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Unravelling the tangle of Australia’s seaweed regulations

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Want to start farming seaweed, but not sure where to begin? A new report compiling different state and territory legislation and permits could be a good start.

Seaweed industry players regularly highlight government regulations as a barrier to the development of seaweed farming in Australia.

In some cases, applying the precautionary principle for new developments seems prohibitive. In NSW, once a marine lease has been granted, proposals for seaweed farms are designated as ‘a development of state significance’ and require a detailed Environmental Impact Statement as part of a two-year planning process to secure a permit. There is no provision for pilot or research trials before progressing to a full commercial proposal.

In Victoria, there is no legislation that recognises commercial seaweed aquaculture, although the state can issue permits to trial native seaweed culture.

And as the industry evolves, regulations are also evolving to address issues as they arise, such as the sourcing of local seed stock. In South Australia, new zones have been created to control the movement of seaweed genetic material collected for farming seed stock to protect local species diversity.

To help industry navigate these many and varied aquaculture legislation and approval processes between states, and the Northern Territory, AgriFutures Australia has commissioned a report that brings them all together.

The report, Seaweed aquaculture governance in Australia: A review of state and Northern Territory seaweed aquaculture policy was published in February 2023, with information up to date as at November 2022.

The report recognises that regulations and permitting processes are evolving rapidly, with a review of seaweed aquaculture and harvest underway in Victoria at the time of writing and changes to the legislation expected in Western Australia.

AgriFutures general manager of business development Michael Beer says the report provides commentary from an industry perspective on the strengths and gaps in seaweed aquaculture governance nationally.

Among its recommendations are the development of national policy on seaweed aquaculture in marine waters, and support for wild and aquaculture seed stock supply via a national seaweed hatchery network. The report also highlights the importance of a science-based, adaptive policy approach.


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