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16.10.2014 01:28 Age: 3 yrs
Category: SA-IMOS

Aquaculture: How much is just right?

The ability to determine the optimum balance between aquaculture development and the long term health of SA’s Spencer Gulf has advanced considerably with the development of a ‘super computer ocean model’ by scientists from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).


Dr Charles James, a SARDI oceanographer working with the model. Credit: SARDI

Deploying IMOS moorings fron the MRV Ngerin Credit: SARDI

Project leader, Associate Professor John Middleton, said the model will keep SA at the international forefront of ecosystem based fisheries management.

The development of the spatial planning tool was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) under the Innovative Solutions for Aquaculture Planning and Management Program.

 “The Spencer Gulf contains an array of unique sub-systems. It is an engine room of wealth from marine industries including aquaculture, wild fisheries and increasing industrial developments linked to inland mining activity,” said A/Professor Middleton.

“This new tool will give fishery management agencies additional confidence in understanding not only how much aquaculture can be sustainably integrated within the natural environment, but where farms should be located.”

The model, built by SARDI’s Oceanography group, simulates the ocean circulation and the biological response to nutrient inputs from aquaculture, shipping waste water, environmental flows, and also from the land and natural sources that provide food for phytoplankton – the tiny plants at the base of the marine food web.

 A/Professor Middleton, said the model was based on the best science available and understanding of the natural ecosystem.

“We’ve been able to access state-of-the-art data collected through the Southern Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (SAIMOS), a $10 million program established five years ago by SARDI, Flinders University and the Commonwealth Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), to monitor the coastal boundary currents and planktonic ecosystems.

“These data have provided new information about ecosystem processes, enabling this model to take into account a vast range of factors from ocean circulation, seasonal variations in climate, rainfall and mixing to waste nutrient produced by farmed finfish and industrial sources.”

“This information is more wholistic than in the past and will enhance the long term management of the entire Spencer Gulf system.”