Queensland’s prawn fisheries and aquaculture are among the most carefully managed and regulated in the world.
Of course it is important to ensure we catch only what we intend for the long term viability of our ecosystems. Turtle exclusion devices have been mandatory on prawn trawlers since the year 2000 and efforts are being made to reduce land and water use in Queensland though new aquaculture technologies, some of which you can read about here.
Sustainability is about getting food to the plate with the least use of resources, water and land - and treading lightly on neighbouring ecosystems.
When you start comparing prawns and land based livestock farming, a huge difference in the two becomes apparent. So what is the difference to the planet between prawns, beef, chicken, pork or lamb?
According to this report agricultural production, especially livestock production consumes more fresh water than any other activity we humans engage in. Livestock only drink about 1.3% of the water consumed, the rest is required for the hay and grain to grow. Producing 1 kg of fresh beef requires about 13kg of grain and 30kg of hay, which in turn needs over 100 000 litres of fresh water. We’re big fans of primary industry and its benefit to Queensland and we’re certianly not here to denigrate beef, lamb, pork or chicken - just compare.
Llivestock is an inefficient way to produce protein compared to catching or raising prawns. The final product contains less protein than prawns yet more fat, more calories and far fewer (and in some cases no) omega 3’s.
Chicken production is a little more efficient - 1kg of broiler can be produced with about 2.3kg of grain, which in turn requires about 3500 litres of water. But still, chicken is nowhere near as nutritious as prawns. There's also the long term happiness of the chooks to think about.
One reason aquaculture is such a sustainable way to produce food is that salt water is used, so aquaculture production of prawns is drought proof. The use of settling ponds and filtration and recycling of pond water also means fewer nutrients are released into the neighbouring ecosystems. Aquaculture also makes good use of low-lying or marginal land, and is far more productive per kilo of final product than grazing land.
Even with larger fish such as salmon and tuna, those fish need to eat other fish and because they are further up the food chain, it means more has to be consumed in order to create each kilogram of fish.
Here’s the amazing thing. Prawns eat leaf material, plankton and nutrients from what they find in the sand. They are so efficient at turning what they eat into body mass, there is almost a one for one conversion of feed into body mass. There is nothing in the food chain sacrificed for them to grow, while they may become food for other species. It’s possible to imagine the salmon on your plate is so healthy because it eats prawn.
So when you factor in higher quality nutrition created from fewer resources, especially fresh water and land required, then prawns start to be the most planet friendly protein on your plate.
Prawns are caught along the entire east coast of Queensland and in the Gulf of Carpenteria.
There are far fewer prawn trawlers operating on the coast than in the past. This is due to changes in the management of the fisheries towards a more sustainable wild catch program. We catch what our scientists and regulators deem best for the ecosystem, not a bit more, and often, much less. In fact, in 2009, the catch was below that allowed by the government.
King Prawns and Endeavour Prawns are not farmed. They are only caught in the wild.
From some of the most carefully managed fisheries in the world we source 4 main species of prawn and you can find out more about them here.
While Queensland fisheries are some of the most carefully managed and sustainable in the world, we need to ensure that we have enough seafood to satisfy demand. Australia consumes more seafood than it catches, and therefore relies to an extent on imported seafood. The aquacuture industry in Australia is essential in ensuring that we rely less on these imports.
In 2009 Aquaculture produced over 4000 tonnes of prawn. While this is a rather small amount compared to other countries, we are amongst the most productive with a yield of over 8000kg per hectare. If you want to know more about how prawn farms ensure that they tread lightly on the environment, you can read all about it here.
Aquaculture farms in Queensland account for most of the farmed prawns in Australia - while there are some in NSW, it’s Queensland’s warm weather that makes most suitable for home grown prawn.
As the industry is relatively young, most farms have been built from the ground up to comply with the government's strict environmental regulations.
The main species of farmed prawns are Banana and Tiger.
Prawns are harvested in the early part ot the year up to May, and also on demand.