Aquaculture Science Hub

The Role of Policy in Supporting Alternative Marine Farming Methods

A Case Study of Seafloor Ranching in Australia

A man wearing gray waders stands knee deep in water, holding an orange basket full of oysters sideways , scattering the oysters into the water.
Scattering Oysters Emil Bender of Pocomo Meadow Oysters in Nantucket, Massachusetts, scatters oysters on the floor of the ocean. © Hannah Packman/TNC

Ruff, E.O., Alleway, H.K., Gillies, C.L., 2023. The role of policy in supporting alternative marine farming methods: A case study of seafloor ranching in Australia. Ocean & Coastal Management 240, 106643.

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Abstract: Recent attention to the ecosystem service-generating potential of marine aquaculture (mariculture) indicates that there is substantial opportunity for marine farming to optimise practices that benefit both production and nature. One strategy for augmenting sustainability within the mariculture industry is to develop more diverse farming practices and culture species that can operate within existing ocean space constraints, contribute to ecological and conservation objectives, and assuage negative public sentiment towards mariculture. While this strategy has the potential to expand mariculture's sustainability, the implementation of these alternative culture approaches will likely depend on whether the management frameworks that regulate the industry have the authority and the capacity to enable farming innovations and encourage investment in diverse mariculture systems.

Using Australia and seafloor ranching of molluscs as a case study, we explore the suitability of existing policy and legislation to support novel farming methods. We find that the policy frameworks differ across States in terms of their applicability (both implicit and explicit) to seafloor ranching activities, with substantial gaps regarding the siting and building of farming infrastructure. In the context of these results, we discuss potential strategies for leveraging existing policy and management frameworks to meet the needs of seafloor ranching and identify operational stages where new, targeted policy could be particularly impactful. Our case study offers practical insights to policymakers in Australia and other countries and regions seeking to support innovations in culture methods with a greater potential for sustainability.