Atlantic salmon aquaculture research

Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal food-production sector worldwide – and Tasmania is significantly expanding its salmon farming capacity. IMAS is a leader in salmon aquaculture research.

Successfully introduced into Australia in the 1960s, Atlantic Salmon have become one of the country’s highest value and volume fisheries products. 

When the eggs from those first fish were brought to Tasmania in 1987 scientists nurtured and grew the salmon in small tanks at what are now the IMAS Taroona Research Laboratories.

From those small beginnings our scientists have been helping to address the many challenges of salmon farming for over 30 years. This has led to innovative science and ongoing monitoring, to provide data that can improve the industry’s sustainability while informing government, industry and the community.

Understanding the environmental interaction of salmon farming is one key area of our research at IMAS.

Watch the short video below to discover our Tasmanian Salmon research story and learn more about our research:

For more information about salmon aquaculture research please contact our Fisheries & Aquaculture Centre Head, Professor Caleb Gardner


Early 1980s

The Tasmanian salmon aquaculture industry begins, with a recirculating quarantine hatchery constructed at the Fisheries laboratory in Taroona. Initial research focuses on operational trials of rainbow trout.


Inland Fisheries Commission issues a permit to the Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority (TFDA) to import live Atlantic salmon Salmo salar ova (fertilized eggs) from a hatchery in NSW.

The ova hatch, and successful quarantine trials follow. This ensures the salmon stock satisfy all fish health requirements for their transfer to sea.


In June 1985, the first transfer of Atlantic salmon to sea occurs at Sykes Cove on Bruny Island.

The Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute (now IMAS) at the University of Tasmania begins work with the State Government’s Fisheries Laboratory and other organisations, to develop a knowledge base that will support regulatory decisions on marine aquaculture industry, now and into the future.


IMAS aquaculture research is acknowledged as world class, and our environmental research has been identified as world’s best practice according to international standards. Our research continues to inform aquaculture management strategies globally.


IMAS has been at the centre of developing, implementing and reviewing the aquaculture environmental monitoring programs active today in Tasmania.

Our current research brings together theoretical and empirical studies, basic and applied science, and biological and socioecological research.

Our world-class research capacity in aquaculture is enhanced through key collaborative partnerships, and by developing leading technology.

Through our system understanding and recommendations, we continue to support the ongoing development and sustainable management of the salmon industry in Tasmania.

Along with identifying and addressing emerging issues, IMAS research is responsive to the concerns raised by industry, government and the community.

We acknowledge that marine and coastal ecosystems are a shared resource, so collaborative research remains our focus. Our management recommendations seek to promote multi-use management solutions, and to provide advice that supports sustainable management practices for all stakeholders.

World-class research

IMAS Atlantic salmon research covers four areas:

1. Animal performance

Our animal performance team research wild and farmed animals. For salmon production, this includes integrating physiology, breeding, genetics and development, nutrient requirements, aquafeeds and sustainable ingredients (e.g. alternatives to fishmeal and fish oil), and product quality. The key drivers of this work are to understand climate change effects and ensure sustainable aquaculture.

2. Aquatic animal health, biosecurity and welfare

Our animal health team focuses on issues such as infectious and non-infectious diseases, diagnostics, and biosecurity, toxicology and welfare-specific research. Key areas of research include amoebic gill disease, infectious aquatic bacteria, and vaccine development.

3. Ecosystem effects and interactions

Our ecologists explore aquaculture and environment, including sediments, hydrology, modelling, management and policy, as well as integrated coastal management, climate change, and the ecosystem effects of fishing.

4. Global seafood trends

Our researchers look at meta-analysis of datasets and predictions, the effect of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, and changes in seafood consumption.

Photos: Salmon PhD candidate Waldo Nuez Ortin (top) at the IMAS Experimental Aquaculture Facility (EAF), Taroona - photo courtesy of Peter Mathew; Professor Chris Carter and EAF Manager Polly Hilder (above right) examine an Atlantic salmon.

Watch the video below for an insight into IMAS's salmon nutrition research with Professor Chris Carter, who says it is vital for research to support the future growth and sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry, in Tasmania and around the world.

Watch the video below to find out more about our research at the Experimental Aquaculture Facility:


Our research into environmental impacts and interactions of salmon farming is focused on providing the scientific knowledge to support a sustainable and productive future for the salmon aquaculture industry in Tasmania.  

Through the Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration Agreement (SMRCA) between the Tasmanian State Government and the University of Tasmania, we are delivering against three ongoing priority projects:

  • Emerging environmental issues, social science and communication - this project explores these factors in relation to salmon aquaculture
  • Planning - this project provides science and research support for planning new and developing aquaculture operations in Tasmania
  • Monitoring and management - this project supports the monitoring and ongoing management of current salmon farming operations in Tasmania, to ensure current monitoring practices are adequate, and to recommend improvements where necessary. 

We are leading and collaborating on other key research projects on the environmental interactions of salmon farming, through our key funding partners including the Fisheries Research Development Corporation (FRDC) and the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program. This research supports the sustainable management and development of the industry in Tasmania and around the world. Find out more about these projects:

IMAS salmon team takes out top University award

Our IMAS Salmon Environmental Interactions Team took out the prestigious University of Tasmania Medal for Research Excellence in 2019, in recognition of their science on the effects of salmon farming in our coastal zone.

The award honours the outstanding contribution Dr Jeff Ross, Associate Professor Catriona Macleod and their dedicated team have made to ensuring the research that underpins our understanding and monitoring of the environmental interactions of salmon farming is of the highest quality, across the spectrum of innovation and impact, mentoring and early-career researcher development, and community engagement.

Read the full story here.

Image (above): Dr Jeff Ross (left) with some of the Salmon Environmental Interaction Team: (L to R) James Hortle, Andrew Pender, Kylie Cahill, Sam Kruimink, Olivia Johnson, Jason Beard, David Moreno, Adam Davey, Dr Scott Hadley and Ben Quigley. Other members of the award-winning team include Associate Professor Catriona MacLeod, Dr Camille White, Dr Karen Alexander, Flora Bush, Myriam Lacharite and Jessica Kube.


Tasmania’s salmon industry plans for blue future

In 2017, the University of Tasmania hosted a Global Salmon Conference. The conference brought together local and overseas scientists, industry, government and the community to discuss the future growth and sustainability of Tasmania’s salmon aquaculture industry.

The industry is seeking to safely and sustainably grow salmon production over the next two decades, to increase the benefits to the community. Read the conference report

Environmental monitoring in Macquarie Harbour

In Macquarie Harbour, regular sediment sampling is part of an ongoing study monitoring the health of the harbour, underneath and within the vicinity of the salmon pens.

Sediment samples are taken to assess the benthic invertebrate community, directly measure certain sediment characteristics, and measure water quality parameters.

This helps to achieve the right balance between salmon farming and the overall health of the harbour. Read our latest Environmental Research – Macquarie Harbour report

All our reports are available here under "Salmon”

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Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
March 6, 2020