Although there were earlier “crocodile farms” it appears these were essentially zoos, whose major purpose was to attract tourists. The first commercial crocodile farming venture, at the Edward River Mission (now called Pormpuraaw) in North Queensland, opened (according to one source) in 1969. However, Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, the same organisation that founded Australia’s first emu farm, claimed that they started the Edward River farm in 1973. As of 2017, there were 13 commercial crocodile farms in northern Australia.
From the early 1930s, there were so-called crocodile farms in North Queensland. It seems unlikely that these ventures produced skins or meat commercially. Their business seemed to be about exhibiting crocodiles to tourists. The Brown’s Bay Crocodile Farm, Museum and Zoo was an attraction for visitors to Cairns from 1933 until the early 1940s, advertising day trips from Cairns via the launch, Manly.
Before saltwater crocodiles became a protected species in 1974 they were hunted almost to extinction. From that date, crocodile farming and taking crocodiles from the wild became subject to strict State regulations. At Edward River, on the Gulf of Carpenteria in North Queensland, commercial crocodile farming was developed to benefit the local Aboriginal people. The farm now concentrates on raising hatchlings which it supplies to other crocodile farms. It is the only farm with a (somewhat controversial) licence to collect crocodile eggs from the wild.
Commercial crocodile farming began in the Northern Territory in 1979 and operates under the NT Crocodile Industry Management Program. Farmed crocodiles are produced mainly through captive breeding or the regulated sustainable harvesting of eggs from the wild. A limited number of hatchlings and juveniles can also be harvested from the wild. Research indicates that taking eggs from the wild does not adversely affect crocodile populations, as eggs and hatchlings typically have a very low rate of survival.
According to AgriFutures Australia, the main product of crocodile farms is skins, which are mostly exported and used to produce premium leather for fashion accessories. Crocodile meat is sold domestically and exported. It is considered a succulent white meat that is low in fat and high in protein. Because of its low fat content, it is best cooked like lean pork or chicken. Crocodile meat has begun to appear in more restaurants as a result of a renewed interest in Australian indigenous foods.