industry in other parts of the world, but new for Victoria. Victoria hosts abundant clean water resources suited to low impact aquaculture and our aquaculture production is diverse and growing, enabled through the regulatory system in place under the Fisheries Act. As for many new industries, enabling licences for seaweed aquaculture would require updates to our regulatory system. The VFA is carefully working through this, ensuring that we are informed by the best available information and views of key interested stakeholders.
Aquaculture of native seaweed
- Licences enabling seaweed aquaculture are not currently available in Victoria.
- A small number of permits have been issued to trial native seaweed culture, within crown lease areas in the aquaculture reserves.
- These are short term permits, each issued on the basis of a limit on the quantity of native seaweed that may be harvested from the wild as ‘brood-stock’ for the aquaculture activities.
- The issue of a permit does not imply any right of re-issue or ongoing entitlement.
- The VFA does not intend to issue a large number of these permits or increase their brood stock limit. Further applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account permits issued to date.
- An adaptive management approach is being applied to the issue of these permits and their conditions – including brood-stock limits - as knowledge and best practice for seaweed aquaculture continues to rapidly develop, and a review of future management arrangements for seaweed aquaculture and harvest in Victoria is conducted (see below).
- Any permits issued from November 2022 will have a maximum duration of 12 months and maximum limit of 20 kg of brood-stock from the wild.
- The issue of further permits to trial seaweed aquaculture will cease in mid-December 2022, unless the VFA determines there is a need to cap permit numbers prior to that time.
- Issue of future permits will be re-evaluated by the VFA in mid-late 2023, taking into account the outcomes of the management review.
Harvest of native seaweed
Native seaweed provides an important habitat for fish and other marine life. The harvesting of native seaweed in Victorian marine waters is prohibited without a permit (s. 112(2) Fisheries Act 1995: Using equipment in Victorian waters where the use of the equipment could reasonably be expected to result in the damage to the habitat of any fish). It is also protected under the Marine and Coastal Act 2018 s.65. (use or develop, or undertake works on, marine and coastal Crown land without a consent.)
Review of management arrangements
The VFA is reviewing management arrangements for seaweed aquaculture and harvest. We are gathering information, liaising with other jurisdictions and establishing a working group with the key relevant Victorian government agencies. We are planning to hold a forum with representatives of key agencies and stakeholder groups in early 2023.
Any proposals for regulatory change under the Fisheries Act will be subject to our formal consultation processes. Please email Joanne.Klemke@vfa.vic.gov.au if would like to be included on the email list for this consultation.
Any activity or investment in relation to native seaweed may not be considered in the development of future management arrangements.
The conditions of permits to trial native seaweed culture in place may also be amended to align with future management arrangements.