University Malaysia Terengganu was previously a marine science station of the Faculty of Fisheries Science and Marine Science, University Putra Malaysia (UPM). The center was established in 1979 where it catered for the third year and final year students of the faculty. In 1996, the restructuring of UPM saw the entire Faculty of Fisheries Science and Marine Science transferred to Terengganu and the station was upgraded to a branch campus and renamed Universiti Putra Malaysia Terengganu (UPMT). The training and research still focused in the field of aquaculture and marine science taking into cognizance its geographical location, environmental uniqueness and its campus by the South China Sea.

On 5th May 1999, the Malaysian cabinet approved the establishment of Kolej Universiti Terengganu (KUT) based on the existing Fisheries and Marine Science Centre of Universiti Putra Malaysia Terengganu in Mengabang Telipot, Kuala Terengganu. In 2001, the Institute was officially re-named as Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia (KUSTEM). In Feb 2007, once again the institute was re-named as University Malaysia Terengganu.

Since its establishment, UMT has remained as the center of excellence for research, information dissemination and training in the field of marine science and aquaculture. Over the years, UMT has produced many scientists, government officers and successful entrepreneurs. In recognition of UMT’s efforts and achievements in aquaculture, the government approved the establishment of the Institute of Tropical Aquaculture (AKUATROP) in 2004. In the same year, the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) acknowledged aquaculture as one of the niche areas of UMT.

Prof. Dr. Mohd. Azmi Ambak and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abol Munafi Ambok Bolong were considered the creators of AKUATROP as they are the pioneers who originated AKUATROP in the first place. Their active involvement in regional seminars and forums has strengthened the existence of AKUATROP, thus bringing its name to the world. Now, AKUATROP is one of the 21 centers of aquaculture excellence in the world. The objective of the establishment of AKUATROP is to help increase the national aquaculture production in conjunction with the country’s aspiration, agriculture to be the third growth engine of the national economy. Under the Ninth Malaysian Plan (RMK-9) 2006-2010, the country aims to increase aquaculture production from 200,000 metrics tonnes in 2004, to 600,000 metrics tonnes by 2010. The establishment of AKUATROP is to assist the government and the aquaculture industries to boost their production. AKUATROP will play an important role in human resources development and R&D&C (Research, Development and Commercialization) in aquaculture.

In 2019, the Institute of Tropical Aquaculture was named as Institute of Tropical Aquaculture and Fisheries (AKUATROP) to expend research niche area in fisheries study.