Sustainable Farming

Australian Prawn Farmers Association Australian Sustainability Farmed Prawn Certification Program





Water Quality in Australia

70% of current Australian farmed prawn production occurs adjacen

t to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The prawn farming industry in the Great Barrier Reef Region is a highly profitable, but small agriculture sector, which has potential to expand considerably without impacting on coastal water quality.

It is well known that the Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Protected icon.

APFA acknowledges that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is affected by material originating from a range of human activities, both on the land and in the water, such as agriculture, urban and industrial development. The 2014 Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment and Program Outlook Report states that the reef is an icon under pressure from elevated concentrations of suspended sediments, excess nutrient and pesticides.

Whilst prawn farming is a very small contributor to these loads (just 0.16% of Nitrogen, .08% of Phosphorus, 0.000006% of solids and no pesticides) we recognise that it is incumbent on all to contribute to preserving this precious resource.

APFA is supportive of the Reef Guardian program and has members of its board sit on Local Marine Advisory Committees (LMAC’s).

APFA acknowledges that any new developments in the Great Barrier Reef Region must demonstrate how they will contribute to the successful delivery of the targets and objectives described in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan which has set water quality targets as follows:

  • By 2018, at least 50 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchments dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads in priority areas, on the way to achieving up to an 80 per cent reduction in nitrogen by 2025
  • By 2018, at least a 20 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment loads of sediment in priority areas, on the way to achieving up to a 50 per cent reduction by 2025
  • By 2018, at least 20 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment loads of particulate nutrients in priority areas
  • By 2020, Reef-wide and locally relevant water quality targets are in place for urban industrial, aquaculture and port activities and monitoring shows a stable or improving trend want to know how much the prawn industry contributes to the reef – see page 27 of this report…table 2.3. this report has some additional interesting facts about how we compare to more traditional agriculture sectors in the Great Barrier Reef region – page 8 of the actual report…

Healthy Rivers to Reef Mackay/Whitsunday Partnership

Wet Tropics Report Card

Wet-Tropics Pilot Report-Card-2015

Web 2014-2015 Aquaculture Prawn Industry Results Report

Water Treatment

Waters released from a prawn pond may contain nutrients, algae and clay particles which occur naturally in ocean waters.

Most Australian prawn farms allocate up to 30% of their productive land for settlement systems.   These systems reduce suspended solids (particulate matter, organic material, sediment) and dissolved nutrients in the effluent before released back into an estuary. (Australian Prawn Farming Manual 2006)

A seven year multidisciplinary study on the environmental management of prawn farming was conducted (1995-2002). The study integrated the research skills of 30 scientists from several institutions including CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science, University of Queensland, Queensland Department of Environment Protection Authority, Griffith University, University of Sydney, University of Technology, Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Victoria and the University of Maryland USA.

Studies focused on the largest prawn farms in Queensland and New South Wales throughout their production cycle and encompassed a range of latitudes, discharge environments (eg tidal creeks and estuaries) and both flow through and recirculating water management systems and produced 42 peer reviewed research papers.

Key elements of the studies were: prawn pond sediment and nutrient processes, composition of prawn pond discharges, discharge treatement systems and environmental management, receiving waters – assimilation and monitoring, synthesis of pond processes and environmental management and aquaculture land use planning.

Key outputs of these studies were: prawn pond sediment and nutrient processes rigorously quantified and modelled, pond discharge composition rigorously quantified, published the first synthesis of the dominant ecological processes in ponds and adjacent coastal environments and in collaboration with industry – designed and implemented cost-effective treatment system based on sedimentation processes.

Summary of the research papers can be found here…….CSIRO Research summary

Many Australian farms recirculate water as routine practice. Partial recirculation helps minimise fluctuations in water quality (salinity, turbidity, nutrient load) and reduces the risk of introducing pathogens from the wild. However partial recirculation is not suited to all farms. Farms have variable requirements depending on a range of factors including quality of intake water, location in the catchment, availability of land, rainfall and access to tidal waters.

Protecting Marine Plants

Under state laws, marine plants are totally protected. This includes all species of mangrove, seagrass and seaweed. If any plants are approved to be removed, they can only be removed after investigation by authorities who generally only allow removal conditional on appropriate mitigation. In the process of making that decision, authorities are required by law to consult with all interested members of the community – this includes conservation groups, scientists, recreational and commercial fishing interests.

It should be noted that large scale mangrove destruction does not occur on Australian prawn farms.

Health Management

Australian prawn farmers produce native species. Exotic pests are the most critical disease threat to Australia’s prawn producers. For the latest import requirements relative to shrimp/prawns please see –

Failed imported food reports can be found –

Australia’s prawn farming industry does not support the importation of uncooked prawn from countries which cannot demonstrate freedom from OIE-listed diseases.

OIE listed crustacean diseases  –

Each state has biosecurity translocation protocols for the movement of live animals and Biosecurity in Canberra constantly monitor new and emerging global diseases. Queensland prawn translocation protocol can be found at –  (Noting that this edition is currently being revised.)

State laws require all disease outbreaks be reported to the authorities. If a serious exotic disease outbreak was to occur, state and federal agencies can enforce measures to control and prevent the spread of the disease. Measures include stock destruction and pond and water sterilisation.

Disease management in Australia is therefore based on preventing exotic diseases from entering the country and, at the farm level, providing the prawns with a low stress healthy environment.

On farm disease preventative measures include the dry out of ponds after harvest. This helps break down organic materials to reduce bacterial and viral numbers in the pond substrate. Many farmers carry out health checks on post larvae before stocking ponds. This is to ensure no new diseases are being introduced to the farm and also enhances survival. Such checks involve diagnostic services provided free of charge by government, although private laboratories also undertake such work.

In partnership with the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, the Australian industry has invested $5 million in major research projects to close the lifecycle of the Black Tiger prawn. Pond-reared animals help to minimise the risk of introducing pathogens from wild stocks. Future research will examine options for continuing and expanding on the breeding program that has been adopted by some industry members.

Antibiotic, Chemical & Hormone Free Environment

Antibiotics are not used in Australian prawn farms. Why not? First, treatments become excessively diluted in a pond situation rendering antibiotics and chemicals ineffective. Second, because consumers are concerned about the use of chemicals and antibiotics in food production. To ensure consumer-confidence, residue testing is done on an ongoing basis for both domestic and export markets.

Occasionally they may be used in an enclosed situation such as a tank in a hatchery. However in these cases, their use is limited and strictly controlled. Permission must be sought from a qualified veterinarian and access to antibiotics is only granted by prescription. Use of antibiotics in Australia is then only allowed under quarantine conditions and only where it can be shown to be within acceptable standards for human health.

Similarly, very few chemicals are used in prawn farming. Common household garden chemicals like lime and gypsum may be used to condition and sweeten pond soils between crops. When the pond is filled, they break down into harmless chemicals. Chlorine is often used as a cleaning agent in processing plants to meet state food health standards.

There is no use of hormones in prawn ponds in Australia. Only a qualified veterinarian can prescribe access to hormones, and any approval must be recorded on a national register. No hormones are registered for use in prawns destined for food in Australia.

Fishmeal Facts

There is increasing global demand for fishmeal as an important high protein ingredient in animal feeds. The high omega 3 content in fishmeal makes it an attractive ingredient in prawn feeds.

There is general concern about the long-term sustainability of fishmeal as a feed resource due to increasing global demand and concerns about the sustainability of fish stocks.

New sustainable prawn feeds have been developed and in October 2015 Ridley announced the commercialisation of a new product called No Catch hailing it as a world first in prawn feed that did not require fish meal. Some APFA farms have trailed this new product and have reported excellent results.

Please see media release No Catch. Media_Release_RIDLEY_NoCatch_final Oct 15