Unlocking regenerative aquaculture on the NSW South Coast

Unlocking regenerative aquaculture on the NSW South Coast

  • Aquaculture is a critical industry for Australia’s blue economy with significant opportunities for growth.

  • If done well, regenerative aquaculture has potential to contribute to resilient local economies, and provide a range of social, cultural and environmental benefits.

  • Regenerative aquaculture has been found to be a supported blue economy industry on the NSW South Coast, with particular interest from First Nations communities in developing these opportunities.

  • The potential of regenerative aquaculture is currently constrained by regulatory pathways. However, with further collective effort across government, industry, research and the community, there is a strong and vibrant future for a regenerative aquaculture industry on the NSW South Coast.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) and the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (BE CRC) have worked with industry, research, government, and community over the last 12 months to understand the status quo of the regenerative aquaculture industry on the NSW South Coast. In particular, exploring how Indigenous, community and economic values can inform the emerging seaweed farming sector and evolving shellfish farming in waters off the NSW South Coast.

Regenerative ocean aquaculture is non-intensive, feed-free aquaculture which allows the stock to grow on its own, using natural food sources and conditions. Regenerative aquaculture aims to minimise environmental impacts and support environmental benefits, such as improving water quality and providing habitat for other marine species. Regenerative aquaculture techniques include shellfish (e.g., oysters, mussels) and kelp farming methods.

If done well, regenerative aquaculture can also contribute to diverse and inclusive new economic opportunities for regional communities, as well as consolidate skills and supply chains.

Christopher Ride, Founder of Auskelp and project partner said, “If successful, this may do more than just create local jobs and deliver high-protein foods and products in an environmentally friendly way; kelp farming may just help to preserve kelp in NSW waters over the longer term.”

Through $289,000 in NSW Government funding, the project team led by the University of Wollongong Blue Futures and the Blue Economy CRC worked alongside existing aquaculture proponents including Sea Health Products and AusKelp, stakeholders and Indigenous rights holders, as well as members of the community to explore and unpack the opportunities for the development of kelp and mussel farming aquaculture in the local area.

The study found a very high degree of in principle support for the development of this industry across the NSW South Coast with an average of 76% of survey participants responding positively to the question ‘would you like to see regenerative aquaculture in your LGA?’.

The study also found that regenerative aquaculture has a great potential to drive economic growth into the NSW South Coast through investment and job creation in a highly sustainable industry. The region is home to regenerative aquaculture industry pioneers who are charting a course for those that follow.

Finally, the study identified a strong interest across First Nation communities and organisations in being leaders in a regenerative aquaculture industry, particularly if it can be designed in a way that restores Sea Country.

Despite these opportunities, the study also identified some key challenges that industry and Government will need to navigate to meet the considerable potential that regenerative aquaculture can provide the NSW South Coast.

Project lead Associate Professor Michelle Voyer from the University of Wollongong said, “Regenerative aquaculture is currently constrained by a regulatory pathway to approval that places prohibitive levels of risk on individual proponents.” 

In addition, whilst regenerative aquaculture as a concept enjoys very high levels of community support in the region, it faces challenges in implementation at a local scale, with existing proposals drawing mixed responses, and in some cases strong opposition, in local communities.

Blue Economy CRC Director, Blue Policy and Planning Angela Williamson, states,“Maintaining a high level of public support and the trust of local communities will be contingent on demonstrating that regenerative aquaculture is a nature positive industry with direct and indirect benefits to community and the environment.” 

“Ensuring that site selection is conducted in partnership with existing ocean users such as fishers and tourism operators, local communities, and especially First Nations and Native Title applicants will be crucial for securing local support,” Ms Williamson said. 

To support the transition and responsible growth of a regenerative aquaculture industry in NSW South Coast, the research makes a number of recommendations focused on the establishment of research trial sites, co-designed site selection and the development of a framework to support First Nation leadership in the regenerative aquaculture industry.    

With further collective effort across government, industry, research and the community, we see a strong and vibrant future for a regenerative aquaculture industry on the NSW South Coast,” Ms Voyer said.

Find out more about the project and download the full suite of project reports at: https://blueeconomycrc.com.au/collaborativeproject/regenerative-aquaculture-nsw/


The Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is established and supported under the Australian Government’s CRC Program, grant number CRC-20180101. The CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. With a 10-year life, the Blue Economy CRC brings together 45 industry, government, and research partners from ten countries with expertise in aquaculture, marine renewable energy, maritime engineering, environmental assessments and policy and regulation. Further information about the CRC Program is available at www.business.gov.au.


The Blue Futures Translational Research Initiative (BF-TRI) is a collaboration between researchers from across the University of Wollongong, including the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), the Australian Centre for Environment, Society and Space (ACCESS) and the Faculty of Business and Law. The initiative incorporates a number of projects focused on the Illawarra and South Coast region and aims to generate, translate and apply interdisciplinary knowledge to create a sustainable, inclusive Blue Future in partnership with local communities. https://www.uow.edu.au/ancors/bf-tri/


Sea Health Products is a family company based in Tilba which harvests seaweed that is washed up on local beaches. The seaweed is dried and processed into powder or granules that can be made into fresh organic products. While demand for kelp products is growing, supplies of kelp have declined. In response Sea Health have developed a proposal for two kelp farms in Bermagui (Haywards Beach) and Pambula (Merimbula Bay). https://www.seahealthproducts.com.au/


Auskelp Pty Ltd seeks to create an environmentally positive and sustainable seaweed aquaculture industry located within the Bega Valley Shire. AusKelp Pty Ltd is wholly Australian owned and operated. Using the latest technology, research and expert advisors, Auskelp plans to develop commercial kelp farms in the Bega Valley Shire that create a new and innovative industry, while protecting the pristine Sapphire Coast. Auskelp Pty Ltd is seeking approval for the development of a 200-hectare seaweed aquaculture marine farm on aquaculture lease area within Disaster Bay, off Wonboyn. http://www.auskelp.net/