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Volume 24 No 3 – Spring 2010

Coffin Bay exports to the world Jade Tiger Abalone’s planned birth Cost-effective ornamentals Surviving & thriving with silver perch Torres Strait sponge farm plans Combining barramundi with lychees Prawn farm expansion hurdles Survival boost for hatchery fingerlings

P RI NT P O S T A P P ROVED NO 768108–00002

I SSN 0818– 5522


Contents Editor-in-chief Dr Tim Walker Regular contributors David O'Sullivan John Mosig Subscription/editorial Austasia Aquaculture PO Box 658, Rosny, Tas. 7018 Ph: 03 6245 0064 Fax: 03 6245 0068 Email:


Advertising Megan Farrer Design/typesetting Coalface Production Pty Ltd Prepress & Printing Geon Group Copyright © by Austasia Aquaculture. Contents cannot be reproduced without permission. Statements made or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Turtle Press Pty Ltd (ABN 98 506 165 857). Austasia Aquaculture magazine (ISSN: 0818 552) is published by Turtle Press Pty Ltd (ABN 98 506 165 857) for the promotion of aquaculture in the Australasian and Asian regions – inclusive of farming in marine, freshwater, brackish and hypersaline waters. Reader's contributions are encouraged on the clear understanding they will be subject to editorial control and, if accepted, will appear in both printed and online versions.

Cover photo A montage of photos taken from stories contained in this issue. Captions and photo credits as per the details inside.


Coffin Bay oyster farmer eyes world markets Jade Tiger Abalone steaming ahead due to genetic improvement program



Success in marine fish culture in ponds (1)


Increasing post release survival of hatchery fingerlings


10 NAC

Tropical breeder designed for cost-effective ornamentals production


Silverwater – Ian and Michelle Charles


Torres Strait sponge farm begins production Barramundi and lychees – a winning tropical mix

NAC scaling back its operations




Prawnfresh – a safe and effective treatment to prevent melanosis in prawns



Unique training in commercial aquaponics


Integrated temperature control for heat exchangers



Regulations restricting prawn farm development in Queensland



Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 1

Advertisers Index

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Inside Front Cover 33 7 Outside Back Cover

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BST Oyster Supplies


Business for Sale (Aquaculture/Saltwater fishfarm)


Fresh By Design Group


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Seafarm Systems


SEAMEC (East Gippsland TAFE)




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The Market Place – classified ads

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Inside Back Cover

TTP Plastics by Design


Uarah Fisheries


Xyrex / Prawn Fresh



Oyster and mushroom bites

Coffin Bay oyster farmer eyes world markets Coffin Bay oysters are nationally recognised for their superior quality. After travelling through 14 countries, Coffin Bay oyster farmer Lester Marshall is passionately promoting his delicious oysters under the Eyre Peninsula regional brand. His marketing takes the story well past the quality level, focussing on the eating experience, especially aroma, taste and flavour. He is working with other seafood regions to build fame for Australia as the premier seafood producer in the world.


ester Marshall has farmed Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas) for more than 20 years with his 16ha Coffin Bay Oyster Farm and a staff of 12 producing an annual harvest of 300 tonnes. CBOF is one of the 35 oyster farms in Coffin Bay (approximately 180ha), about 30 minutes drive from Port Lincoln at the base of the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. The temperate waters of Coffin Bay benefit from frequent surges of nutrient rich cold waters from the depths of the Antarctic causing an explosion of highly nutritious food. The result is beautiful oysters.

Lester believes his oysters taste the best in the world and he doesn’t mind telling you why. “There are three taste sensations to eating a Coffin Bay Oyster Farm oyster. The first is the marine flavour which is depicted by the amount of salinity from that particular growing area referred to by connoisseurs as the ‘Marine Liquor’!”

drainage, local microclimate and sun exposure. It also is influenced by local cultural practices. “Sweetness is second and this comes from the size of the abductor muscle which is the same texture and shape as a scallop; the bigger the abductor muscle, the sweeter it is.

Lester refers to this site-specific, special flavour taste as the terroir of the region. Terroir is a useful, but hard-to-define term, coined by the French. It refers to the site-specific differences in wines that are caused by factors such as soil types, Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 3


Klay Marshall, CBOF spat manager, checking spat trays

Performance Metrics Key Management Decisions for Coffin Bay Oyster Farm include: • Focus on promoting more than just quality – aroma, taste and flavour – with the key message our produce is the best! • Participation (and leadership) in a regional branding program • Creating an even sexier association with eating oysters with special names for each grade of product • Use of third party accreditation to support the key message • Easy to navigate website with pictures that show the product, the people and the place, all supporting the key message. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture System utilised: intertidal rail and rack with spat trays and plastic mesh pillows/baskets • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <12-24 months (range from 40mm to 80mm) • Survival rate: 85% from first stocking to sale size • Annual harvest:300 tonnes or 300,000 dozen (4 grades of product).

“Finally there is the meat flavour - which is created by the foods the oyster eats. Once the different algae of the ocean are ingested the different flavours permeate through the flesh of the oyster giving it a distinctive flavour from that particular region. Wrap these three together and this makes Coffin Bay the ‘Barossa’ of the sea.” As an important part of their quest to serve the best oysters, CBOF has third party quality and food safety accreditations including SQF 2000 (Quality Certified Supplier) and the South Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program. Under the SASQAP, regulated monitoring of the water and the shellfish is undertaken wherever oysters, mussels, cockles and scallops are harvested to ensure all product for sale originates from safe waters. Regional Branding Like some other oysters farmers, Lester has been frustrated by the difficulties in increasing farm gate price for oysters firmly entrenched in a commodity market. “In the early days the oysters that were sold from the Eyre Peninsula were called South Australian oysters and the different bays were not so important. “As time evolved the different regional bays became more important and consumers started to identify with the different regions. But even as the popularity of, and demand for, Coffin Bay oysters grew, we still couldn’t achieve a price differentiation from the other bays. “It was quite remarkable. Here we were with fully developed (not stocked) oyster leases in Cowell and other bays worth approx 60-80 thousand dollars a hectare and Coffin Bay was worth a staggering 400-500 thousand dollars a hectare. Yet there was no difference in price for the oysters at the retail level!” After a couple of overseas trade missions, Lester – even more convinced of the need to differentiate Eyre Peninsula’s aquaculture assets – took a closer look at the Barossa Region’s superb regional branding for wines and gourmet foods.

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He found a like-minded soul in Mark Cant, CEO of the Eyre Regional Development Board. “The Eyre Peninsula seafood industry is unique worldwide,” Mark proudly boasts. “There’s the largest range of quality seafood produced in an untouched and pristine environment. And the industry’s passion for success is exemplified by its sustainable management practices, innovation, collaboration and commitment to be recognised as a world leader in premium food production.”

An underwater photo of a Casanova oyster – simply delicious.

Lester takes up the story. “Mark was already heading down the path of developing a regional brand, had secured funding for a food development officer and sought the services of a regional branding consultant. “Enter Peter Singline of Brand DNA and David Ansett of Storm Design. Peter was one of the main drivers in developing the now famous King Island Dairy regional brand so he came well qualified. These two gentlemen scoured the region and talked with numerous groups to establish an understanding of what our brand story was within our region. This took considerable time and effort.” With such a team, ideas came thick and fast and the brand “Eyre Peninsula ‘Australia’s Seafood Frontier’” was developed, complete with an attractive logo. It features a white round pearl (representing premium quality, the pearl is also the dot on the ‘i’ in peninsula) in an oyster shell depicting the shape and rugged coastline of Eyre Peninsula ( In continually reviewing how his business could support the regional brand, Lester’s response and was inspirational, taking the supposed sexual potency of oysters many steps further. “We rebranded our company from Mar-Shell Aquaculture to the Coffin Bay Oyster Farm. Next we created new product lines – Cupid Oysters, Valentine Oysters, Casanova Oysters and King Oysters (see insert).” In 2007 Lester was awarded a Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarship to research regional brands worldwide. Over 6 weeks he visited six countries with a team of

Sexy Oysters With fantastically apt titles, Lester markets his oysters under four/five grades: Cupid Oysters (40mm) Delicate & petite. The aroma of this baby oyster is likened d to a fresh coastal sea breeze. It has a delicate sweet flavour and a light malt aftertaste. Its petite size and firm texture makes for an incredible eating experience that is life changing.

Valentine Oysters (50-60mm) The perfect size. With the aroma of a windswept ocean breeze, this elegant midsize oyster has a firm texture, ensuring the perfect eating experience. A subtle blend of sweet aromatic flavours and its soft hazelnut aftertaste, makes for the perfect oyster.

Casanova Oysters (70-80mm) Larger more masculine. With its stronger aroma of the great southern ocean, this larger style oyster with a big firm meaty texture, lends itself to a more passionate eating experience. With its intense aromatic flavours, the lingering aftertaste has a rich complexity and malt finish. Not for the faint hearted.

King Oysters (180mm+) Grandfather of them all. With its strong aroma of the rugged southern ocean, this goliath from the sea has got to be seen to be believed. With its firm tender texture, this grand old oyster is the oyster steak of the ocean. It has an incredible array of complex aromatic flavours and d a strong oceanic aftertaste that only comes with age.

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 5

FA R M P R O F I L E Lester Marshall, CBOF managing director, in what he quaintly calls ‘My Office’.

Brenton Dutschke, operations manager at CBOF, sampling an oyster.

other primary producers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, subsequently venturing solo for ten weeks through another nine countries. Lester’s Nuffield report shows first why a regional brand is needed and then how to achieve it. “I wanted to develop a model that will work across all regions of Australia, helping Aussie primary producers to remain profitable. I call the approach ‘regional wealth building’. If you want government to invest in region you need to show the profitable industries. Regional authentic food will receive higher prices if marketed and branded properly – it gives the consumers a choice to pay more for a truly quality product.” Spawnless Oysters “I promote the fact that I only stock and sell spawnless oysters,” he continues. “Now shellfish lovers can enjoy our premium range of sweet fresh oysters all year around.

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“These oysters have been produced by selective breeding, the same technology used to produce seedless watermelons. Thus I think that ‘spawnless’ is a more acceptable term than ‘triploid’ which the consumer may think involves some sort of genetic modification using other organisms.” Lester buys 5mm seed from the Shellfish Culture Hatchery at Bicheno, Tasmania, between September and February. The seed are stocked in soft mesh socks held in trays on intertidal racks. “We grade them every 6-8 weeks (most often during the autumn growth period) until they are about 30mm when we transfer them into pillows or baskets made from plastic oyster mesh, either 12mm or 20mm.” His growing method includes rack and rails as well as the fence lines often called the BST System. “We have also been using more SEAPA and some BST baskets.” The main problems during growout is fouling from barnacles and other marine organisms. “We have also had some losses due to heat stress during summer due to unseasonal hot weather and low tides – in summer we need to harvest early in the cooler mornings. Thus the oysters are brought ashore every 3-4 months, removed from their culture units, graded and then packed into clean units for transfer back to the farm.” The Cupids are ready in just 12 months; the Casanovas up to 24 months. The Kings take much longer being 5-6 years old.

History of Coffin Bay’s oysters 1802

Matthew Flinders found and named Coffin Bay after Sir Isaac Coffin


American whaling ships used Coffin Bay as a safe anchorage for water and supplies


Cartage of native Coffin Bay oysters (Ostrea angasi) began gan


Oyster fisheries act came into force four years before South Australia had a parliament


Oyster licences granted by Glenelg at Holdfast Shores for the storage and safe keeping of oysters from Coffin Bay before they were consumed at numerous oyster rooms ms


Some 30 sailing cutters ranging in length from 25 to 40 ft were dredging the Coffin Bay waterways. Eighty or so men were employed on the boats with production averaging around 900 tonnes per year


The first licensing system was introduced, with every person having to pay forty shillings [$4] and all vessels engaged in oystering had to be licensed


Coffin Bay Oystermen’s association was formed


Sydney Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) were trialled but failed due to high salinity


The end of the native oyster fishery with no further records of sales


First oyster lease was granted in Kellidie Bay and Yangie Bay


Another oyster lease was granted by the township of Coffin Bay and the previous two were relinquished in its favour


Late October small Pacific Oysters arrived in Coffin Bay


First batch of Pacific Oysters to be sold commercially


The first of the new modern commercial oyster leases was approved in Dutton Bay


Five oystermen applied for and trialled an oyster lease in the historic Horse Peninsula area, which paved the way for the current oyster industry in Coffin Bay.

Lester estimates that from seed to market, each oyster is probably handled 5-6 times. “The best is only three lifts with the Cupids. As we can get some seed growing to 45 or 50 mm in the socks, these need only put on another 10mm and they are ready for harvest. “Our furthest lease is 17km from our depot, so you don’t want to have to get out there too often. Our best work boat the Calder has two 225HP Hunter outboards and can do over 80km/hr. Even with a full load we can plane at HP 50-60km/hr.”

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The end result is a magnificent product. Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 7


The farm punt Isdell cruising past the Brother Islands whilst fully loaded with culture units.

(DEEDI). They have a flavour chemistry scientist Heather Smyth (heather. who will work with our various species of seafood to test for and develop standardised language to most appropriate describe our many seafood products. Once we develop a blueprint, other seafood regions can piggyback on that. We can have all the different regions working together to promote Australia to become the premier seafood producer.” By Dos O’Sullivan Photos Coffin Bay Oyster Farm

Lester loading a punt with culture units needing to be graded and the barnacle fouling removed.

“Our oysters are firm, plump and full of flavour with a sweet lingering aftertaste,” he says, “These magnificent frisky creatures are available in a variety of sizes and range from pearly white to coffee in colour.” Lester is now looking at promoting all Aussie seafood as the best in the world. “Think of France and you think of wines, but most people think of kangaroos or bikinis when you mention Australia. I want to change that to the best seafood 8 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

in the world.” “In my Nuffield report the main recommendation to industry was to communicate Australia’ main points of difference – aroma, texture and flavour. This is starting with the Eyre Peninsula ‘Australia’s Seafood Frontier’ branding. We have 36 members in this group and we have applied for $75,000 funds from the FRDC for collaboration with International Food Institute of Qld

For more information contact Lester Marshall, Coffin Bay Oyster Farm, PO Box 204, Coffin Bay SA 5067 Tel: 08 86855021, Fax: 08 8685-5007, Mob: 0429 855-021, email: lester@ www. Reference Marshall, L 2008, How to Develop a Dynamic Regional Brand To Restore Health & Wealth to Rural Economies, Nuffield Australia Project N. 0813, sponsored by FRDC, 39pp – (


Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 9


Jade Tiger Abalone steaming ahead due to genetic improvement program Steve Cooper collecting broodstock for GSW family lines.


ocated at Indented Head on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, Great Southern Waters Pty Ltd (GSW) has grown into Australia’s largest abalone farm (producing 160 tonnes annually). Like other abalone farms, GSW has observed that some hybrid abalone crosses (formed from a cross between Greenlip Haliotis laevigata and Blacklip Abalone H. rubra) offered the best potential for aquaculture – fast growth rate, good survival and market acceptability. GSW has implemented their own family-based selective breeding strategy to produce and improve commercial stock by gaining an understanding of the inheritance of required traits in the hybrid. On the marketing front they wanted to produce a unique product that would separate them from the rest of the market. GSW have now trademarked Jade Tiger Abalone®. Following significant investment, GSW completed stage 1 of its development plan in 2007 and now has a fully integrated operation. The 10ha site includes hatchery, nursery, 400 growout tanks with a surface area of 20,000m2, along with packaged goods warehousing and a live export facility. In the January to March quarter of FY09-10, the company grew over 60 tonnes and expects to triple annual production to 500 tonnes in the coming years.

Great Southern Waters has implemented a successful abalone breeding program with the assistance of scientists from the CSIRO. Its exclusive abalone product, marketed as Jade Tiger Abalone®, is finding great acceptance in the live markets of China, Japan, United Arab Emirates, USA and other countries. The domesticated broodstock and genetic improvement program has resulted in improved production leading to increases in profitability.

10 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

It was in 2003 – with the objective of increasing growth and meat yield – that GSW initiated a breeding program. “We needed to understand heterosis or hybrid vigour and at the same time we wanted to maintain the distinctive aesthetic characteristics, meat quality and survivorship for live export of our Jade Tiger Abalone® breed,” explains GSW CEO Anton Krsinich. “We recognised the value of combining traditional selective breeding principles with advanced genetic tools to gain a greater commercial advantage for our stock. It soon became


clear we needed CSIRO’s expertise to strengthen our program. We co-invested in a R&D partnership with them in 2006 through its Food Futures National Research Flagship.”

As a result of this work, GSW has for the past three years undertaken commercial spawning with domesticated broodstock selected based on their genetic merit or EBV (estimated breeding value).

“enabling live exporting from our in-house facility. Jade Tiger Abalone is also used in speciality and retail products worldwide.”

CSIRO’s Dr Nick Elliott says that the Flagship Program fosters development of industry-based projects and is unique in how it combines expertise and skills from a number of CSIRO Divisions. “This strong partnership between CSIRO and GSW brought together a well balanced, multi-talented and dedicated team,” says Nick. “The main focus is to determine the best breeding strategy to allow GSW to achieve its commercial goals.

The outcome is a unique Jade Tiger Abalone with distinctive foot and shell colouration and impressive growth rate and meat yield. “The breeding program also provides the desired characteristic of greater survivorship,” explains Anton,

Anton says that the program was quickly able to address key questions. “One of our fundamental questions was: Does a high performing Blacklip or Greenlip individual breed a high performing hybrid offspring?

High performing offspring

“That is not straightforward as the genetic theory and practical aspects of hybrid breeding between species is not well understood,” Nick continues. “The initial task, however, was for GSW to develop a domesticated breeding population without the need to collect wild broodstock, reducing its biosecurity risks.”

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Another advance was the application of DNA markers to identify the pedigree of individuals within maternal and paternal families.


AMC is an institute of the University of Tasmania

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 11


Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Great Southern Waters include: • Early introduction of a selective breeding program with a wide diversity of broodstock sources and species • Full integration of hatchery, nursery, growout, warehousing and export • Partnering with CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship to develop genetic selection techniques and data management • Promotion trips are frequently undertaken to keep interest in the unique Aussie product.

“Another was: Would a good Jade Tiger Abalone breed good Jade Tiger Abalone offspring? This would determine whether we would in the long term need to run three breeding populations (a Greenlip, a Blacklip and a tester hybrid) or a single population (Jade Tiger Abalone).” 2009 has seen the last of four years of research spawnings with GSW having now produced four research cohorts consisting of 50 maternal Blacklip families (single female crossed to multiple males) and 50 maternal hybrid families, 50 paternal Greenlip families (single male over multiple females) and 50 paternal hybrid families. These cohorts are at various stages of growout and assessment. “Our base population of 278 family lines has given us a closed, diverse and healthy breeding population. These family lines contain Greenlip, Blacklip and hybrid tester families with parents sourced from Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian waters. All broodstock were translocated according to the guidelines established by the Victorian DPI’s Translocation Plan. “Results to date demonstrate low genetic correlations between the growth performances of the pure species parents compared to its related hybrid,” says Anton. “This indicates that pure species selection may not achieve maximum genetic gains in hybrids and backs up our observation that a fast growing Blacklip individual crossed over a fast growing Greenlip abalone does not always produce fast growing hybrid offspring. “Therefore great care is required when farming hybrids and it is critical that we understand the inheritance of important traits.”

From the top: Professor David de Kretser AC, Governor of Victoria presents GSW’s CEO Anton Krsinich with their export award. Like most other land-based abalone farms, GSW uses concrete slab tanks and water tippers to keep a shallow but strong flow of water over the abalone. The quality controlled and HACCP certified live packing of Jade Tiger for export.

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GSW’s production is greatly improving with the noticeable improvements in growth rates. “We now understand maximum gain with hybrid production comes from reciprocal recurrent selection, by selecting individual pure species broodstock based on its corresponding hybrid tester family performance.

Other outcomes include appropriate data capture and management systems plus the design of progeny trials to identify genetic parameters best suited to the abalone breeding strategy. Commercially desirable traits are analysed including improved growth, meat recovery, survivorship, quality and appearance. “We want to identify genetically superior broodstock that will distinguish Jade Tiger Abalone for commercial production.” Quality Control leads to Export Award To fulfil its commitment to producing premium quality Australian abalone, GSW has received internationally recognised HACCP certification of its Food Safety Plan through SGS Systems & Services certification. Its Food Safety Plan ensures Jade Tiger Abalone meet the strict Australian Standards and includes a HACCP analysis of the entire operational process. The Plan also includes regular independent veterinary testing to ensures only the highest quality Jade Tiger Abalone is produced. “As part of our third party- accredited Food Safety Plan we have regular independent testing for residue of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and other environmental contaminants,” Anton explains. “These tests show that abalone grown at GSW have zero antibiotic content and levels of inorganic arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury well below internationally acceptable limits. GSW is also an Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) registered establishment for the export of live, frozen and canned abalone direct from its Australian operations. “We have an Approved Arrangement document,” Anton says “ which details our management practices and procedures, good manufacturing practices, HACCP Plan and standard operating procedures.” GSW exports live abalone to China, Japan, United Arab Emirates, USA and other overseas countries where abalone


An aerial view of the GSW facilities in late 2008 when Stage 1 was completed.

has traditionally been considered a symbol of wealth and prestige, reserved for special occasion such as weddings and other celebrations. To kickstart the Asian love affair with Jade Tiger Abalone, GSW took part in Trade Fairs such as HOFEX in Hong Kong, FHC China in Shanghai, Japanese Seafood Show and FHA Singapore (Asia’s largest food and hospitality event). It certainly worked. In November 2009 GSW won the Governor of Victoria’s Emerging Exporter of the Year award. In announcing the winner, Andrew Ferrington, Executive Director, Trade for the Victorian Government, said: “Great Southern Waters are a worthy recipient of the Emerging Exporter award, given their amazing success in developing Jade Tiger Abalone specifically for export. Jade Tiger Abalone is a proven success in markets across Asia, and a great story for the Victorian abalone industry.” Professor David de Kretser AC, Governor of Victoria, presented the award to Anton.

Abalone Virus Research The collaboration continues between GSW and CSIRO with a joint FRDC Preliminary Research Proposal “Investigations into the genetic basis of resistance to infection of abalone by the abalone herpes-like virus.” A herpes-like virus was identified as a cause of mortalities of both wild and farmed abalone in late 2005 and early 2006. The research will examine if there are sub-populations of abalone that demonstrate some innate resistance to infection/disease or that are capable of developing resistance. CSIRO Livestock Industries (Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong) will analyse the family lines developed by GSW and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research with respect to resistance to infection by abalone herpes-like virus and to abalone viral

ganglioneuritis. Variation in susceptibility to infection demonstrated between family lines would demonstrate a genetic basis to susceptibility/ resistance to infection and further studies with susceptible and resistant family lines would be warranted to determine the mechanism of resistance. Research results by DPI Victoria and CSIRO’s AAHL have demonstrated that the virus could be transmitted via water and that infectious virus could be semi-quantified using this model as a bioassay. They have been successful in obtaining the sequence of the viral genome and using this sequence to develop molecular diagnostics for detection and identification of the virus in infected abalone.

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 13


Holding wild broodstock in the quarantine facility.

Export markets seek high quality abalone in a variety of forms including live, frozen, ready-to-eat pouches or canned products. But it is the live export market that Jade Tiger Abalone has been selectively bred for. “We are currently doing around 65% live; we’re targeting live export sales of 80% by 2011,” says Anton. After just three years of exporting commercial quantities GSW are already finding that demand is exceeding supply. “Our office is continually fielding enquiries from high end hotels and restaurants throughout the world asking for Jade Tiger Abalone by name.” Pure and hybrid family lines are marked with different coloured tags to allow easy identification.

Great Southern Waters breeding strategy for Jade Tiger Abalone®



Breeding Population

Blacklip crosses

Breeding Population

Hybrid crosses

Greenlip crosses

Thanks to modern air freight services, and the proximity of the operation to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, GSW’s live abalone are able to travel from the farm to the plate within 24 hours. Anton reckons that Aussie abalone can continue to maintain a niche market, especially in Asia. “China is the largest producer and consumer so we do need to look for those speciality markets. But our transport costs are a little less than those for South Africa and Jade Tiger Abalone is finding favour over that from other competitors.” By Dos O’Sullivan.

Progeny test

Progeny test


Progeny test


Select on hybrid and blacklip performance

Select on hybrid and blacklip performance

Jade Tiger Abalone

14 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

For more information contact: Anton Krsinich CEO, Great Southern Waters, 366 The Esplanade, Indented Head, Vic 3223. Tel: (03) 5257-2033, Fax: (03) 5257-1544, M: 0427 425468 Email: Web: Dr Nicholas Elliott, Aquaculture Breeds Stream Leader, CSIRO Food Futures Flagship , CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, M: 0428 367 943 Email: Web:


Tropical breeder designed for cost-effective ornamentals production To make the difficult (and always costly) transition from a hobbyist breeder to a commercial producer, the Orange Fish Company ensured they had an appropriately sized and cost efficient facility design, selected a range of ornamental species suited to the site’s water quality (bore and rain) and balanced profitability with production flexibility. The facility provides a great model for other enthusiasts itching to ‘make a buck or two’.

One of the main aisles with broodstock tanks on the top and middle shelves, growout tanks on the bottom shelves and growout tubs with nets at the end of the aisle.


eter Stanley-Davies started the Orange Fish Company (OFC) in 2006 when relocating from Townsville in North Queensland to Orange in the NSW’s Central West. “I have been a fish keeper, breeder and occasional seller for 20 years but, as with most budding breeders, I was always limited by space,” Peter says. “Building a new home on a rural residential block allowed me the freedom to build a suitable sized building for my fish breeding operation.” Peter has kept and bred most of the different families of freshwater tropical ornamental fish available in Australia. He wanted to expand his hobby into a commercial tropical freshwater ornamental fish hatchery.

Peter adjusting the airflow to one of the egg tumblers, in the nursery. Egg tumblers keep eggs or small fry in constant motion by water flow, to simulate the attentions of the parent fish and prevent fungus growth (while letting the parent get on with eating and having more fry).

Insulated Shed

“I rely on my day job (as a skin cancer doctor) to pay the bills. My goal with OFC is to create a commercial operation capable of initially covering its costs and ultimately providing a positive cash flow. My reason for wanting to operate the hatchery was my general disbelief at the volume of fish imported into Australia to supply the hobby. I am still staggered that despite the enormous costs of freighting fish internationally with all the weight of water involved, as well as the quarantine risks involved with the movement of such large numbers of live animals, that the hobby still imports around half of all fish sold in pet shops.

“This gives me about 50,000L of water altogether,” he explains. “I will shortly be expanding this to about 75,000L by increasing the growout facility. The shed is maintained at 26°C by two reverse cycle air conditioners and the quality of the insulation (100mm foam sheeting) – the builders that put it together called it ‘The Big Esky’.”

“My mission (if you like) is to provide at least some locally grown product for the hobby.”

Most hobbyists making the move to ‘commercial’ production merely expand their building or shed and add more

Peter built a 300m2 fully insulated shed which currently contains about 200 x 240L glass tanks for the broodfish and the smaller grow-out and 5 x 1,500L fibreglass tubs for the larger grow-out.

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 15


Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Orange Fish Company include: • Building an appropriate facility • Minimising need to adjust water values • Offering a broad range of species and maintaining flexibility in husbandry techniques • Balancing maximising profitability with maintaining flexibility. Top species sold by OFC include: • African peacocks • Lake Malawi Mbuna • Haplochromes • Other rift valley cichlids • Other African cichlids • Some American cichlids.

One of Peter’s favourite fish, the stud male Dimidiochromis compressiceps (admiring his reflection in the tank glass), watched by a female with a mouth full of fry.

tanks. Usually this ad hoc approach results in inappropriate designs or other inefficiencies. Few people have the luxury of designing and building an appropriate facility from the ground up – Peter’s key management decision to commit the capital funds to do this means he now has a fully insulated shed for keeping his costs down. “Once the imported water reaches shed temperature it doesn’t need further heating to maintain it,” he continues. “The insulation is so effective that when outside temperatures were 8-16°C (night to day), the heating was turned off for 24 hours and the ambient temperature only dropped from 26°C to 24.5°C (with the door opening and closing 4-5 times). That was enough for me to shelve my plan to build an air-lock type entry to minimise heat loss. “My quarterly power bills are $600-900 summer to winter.” The water for the facility is derived from a bore that is licensed for 1ML per year. Peter blends this with about 20% rainwater to allow a water exchange of about 25,000L per week (equivalent to a 50% water change each week). The 16 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

water is heated with electric in-line heaters and 8KW of heating raises the water from the 14°C that it emerges from the bore to 26°C in about 24 hours (per 10,000L). Peter obviously thought long and hard and made another critical decision to minimise the need to adjust the water quality. “The bore and rain water available are blended 4 to 1 to give a mixture very close to natural Lake Malawi water values of pH, alkalinity and hardness. By choosing to breed species that prefer those water parameters (even though I had limited prior experience with them) I have avoided the need for time consuming and costly water manipulation. I have the capacity to use reverse osmosis water or a higher proportion of rainwater, should consumer demand make the breeding of a softer water range of fish more commercially attractive but, at this stage, things are going well without this additional cost.” Discharged water is settled in a 100,000L tank and then pumped over a 2 acre (0.9ha) paddock, following an environmental requirement of Peter’s development application. It basically

operates like a larger scale septic system and the trees seem to like the ‘enriched’ bore water! Aeration is provided by three 750W blowers arranged in parallel so that each can be isolated and removed /replaced without stopping the operation of the others. “I always keep a serviced spare but the blowers have been remarkably reliable to date.” Mouth-brooders Broodstock are housed in 240L single species tanks. “I predominantly have mouth-brooding African Cichlids from Lake Malawi as their water needs most closely resemble the qualities of the bore water available,” Peter explains. “I also have other African and some American Cichlids, some livebearers (Guppies and Platys) and some different types of Bristlenose Catfish. All the broodstock tanks are plumbed in and drained out separately to prevent horizontal transmission of disease.” Peter has a very practical approach to his breeding. “The mouth-brooders spawn and take the fertilized eggs into the mouth of the female who would


then carry them for 3-4 weeks to protect them while the hatch and absorb their yolk. Some breeders leave the fry in the mother’s mouth but with this ‘natural’ technique, during that time, the mother doesn’t eat and tends to be bullied by the tank mates. “I ‘strip’ all females every 4 weeks to remove the eggs or fry. Stripping involves gently netting the female and holding her mouth open in a small tub of water while she disgorges the fry. She is then free to feed and breed again while the fry are then raised in isolated nursery tanks if free swimming or in egg tumblers (to prevent fungus forming on the eggs).” He has designed and built a large scale system of egg tumblers which can accommodate up to 96 spawns of eggs at the same time. “This has been a major step forward in improving fry survival rates, which are now around 70% from egg to sale and 95% from fry to sale. The egg tumblers provide a constant flow of water across the eggs and turn them constantly, much as would happen in the mouths of the mother. The egg layer species are allowed to raise their fry in tank for two to three weeks before they are siphoned or netted off. This is more time consuming as newly hatched baby brine shrimp need to be fed to each tank rather than the more efficient feeding system in the dedicated nursery.”

The business end of the hatchery. The two 10,000L insulated water tanks are where the blended rain and bore water are heated using in-line heaters. In the foreground is the Brine Shrimp hatchery - newly hatched baby Brine Shrimp is main diet of the fry for the first 2 weeks before they are weaned onto a flake and pellet diet.

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Fry are raised in 5, 10 and 20L plastic tubs which are separately aerated and plumbed in and out as with the broodstock. When they reach 4-6 week size they are moved to larger growout tanks or in sets of four nets in 1,500L tubs meaning the net is in a cycling virtual volume of 375L . The tubs are connected via a sump as a recirculating system. The fish are sold at 3.5cm and 5cm sizes (about 12 weeks and 20 weeks respectively) as per market demand. Small fry are fed baby brine shrimp (BBS) only for the first 2 weeks then a blend of BBS and small pellet food (400-600micron) to wean them onto dry (and hence stationary) feeds. From about 4-6 weeks they are housed in the Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 17


The 288m2 fully insulated, (partially) solar powered, shed. Aka ‘The Big Esky’.

Owner Peter Stanley-Davies checking the health of some fry in part of the nursery, note the broodstock tanks on the top shelf - the broodstock prefer top shelf locations as they are less disturbed by foot traffic and this greater privacy seems to encourage breeding!

grow-out section where they are fed twice a day with increasing sizes of pellet (0.81.2mm) alternated with Spirulina flake and commercial colour flake. They get 2-3 feeds a week with zucchini or spinach to vary their diet and grow to sale size (3.5cm) in 10-12 weeks post strip.

importance of balancing the maximisation of profitability with flexibility in production. “It would be easy to shift production to the current flavour of the month and mass produce a particular line but the industry is small in Australia and can be quickly saturated in one area by a single producer.

All tanks are siphoned at least weekly and nursery tubs every second day. There is a constant cycle of replacing clogged air stones, cleaning scale from the glass (due to the hardness of the water) checking flow rates for water changes and replacing air, water or drainage attachments as they break, wear out, fall off, etc. Peter’s medical and pathology background give him a pretty good idea of safe practice of biosecurity, health management and disposal of any mortalities. “The NSW DPI requires that dead fish are disposed of ‘appropriately’. I freeze dead fish after treating with hypochlorite and then bury them > 60cm on my property (with the future plan of planting trees around the area). I actually get very few mortalities due to stringent inter-tank quarantine and I have very few new stock entering the facility.” With some species there is a very good rate of market quality product but with 18 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

others such as peacocks, about half of the fry are substandard and are humanely culled at the 4-6 week stage to preserve quality. There is major variation in growth as in food fish and so grading (all done by eye and hand) is essential. OFC produces about 70 lines of tropical fish, with about 40 currently in significant numbers. Last year about 25,000 fish were sold wholesale at prices ranging from 40c to $4.00 per fish. The main customers are in Victoria, so the fish are shipped there by road transport. Peter is well aware of how the market can change quickly. “In my planning I was determined to offer a broad range of species and maintain flexibility in my husbandry techniques. This is very important in the ornamental industry as consumers are quite fickle and this year’s must-have species can become last year’s never-again’s, very quickly. “Thankfully there are a few Cichlid staples that are always popular such as peacocks and electric blues and yellows. The set-up at OFC can accommodate new species quickly and can manage mouth-brooders, egg layers and livebearers.” Peter is quick to warn others of the

“The speed at which consumer tastes change can also leave a producer one step behind demand if too much emphasis is placed on one particular product (farmers around here call it chasing the market).” With his excellent planning, Peter now has a small but profitable business supplying locally bred ornamentals around Australia. Who knows, maybe one day he can give up his ‘day job’ and be a full time fisho. By Dos O’Sullivan All photos by Peter Stanley-Davies. For more information contact Peter StanleyDavies, Orange Fish Company, 21 Silverdown Way, (Box 2428), Orange NSW 2800. T: 02 6361-4000, F: 02 6361-4800, M: 0438 243-004, E:



Ian and Michelle Charles


he silver perch industry has been through some hard times. The species, once the great hope for inland aquaculture in NSW has been reduced to a few diehard operators who have developed their own methodologies and markets. Amongst the successful survivors is Silverwater Native Fish. Ian and Michelle Charles established the operation at Grong Grong in the Eastern Riverina district of NSW in 1996. Applying common sense and loads of long hours, they have built the farm into one of the major silver perch producers in Australia.

They also operate a hatchery for silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), golden perch (Macquaria ambigua), and Murray cod (Maccullochella peeli peeli). Silverwater is registered to supply fish in the Southern Zone (lower Murray Darling strains) under the NSW Fisheries Hatchery Quality Assurance Program (HQAP). Ian believes the hatchery QA program is a positive development. “It can only lift the quality of fingerlings available to the industry and the fishing public. It’s still in the sorting out phase; it’s a living document. We’re in the first couple of years where there has to be feedback between the hatcheries and the Department. This process has to ensure that the hatcheries are able to do what is required of them and that this meets genetic requirements.” The farm Like all good fish farms, Silverwater has a reliable source of water. Licensed to take 130ML from the Murrumbidgee River this allocation has, however, been reduced to 10% to 30% of that due to the prolonged drought over the last 14 years. But the farms has its own bore, capped at 290ML with this water used in the hatchery and purging systems, as well as for top up of the production ponds. It has an alkalinity of 130ppm and 290ppm general hardness. Ian uses the bore water in the larval rearing ponds as he has found that river water carries the spores of filamentous algae (Spirogyra) and aquatic insects. In a

Above: Rowan Gardiner, who is doing an aquaculture traineeship at Silverwater, is inspecting silver perch larvae for readiness to stock in the plankton ponds. Right: Shown here are Murray cod fry ready to be stocked in the plankton ponds. In the case of cod, the ponds are flooded early to ensure a mature zooplankton bloom that includes daphnia and larger aquatic life forms.

pond where plankton production – both phyto and zooplankton – are the prime considerations, this tends to be counter productive in the nutrient-rich fry ponds. The clear bore water also allows greater sunlight penetration, allowing for better plankton production. Initially, Ian only fills the larval rearing ponds to a metre to fire up a plankton bloom before raising the level to provide the water with greater temperature stability and production volume. As water is also recycled from the settlement pond back to the growout ponds, Ian surmises that some may have been on the farm from day one. “As our pond soils contain good levels of calcium, we get stable water quality so don’t normally need to exchange water other than to replace evaporation losses (which can be as much as two metres in a bad year),” he says. The farm consists of 34 bottom draining ponds; ten are reserved for larval rearing and five for broodstock with the balance

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It pays to advertise. Ian has put considerable effort into establishing the Silverwater brand name and pushing silver perch as a commercial species.

While the selective breeding program has increased productivity it has also meant that more ponds are required to hold broodstock and rear larvae.

Ready for action. Aeration is crucial to aquaculture production; Ian takes no chances and can boost oxygen levels in any pond to meet its BOD needs.

of 19 used for production. Half the production ponds are 50m x 27m x 1.8m deep; the other half are double the size giving a total area in production of just under 4.6ha. Broodstock ponds are 0.05ha and the fry rearing ponds are 0.15ha. Updated to hatchery status in 2003, the fish handling facility consist of seven 5,000L and three 1,200L bottom draining, conical Polymaster tanks. As well there are six 800L tanks and six 2000L tanks that are used during the hatchery season.

A tank of silver perch being purged and ‘road tested’ for the live fish markets in the capital cities.

Silver perch Silverwater is breeding from 4th generation broodstock selected from a range of strains. “We’ve shortened our growout time to market size considerably – from three years to two - and improved our conformation. We’ve gone for a more solid fish with less ‘tail length’ giving a greater fillet return. Our fish seem to lay down less fat than the faster growing fish from those up north. Whether this is from breeding, husbandry or feed I can’t really say. We only know what we see on our own farm,” he says. The selection process started with fish they got from the Grafton Aquaculture Centre’s genetic evaluation program. From this pool a Silverwater strain was developed. To ensure that this retains its genetic vigour, males from Mark Scifleet’s Pioneer Fish Farm on the Central NSW Coast (AA 20-2) are used. Mark has also

20 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010


been running a successful selection program and Ian has great confidence in using stock sourced from Pioneer. Ian is the first to admit that the improvement in growth rates has not been genetic alone. “It’s not just genetic selection. Early breeding, pushing the fish hard early, getting them into the winter bigger, spreading them out in the larval rearing ponds over winter and going to higher densities in the spring, all contribute to the shorter turnover time. The breeding cycle is straightforward. Females are selected for eggs stage quality and males for spermatozoa motility once pond temperatures reach a steady 20-21°C. Females are injected with 300iu of hormone per kilo, males with 200iu. Hatchery temperatures are 24°C. Spawning takes around 36 hours with a further 30-36 hours until the larval hatch. After five days the larvae’s jaws are moving and they are ready to be stocked in the larval rearing ponds. The ponds have been flooded at the time of injection, or a couple of days sooner if the weather is coolish. Those destined for the Silverwater growout program remain in the ponds until February. The others are harvested on an as needs basis after eight weeks from stocking.

The farm built feed spreader enables Ian to minimize the time spent feeding while at the same time getting an idea of how the fish are feeding.

The Silverwater transporter. With the use of oxygen cylinders, Ian can transport 800kg of fish to the live fish outlets in the capital cities.

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The spawning cycle for golden perch, also known as yellowbelly and callop, runs in conjunction with the silver perch breeding season. Stocking and pond preparation is identical. Murray cod This is Silverwater’s fourth year of Murray cod breeding. Once Ian had incorporated perch breeding into the operation the logical next step was to diversify. Cod eggs are collected from nesting boxes lined with a collection screen and taken to the hatchery for incubation. The nest is checked from late September as the water temperature reaches 20°C and the eggs take 7-10 days to hatch at 21°C. Newly hatched larvae live off their yolk sacs for another 7-10 days before looking for their first feed. Ian provides them with brine shrimp (Artemia) for several days until the ponds have

Ian & Rowan discussing the farm’s operation. Observation and planning are a part of the daily routine at Silverwater.

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rearing ponds are dried and conditioned again before the graded fingerlings are re-stocked in them to overwinter at densities ranging from 6,000/pond to 20,000/ pond, depending on the grade of the cohort.

Silver perch larvae. These fish are ready to be stocked in the Silverwater plankton ponds.

developed an advanced bloom and he’s convinced the larvae are feeding strongly. By this stage the larvae are 10mm long and relatively mobile. Cod are a fast growing fish and, with their large gape, survive well in ponds rich in a more mature stage of plankton development than best for the smaller perch larvae. So the ponds are flooded ten days before stocking to ensure a wide variety of feeding options from copepods and daphnia to aquatic life such as Chironomid larvae. Harvesting commences in the first week in January, by which time the fingerlings are 50-75mm. Overwintering Part of the success of Silverwater has been Ian’s willingness to put his ideas to the test. One such innovation has proved particularly beneficial. Ian, always looking for ways to reduce growing times, started breeding his own stock in order to catch the best of the plankton-growing season. This has helped reduce the time his fish spend on the farm to two winters. Saprolegnia outbreaks associated with the so called winter-kill syndrome have been the bane of silver perch growers for some time. Ian has decided to reduce the pond stocking loads during the vulnerable cold season when water temperatures can fall as low as 6°C in the Eastern Riverina. Spawning commences during the first week in November and the larvae stocked in the freshly-flooded and fertilised larval rearing ponds. Drain harvesting occurs over and the fingerlings – then ranging from 4g to 15g – are graded. The larval 22 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

By early spring, when the water has warmed to > 20°C these fish are harvested and re-graded. Sizes range from 10-30g for the 4g cohorts to > 60g for the larger fingerlings. This is carried out over a six-week window and the fish are stocked at 3,000 per growout pond. The fish won’t need to be graded again before the final harvest during the following summer. Michelle says this reduces the labour-intensive and fishstressful seine harvesting to one event along the production chain and gets the gradings out of the way while the fish were still small and easy to handle – a further time saver. Feeding & temperatures Ridleys native fish diets are the feed of choice: a starter diet of 54% protein and 10% lipids and a growout diet of 35% protein and 10% lipids. The starter diets range from a fine dust to a 3mm short cut extruded pellet and a 3mm long cut. Ian estimates these diets are 50% floating, 50% slowly sinking. The growout rations, starting at 4mm, are a floating diet. Feeding rates during the winter are as low as 0.5% of bodyweight three times a week, although a positive response has been obtained by feeding the juvenile fish more often. During the summer the feed rate is up to 2% of body weight. The FCRs are calculated over the financial year on the quantity of feed in and the quantity of fish out. Over a number of years this has worked out at 1.7:1. Rowan Gardiner is doing an aquaculture traineeship at Silverwater. He’s measured a morning temperature of 6°C but generally the rock bottom is between 7°C and 8°C with summer water temperatures peaking at 31°C. Ian says the fish still eat but they don’t convert well at these upper critical limits of the temperature range on the farm.

Markets Silverwater has spread its revenue risk over four market streams: other growers for juvenile seedstock, the recreational farm dam ‘box trade’, re-stocking groups operating under the ‘dollar for dollar’ NSW fishing license rebate and the market they have developed in the live markets for table fish amongst the Chinatown retail outlets in the capitals. Ian says the market prospects for silver perch are solid. “Silvers definitely have a following. The market has firmed over the last couple of years. And, like all fresh seafood lines, I expect it to remain so but only if production doesn’t expand quickly at any stage. Prices for mainstream wild-caught fish like flathead and whiting have increased dramatically. Farmed fish can only follow them up.” The fish are purged for seven days before delivery. “Our water quality is good and they probably don’t need it, but we do it anyway. As we sell into the live fish market, we need to ‘road test’ the fish before we take them to sit in the retail display tanks. If any fish have been overly stressed it will show up in the first three days. Our reputation for delivering a quality product has been hard won. These sorts of precautions ensure we don’t lose it.” The farm dam stocking that was once the mainstay of hatcheries is not the high volume trade it once was. As Ian points out: “Since the drought set in, the water’s just not there. And the farms have become bigger, more commercially-oriented rather than family farms with a lifestyle interest in stocking their storages for recreational fishing.” Silverwater Native Fish has shown what can be achieved through industry networking, innovation and hard work. With the silver perch market bullish and the efforts Ian and Michelle have put into the development of all facets of their business, the future looks encouraging. By John Mosig Ian & Michelle Charles can be contacted by phone on (02) 6956 2305, and by email on


A healthy Coscinoderma matthewsii sponge growing on a farm panel.

Torres Strait sponge farm begins production Bath sponges are in high demand as beauty products and as ‘natural sea sponges’ have a global market of around Au$40million. Usually supplied from diminishing wild catches in third world countries, aquaculture is now starting to fill the gap with a remote Australian farming enterprise looking to supply quality bath sponges into the international market. Kailag Enterprises Ltd, an indigenous company on Yorke Island in the north eastern part of Torres Strait (and less than 30km from the PNG coast), has established a sponge farm based on research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The farm has been operating for 18 months and expects a commercial harvest before the end of the year.


rom Chips Rafferty’s 1953 movie classic – ‘King of the Coral Sea’ – to the present day Spongebob Squarepants comedy, sponges have been a source of fascination. They’re also worth a lot of money; current market prices are US$20-40 per piece. No surprise then that Torres Strait Islanders are looking to own and operate their own aquaculture enterprise, a big step up from their former days as poorly paid ‘hard hat’ divers in the dangerous pearling industry.

Natural sponges have been long prized after by cosmetic and industrial cleaning companies due to their highly absorbent skeletons. And the luxury spa market, particularly in Europe and North America, is keen on them too with the global bath sponge industry, originally supplied out of the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, now worth in excess of $40m. But this highly traditional industry is suffering a shortfall as traditional fisheries decline, with the bulk of wild sponge catch now

coming out of countries such as Cuba, Tunisia and areas of SE Asia. Libby Evans-Illidgeh, a marine biologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS), believes that sponge aquaculture is the most environmentallysustainable way of meeting market demands into the future. “Aquaculture poses a sustainable alternative to wild harvest which has devastated natural sponge populations in other regions,” she says. Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 23


AIMS, with funding from CRC Torres Strait, Marine and Tropical Research Facility (MTSRF) the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the Yorke Island Community Council (YICC), has completed several years of study on the feasibility of and best practice methods for farming sponges at Yorke Island. It found that sponges can be grown in commercial quantities using culture systems similar to those for pearl oysters. The study team, initially directed by Dr Alan Duckworth and Carsten Wolff from AIMS, found that Yorke Island has a large population of Coscinoderma – an apt species name for the bath sponge market! The scientists showed that Coscinoderma was suitable for farming with a growth rate that would be sustainable for industry harvest. “This particular bath sponge –from the classic bath sponge order – is a soft, durable sponge with good shape and found throughout Torres Strait waters, from Darnley Is. and Yorke Is. to Badu and the inner group of Islands,” Libby says. “They proved particularly large and abundant around Yorke and surrounding islands in the central Torres Strait; some were up to 40 cm in diameter.”

Divers Joey Billy and Andrew Mosby attaching seed sponges to panels which will be suspended in the water column.

The research included investigations into the optimal season, site, and farming methods for the industry and the biology and ecology of the wild sponge stocks. Libby says her team sought to determine the most economical and ecologically sustainable farming techniques for the region as well as the wild sponge population’s ability to sustainably provide seedstock to a new farming industry. “We had a lot of things to consider from environmental impacts to market demands. For example, the shape of the mature sponges was very important in determining which farming method was selected.”

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The AIMS scientists are very pleased with the results. “There are abundant wild sponge stocks in the region which recover well from seed harvest and environmental conditions seem to be optimal for growth of the seedstock. From a biological perspective, our results supported the


prospect of a sponge farm at Yorke,” says Libby.

The Kailag dive team undergo regular refresher courses to stay well trained.

The research projects received widespread support from the local community (300 people live on the island) and local Yorke Islanders participated in the dive and field work components of the project. These divers are now employed by Kailag Enterprises Ltd (KEL) and have the skills and wide experience in farming sponges. Commercial Farm KEL established the sponge farm on Yorke Island last year and now manages the aquaculture business with funding from the Torres Strait Regional Authority (a federal agency), the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC). KEL was established as a not-for-profit community organisation with the assistance of the previous Yorke Island Community Council. Project Management Advisor Chris Robertson says a feature of the project was the employment of local people as SCUBA divers, boat coxswains and farm technicians. “The company has social objectives to provide benefits from profits to the island community,” he says. “Fortunately there was a previous training program in the region for Torres Strait Islanders to gain Occupational Diver SCUBA and Hookah qualifications (AS2299 Harvest and Aquaculture) for work in cray (Tropical Rocklobster Panulirus spp) diving and Beche-de-Mer fishing as well as Pearl Oyster farm divers. Thus we had plenty of local guys who are not only experienced cray divers but have the appropriate tickets for working on a sponge farm.” Head diver and supervisor John Morris and Assistant Head Diver Samson Lowatta, with many years of diving experience between them, assisted AIMS in all of their field work during the research. KEL staff work under the requirements of their own Diving Procedures which include dive planning and supervision, safety procedures, emergency response

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sloped drop-off area. Whilst the reef and islands provide protection from southerly winds for most of the year, it is subject to northerly winds during the monsoon season. Easily accessible by boat from Yorke Is and marked by navigation markers with solar powered flashlights on each corner, the site is close the community and a natural habitat for the sponge species.

Head diver John Morris has many years diving experience fishing for Tropical Rocklobster or Pearl Oysters as well as sponges.

and equipment maintenance. Suitably qualified and experienced visiting divers such as research scientists, volunteers and co-workers can dive with KEL staff such as John and Samson using these Dive Procedures. KEL has to arrange refresher courses and dive medicals to keep the divers well trained. It uses an 6m fibreglass Hooker dive boat complete with a 60HP outboard, a SCUBA compressor and tanks for the dive team. “Called the Kailag Express, the vessel is well designed for Torres Strait conditions and it’s a great workhorse,” says John. Yorke Island Councillor and KEL Chairman Cr John Mosby is delighted that the community should benefit. “We acknowledge our former Island Council Chairman the late Donald Mosby who started the whole process for this project. The community has been involved in this project every step of the way and there is a lot of support to develop a commercial operation. We still need to put the plan through some rigorous business testing to be certain it is economically viable but at this point things are looking very promising.” Low-tech culture A 10ha farm has been developed on a 12-18m deep site with a sandy seabed between the island fringing reef and a 26 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

Chris says the farm required approval from both the Queensland (Resource Allocation Authority, Development Approval, Notice to Mariners) and the Commonwealth (EPBC Act) governments. The Environmental Management Plan (EMP) submitted to both also included a Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) monitoring program to survey any impacts of turtle predation on sponges. That research was successful. “Hawksbill turtles are known to feed on sponges and there was concern that the turtles would be attracted to the farm. KEL asked Marianna Fuentes, a Ph D researcher from James Cook University, to survey the local turtle population; she found the turtles were not grazing on the collagen-based Conscinoderma preferring the silica spiculed sponges instead … a great result.” The first culture technology trailed used pearl oyster mesh panels of various mesh sizes and numbers of pockets. These 30cm by 90cm panels were hung from buoyed risers anchored to the seafloor. Whilst the sponges grew well in these R&D trials and little fouling was observed, these were undertaken on panels suspended adjacent to the reef. At the commercial site it was a different matter. “The sponges and the nets became quickly covered with a variety of biofouling organisms (algae, ascidians, soft corals and bivalves), slowing growth rates; in some cases the sponges actually shrank due to competition for space and food.” And the Kailag EMP doesn’t include allow mechanical cleaning of fouling as used in the pearl farming industry.

It turned out that the R&D panels had been cleaned by small fish coming up from the underlying reef. “As our (commercial) panels were well away from the reef, the small fish would not swim to them so there was nothing to control the fouling.” It was a major production setback. The KEL team responded in two ways. The first was to replace the net panels (which have a large surface area for fouling) with zip ties onto a similar metal frame. The second was to move the sponges closer to the reef edge within the farm site, encouraging grazing by small fish. And artificial reef structures have been inserted to provide habitat for these small fish and a diversity of other grazers. “Both methods showed success,” says Chris, “Now we have an average growth rate of 6.5%/month equating to a compounded annual growth rate of 200%. This is right on the target determined by the earlier pilot trials.” For initial stocking of the farm, SCUBA divers comb the reefs around the Yorke islands, cutting off up to 2/3rds of the individual sponges they find – leaving 1/3 for regrowth. The collected sponges are cut into smaller 100mm portions for stocking on the farm in frames hanging on ropes, known as risers. These are kept vertical by submerged buoys and held down by concrete blocks. The risers are laid out in lines on the farm site, with numbered tags to catalogue the different production units. Benthic navigation lines connect all the risers together so divers can easily and safely find their way around the farm site. KEL divers regularly check their stock to see if the sponges have sufficient space and water flow. “We encourage grazing fish (e.g. tusk fish) to keep the panels clean of biofouling algae and we regularly monitor growth and survival.” The seed sponges (called explants) are allowed to grow for 1-2 years by which time they can grow to a marketable size of 35cm. These will be sold as ‘eco-friendly natural sea sponges from the pristine waters of


Torres Straits’. Product is expected to be marketed before the end of 2010 in Europe and the USA. “We are not sure if we will use an agent or will handle the wholesaling of the products ourselves,” says Chris. Continued Research The AIMS’s scientists are still working with KEL in improvements to the zip tie attachments as well as completing their work on sponge ecology and biology. Libby notes that AIMS has also pioneered aquaculture of sponges to produce chemicals needed for pre-clinical trials of promising drug leads. “We are examining the potential for bioactive compounds for the bio-pharmaceutical industry, but that is early days yet.” Whilst most of the biological and technical challenges had been overcome and the venture is ideally suited to the culture and lifestyle of Torres Strait islanders, Chris says that operating a new pioneering aquaculture business will be a challenges for the indigenous company. “But the collaboration with AIMS, TSRA and DEEDI will assist in getting the venture to its first important commercial milestone of selling natural sea sponges from the Torres Strait.” Kailag CEO, Philippa Bauer, is also very positive about the farm’s future. “The Yorke Island community are eager to see this work, because it represents so much for us to operate our own aquaculture business and create more jobs in our small island community.”

A quick primer on sponges Sea sponges are sessile marine

dissected into 100cm3 portions to

animals classified in the Phylum

stock on the farm. Most sponge

Porifera; the species we are farming

species are hermaphrodites and use

is Coscinoderma matthewsii which

sexual reproduction and C.

are in the Class Demospongiae.

matthewsii is viviparous (live birth of

They are essentially filter feeders on

young where the embryo develops

bacteria and other ultraplankton in

inside the mother) so it produces live

the water column and need to

larvae that will settle on the reef a

maintain a constant water flow

few days after birth.

through their bodies to obtain food

Sponges use various materials to

and oxygen and remove waste

reinforce their skeleton structure,

products. Various cells or body parts

including calcium carbonate and

are used for pumping the water

silica. The Demosponges including

through and filtering food items, but

C. matthewsii use a special kind of

sponges are also known to have

collagen called spongin to form a

specialised cells that can transform

structure throughout their mesohyl

into other types (eg form new skin).

(body tissues). When dried out, this

Sponges do not have nervous,

gives the dead sponge a soft but long

digestive or circulatory systems.

lasting quality as a bath sponge.

Sponges are ancient animals that

Many sponge species act as hosts of

have survived on earth since the

other organisms including

Cambrian era (520 million years

cyanobacteria (blue green algae)

ago). In Torres Straits they are

and sometimes dinoflagellates that

usually found on the reef and

can live with the sponge as an

actually compete for space with

endosymbiont. Sponges and their

corals. Sponges have the ability to

microscopic endosymbionts may

regenerate from fragments which

develop bioactive compounds that

helps to make them suitable for

could have important roles in human

aquaculture where the stock can be

health, eg. as medicines in cancer

cut from wild sponges on the reef

control and treatment, anti-

without impacting on the natural

inflammatory drugs, and for use as

population. Up to two thirds of the

medical research tools.

wild sponge can be cut off and


By Dos O’Sullivan. For more information contact: Libby Evans-Illidge, Australian Institute of Marine Science, email: Chris Robertson, 3ScienceSolutions P/L, 0428 671-689,

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Barramundi and lychees

a winning tropical mix settlement pond. Water from the central reservoir is used to irrigate the lychee orchard and the kitchen garden that supplies the family with fresh fruit and vegetables. Draw down on the storage allows fresh inflows to be introduced to the ponds with water generally exchanged every three days. Should water quality problems occur they are able to do a 50% exchange in the offending pond within 12 hours.

Elizabeth stands proudly behind a tank of Sundown Fish Farm barramundi

Each pond has a 3-phase 2hp paddlewheel aerator operating 24 hours a day to maintain dissolved oxygen close to saturation level around the clock. Water temperatures drop to 19°C for a week or so in mid winter and there has been extremes of 17°C in a bad year for a few days. Stocking does not occur under temperatures of 22°C, generally from June to August. Temperatures peak at 29-30°C as the sun travels down to Rockhampton and back. Production cycle Fingerlings (120mm) are sourced from Better Barra Tropical Hatchery at Yungaburra. The farm used to stock with 60mm fingerlings but found better survival from the larger fish which are released at 5,000 per pond (23,800/ha). Frank says he can grow them at that stocking rate for nine months before running into oxygen problems. Sundown Fish Farm is without doubt a family affair.


he Barbieri family – father Dom, mother Elizabeth and son Frank – have been farming barramundi at Mareeba since 1988. Dom came up to the Atherton tablelands in 1987 and carved the farm out of the bush. It was just an eroded mass of gullies and scrub he says. Their Sundown Fish Farm combines fruit growing with fish farming, turning 25-30t a year of top quality fish and 10-15t of lychees. Licensed to 28 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

pump from the creek, the water is used twice and, by keeping stocking densities low, the Barbieris have optimized growth rates, minimized labour input and contained operating costs. In short, the farm is a model in water conservation and irrigation efficiency. The farm is in undulating country and the ten 30m x 70m x 2.5m deep ponds are built around, and drain into, the central 7ML storage reservoir and

“By that time they’re 900g to 1,200g. We’ll pull a tonne out and leave the rest. Six months later we’ll pull another tonne to a tonne and a half out. By this time they’re 1,200g to 1.5kg. We’d have a tonne to a tonne and a half left in the pond. We let them grow for another six months until they’re 2.5kg to 3kg fish.” They’ve tried stocking at 10,000 fingerlings per pond, but couldn’t get required the growth rates. “Fish after nine months were only getting to 300g to 600g,” Frank says. “This way we get


great growth rates and less management problems. Survival is as close to 100% as you’d hope to get.” At the end of each 21 month cycle the ponds are dried out – until the substrate cracks – before loose material is scraped out and any erosion damage to the walls repaired. This gives algal-free water for the first nine months of the new cycle. Some of the nutrient-rich soil is used around the lychees. “There’s always a bit of wash, so can fill that in from the silt from the ponds,” says Frank. With yields of between 4t and 5.5t per pond the ponds produce between 19t/ ha and 21.5t/ha over the 21 month cycle. Feed is withheld for a day before harvesting in the summer and two days in the winter to allow the fish time to metabolise nutrients in the blood stream and evacuate waste in the digestive system. As an indication of the flesh quality of their barra, Frank says that during Cyclone Larry in 2006 fish were iced

down and packed away in the cooler at – 5°C. “They were desperate for fish down in Sydney and once we were able to get them out – 14 days later - we flew them down. The word came back that they were 100%.” Harvesting A large net is used to crowd the fish and a smaller one then to harvest what is required. The fish go straight into an ice slurry before grading and packing. Crowding the fish in a full pond keeps them out of the mud which can occur, for instance, when ponds are lowered or drained for harvest. It’s also less stressful on the fish and the ones not harvested go straight back onto their food that night. Given favourable feedback from the market about the quality of their fish, Frank reckons they must be doing something right. Long finned eels (Anguilla reinhardtii) do come into the ponds, congregating in the settlement pond away from the barra. Dom says they’d had them up to 1.5m in length.

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From the top: A view of the farm across the ponds. Dom’s lychee orchid is an important aspect of the balanced cash flow from the farm. The machinery required to operate a farm these days can keep you poor says Frank.

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farm a big component. Crumbles work out at around $2,100/t and the pellets at $1,920/t. Feed conversion, calculated as fish out divided by feed in, is 1.4:1. Dom says that each fish that goes off the farm carries a $1.20 fingerling cost and another $2 in transport and marketing costs. By the time power and harvesting costs are added, they’re looking at $8/kg to get the fish to market down in Sydney. At times the prices on the floor leave them perilously close to not making a return on the fish they spend nearly two years producing. More to the point, costs are escalating. Frank says power has just gone up 6% and transport costs – feed up from Brisbane and fish down to the main markets in Sydney – are rising too. It’s becoming a real burden. Labour is provided by the family. Frank’s cousin works on the farm with them and everyone shares the load at peak times. However, with an aging workforce there’s an increasingly greater reliance on casual labour. Markets Frank reckons the farm’s not getting a fair price for its fish. The huge effort in getting a good product onto the market isn’t being not rewarded.

From the top: Frank says the barra feed best just on sundown. Sundown comes in quickly in the tropics. Another advantage of living in the tropics – the reef fishing is superb, eh? Frank loading the lorry to take fish to the airport for the southern markets.

Operating costs Power is a huge cost in the tropics. Whereas the trout industry can operate in ambient temperatures of < 15°C for a good part of the year, all steps of the processing chain have to be temperature-controlled. Even the feed is kept in cool storage to minimize nutritional leeching. Then there’s the ten paddlewheels operating around the clock once the fish get to the stage where they need supplementary aeration. So the Barbieri’s power bill is more than $10,000 a quarter … and now there’s talk of cutting out the off-peak and weekend power discounts. Feed – Ridley’s Aquafeed diet – is another big outlay with freight to the

30 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

“There’s 55t a week turning up at the Sydney market where there used to be 25t,” he says. “Last week prices got down to $5/kg. There’s no problems about the money; the cheques in the mail. But there’s more to it than that. Some producers are settling for a fixed contract on price for a regular supply. That’s taking buyers off the market floor. Where once prices were $10/kg to $11/kg we’re now getting $8/kg to $9/kg. No one can survive on that for long, what with the cost of everything going up.” Frank has been down to the Sydney Wholesale Fish Market at Pyrmont to see his fish sell. “They went through at $11.60/kg that day,” he says. “They’re more silver than the usual run of barra and when they get to the retail outlets


around the market they were on display at a premium. The silvery barra were $18/kg against the darker fish at $15/kg. Everyone’s got to make a living, but that seems like a hefty mark up to me.” Even so, he is somewhat philosophical about the prices. “We’re not going to sell fish at a loss. Our ponds are lightly stocked and the fish keep growing. They like our type of fish down there and they get a better fillet off the big ones. We can wait,” he says. Lychees Lychees provide a good back up for the fish farm. The short harvesting season – from November to December - is labour intensive and Frank has to put on some casuals to get the crop off. “There’s plenty of 15 hour days, what with the fish and the lychees going flat out together,” he says. Prices are good early in the season and there’s still an air of seasonal produce about the marketing. Dom says the first shipment can fetch $100 for a 5kg box and, even the first few days of the market until the harvest truly gets underway, prices of $50 to $60 are not uncommon. The Barbieris work on an average of between $4/kg and $5/kg from their 1,000 lychee trees; each tree averages 100kg to 150kg. With hard work and a sound production strategy coupled with diversification through tropical fruit, the Barbieri family are growing quality produce that helps them find a niche near the top end of the market. They grow their own vegetables and enjoy a healthy open air lifestyle in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia. What could be better? By John Mosig Dom & Frank Barbieri can be contacted by phone on (07) 4093 7790, or by email on

Clockwise from top: Iced down and ready for market. Sundown barra are highly prized at the market. Sundown is a belts & braces operation – the generator at Sundown Fish Farm. Part of the water reticulation system at the farm.

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Sunrise over Pacific Reef’s Alva Beach prawn farm.

Regulations restricting prawn farm development in Queensland Despite three decades of prawn farming activities in Queensland, the industry is still being held up by ‘confounding regulations’ from a number of Government bureaucrats who don’t want to recognise how well the prawn farmers are reducing their environmental impacts.


ince 1998 Pacific Reef Fisheries (PRF) has been growing premium quality Black Tiger Prawns (Penaeus monodon) in North Queensland. The $30 million farm and processing plant, located at Ayr (approx. 90km SE of Townsville) is owned by the Mitris family and, when fully operational, the ponds covering 98 ha will be capable of growing up to 900 tonnes per annum. The maximum harvest to date has been 680 tonnes in 2010. Harvest and processing is carried out in strict accordance with Australian HACCP principals insisted upon by the farm’s major Australian chain store customers – the company has third party certification for HACCP by the internationally known 32 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

SGS Group. Strict attention to hygiene, temperature control, grading and time taken in processing ensure a premium quality product for the end consumer. Fresh product is available December to June each year. In addition, large on-farm freezers enable PRF to supply frozen product over the whole year. Hatchery A modern $3 million hatchery supplies all the annual post larvae (PL) needs. Matched with sophisticated growout and processing operations, PRF controls of the quality of its prawns from hatchery right through to market. “For a number of sound bio-security

reasons the hatchery is not on the same site as the farm operations,” explains General Manager Alistair Dick, a veteran of 25 years in the industry. “Our hatchery is about an hour drive south at Guthalungra, near the mouth of the Elliot River.” The 2,000m2 facility includes broodstock maturation, spawning, larval rearing and algae and Artemia (live food) production tanks, as well as a brand new state of the art indoor domestication facility of a further 1,000m2. Broodstock (large breeding males and females) come into the hatchery at the beginning of each season around June or July, mostly sourced from fishermen off Innisfail or the waters around Darwin.


Around 200-300 pairs of Black Tiger broodstock are required to produce the 50 million post larvae needed to stock the farm each season.

On harvest day one part filled net is lifted to transfer the prawns into an ice slurry whilst a second net is in use.

The hatchery is run under very strict quarantine and hygiene guidelines. “During the six months it is operating, the hatchery is quite an intense place to work, with workers required to pay close attention to detail,” Alistair says. “As the larvae pass through various larval stages they are fed a variety of live feeds, starting with algae, and progressing onto Artemia and then formulated feeds (mostly CP and Luck Star brand); all live feeds are cultured on site. It tales roughly a month from spawning through until post larval prawns are ready to be transported up to the farm for stocking.” Growout PRF’s Ayr site is fully integrated with earthen growout ponds, feed storage, office and administration, workshop and machinery store and processing plant. Located adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, there’s also 50ha of water treatment area ensuring that the quality of effluent waters complies with the significant requirements of the Federal (Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts – DEWHA) and State (Department of Environment & Resource Management –DERM) agencies plus the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). Water (20-35ppt) is pumped in from Burstalls Creek. Given variable quality and high sediment loads during rainfall events, this water coming in – and that going out –is routinely monitored. Sand bed filtration has been piloted for removing particulate matter from discharge waters. First, a network of geotextile drainage pipes embedded in a 20cm layer of sand at the bottom of two 0.2ha ponds allows the filtering out of most suspended solids. Next in the chain is a 0.1ha ‘polishing pond’ where various seaweed species soak up the nutrients before the water then flows into a 20ha constructed mangrove wetland.



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Sorting and grading product at PRF’s onsite processing facility.

Finally, two days after leaving the prawn ponds, the discharge water is released into Little Alva Creek, a mangrove lined waterway. “We have four sampling points which we monitor for DERM (ex EPA),” Alistair advises. After 11 years of monitoring of suspended solids, total nitrogen and total phosphorous levels at these points, all readings continue to come in below the levels specified on PRF’s licences. In fact, suspended solid and nutrient levels are often better in its effluent than in the intake water.

Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Pacific Reef Fisheries include: • Integrated production system from hatchery, through growout and onto processing. • Involvement in industry R&D, especially selective breeding • Significant investments in effluent treatment to develop state-of-the-art systems Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture System utilised: 1 ha earthen ponds with aerators • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <8 months (0.1g to 25g+) • Survival rate: 70% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: at harvest around 0.7 kg/m3 • Annual harvest: 680 tonnes • Production rate: 10 tonne/ha/yr and increasing • Water use: 3,000L per kg produced • Power use: 3.4 kW per kg produced • FCR: 1.65 (number of kg of food to produce 1kg stock) • Productivity: 14 tonnes or per Effective Fulltime Unit (240 days, 48wk x 40hr)

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This comes at substantial cost – capital for building the treatment ponds and manpower for monitoring – but it is responsibly shouldered by all prawn farmers to ensure that they operate within their permit requirements. PRF’s annual season begins in July with the stocking of between 350,000 and 500,000 post-larvae (each 10-12mm) per 1 hectare pond. “The fastest growing prawns will be ready for the Christmas market,” Alistair continues, “while the rest of the ponds are left until harvesting begins in earnest in late January. From each pond it is expected that on average 10,000kg of prawns will be produced at sizes ranging from 25 through to 40 grams.” The feeds – specially formulated to ensure they are digested easily by the prawns – are primarily sourced from CP and Ridley. Feeding trays ensure minimal waste and eliminate underfeeding. The year round availability of local workers is an important success factor. “We employ a wide range of people from mechanics to accounts as well as farm and hatchery technicians, many with marine science training through our local university (Townsville’s James Cook University). “During the growing season staff members swell from a base of around 20 to anything up to 80 once processing gets underway; it’s fortunate that our growing season coincides with the end of the sugar crushing season at the local mills so the availability of local staff is generally quite good.”


PRF’s state-of-the-art hhatchery with parabolic tanks for easy cleaning.

Alistair, the owners and the staff are rightly proud of the PRF’s place has in the prawn industry. “PRF is a committed participant in research and development to ensure the very best methods and technology are harnessed to grow premium quality Australian Black Tiger Prawns,” he says. “We are a progressive organisation, always looking to improve our production efficiency and environmental outcomes. For example, developing the sand bed filtration consumed over $100,000 and many man-hours. “In addition the Guthalungra hatchery has joined with other industry partners and CSIRO in a Seafood CRC project to commercialise the domestication of the Black Tiger Prawn. We hope that in the very near future that we will no longer need to source wild breeding stock, picking the fastest growing animals from our stock instead to breed from.” (Last summer’s huge 17t/ha harvests at Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture point to the potential rewards from this type of selective breeding program). Future stymied by Federal regulations Since 2002 PRF has been seeking approvals to build a further 259 hectares of prawn ponds at a site adjacent to the Elliot River, near their Guthalungra hatchery. If successful, this would make PRF the largest single

Taping up boxes of fresh prawns ready for market.

prawn farm in Australia with harvests of 2,500 tonnes possible, adding 50% to Australia’s current annual production. When prawn farming was in its early days in Queensland, new or expanding farms had to work through a plethora of permits and government regulations; at one time over 30 different agencies or institutions needed to be consulted. In 1989-90 some 250 tonnes were produced nationwide worth $2.5m. Now (2009) more than 4,000 tonnes are harvested annually worth over $70 million at the farm gate, providing more than 1,000 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs (APFA website 30/07/10). Queensland’s share of this harvest is 85%. “There

were more than 30 farms in operation a decade ago; now we have 22 farms working efficiently to produce improved crops of prawns each year,” Alistair adds. “The industry has matured.” Along with boosting the harvest, the prawn farmers have focussed on reducing environmental impacts. A number are even undertaking undertaking third party assessment for ISO14001 certification for environmental management. At the same time the number of Queensland government departments with prawn farming regulation has been rationalised; the main approvals now required are from DERM and Department of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 35


Production ponds at PRF also showing some of the extensive settlement/treatment pond.

(DEEDI – which includes Fisheries and State Development). Even so, Alistair notes there are still 33 pieces of State and Federal legislation with relevance to prawn farming in Queensland. In 2002 and 2004 PRF environmental impact studies were commissioned and the reports presented to government. Finally, in 2008, PRF were awarded their state licences with some offsets – these offsets are paid to cane farmers to reduce fertiliser inputs and better manage nutrient runoff (similar to carbon trading). “We have all the state approvals in place for our new farm,” says Alistair, “The problem has been the Federal DEWHA for which Peter Garrett has been the serving Minister. Under their legislation the project is classed as significant and this triggers the EPBC Act (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). Under this legislation DEWHA bureaucrats have determined that significant projects in the region near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have to have zero net discharge of nutrients and suspended solids. This is from Minister Garrett’s proclamation in Labour’s 2007 Reef Rescue Plan that there will be no more nutrients going into the Park. 36 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

“This legislation has huge ramifications for all Queensland prawn farmers as we all have point source discharges making it very easy to monitor outputs. There have been no new projects or expansions for almost ten years, except for Coral Sea Farms Australia’s 48ha farm near Hinchinbrook Island which harvested its first crop of prawns in 2004 (AA Vol 24 No1, Summer 2010). “Other operations such as sewage facilities, pig, cattle or sugar cane farms, marina or housing developments, should also be affected; it’s just that their discharges can be more difficult to monitor.” In response, PRF initiated further environmental studies with senior scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO. “We have spent more than $1 million on monitoring the area and developing reports to show how zero discharge is impossible and the assimilative capacity of the receiving environment (a healthy mangrove area) is capable of handling the effluent we estimate will be generated by the new farm.” He says that DEHWA seems to be ignoring the science being presented by PRF and a host of independent scientists and experts. “We have been operating for over

15 years under Queensland’s stringent regulations. Their experts have determined that the proposed new farm would be able to operate under their environmental requirements. They know that through our best practice water treatment methods we can reduce the nutrients and suspend solids to low levels, but not the zero levels required by DEWHA.” Educating the Government Despairing of DEWHA’s (apparently) poor understanding of water quality in highly productive tropical environments – particularly in relation to aquaculture – PRF and the Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) have organised a Science Information Day at DEEDI’s Brisbane headquarters on September 29th. With funds from FRDC’s Visiting Expert Bursary, Professor Claude Boyd – a world authority on aquaculture water quality – will attend along Australian experts including CSIRO’s Dr Nigel Preston and senior officials from DEEDI, DERM and DEWHA. A number of papers on the status of licensing and water treatment from around the globe will be presented. Noting the ‘net nil discharge’ condition for PRF’s Guthalungra expansion, APFA


Executive Officer Helen Jenkins says the rationale for this information day is compelling.

Alistair Dick checking a feed tray.

“A condition like this does not give the prawn farm industry confidence in those who are making decisions,” she contends. In looking how to respond, prawn farmers were “seeking global advice regarding the possibility of meeting such a condition, by way of technological and husbandry improvements.” Helen continues: “The approval process for Guthalungra has exceeded eight years and does not give any new investors confidence of success. This decision has sent shock waves through the whole national aquaculture industry because, if nil net discharge is a condition that must be met for other new ventures or expansions, the current industry is set to stagnate in terms of growth. “Rather than approaching each individual agency a more positive way forward is to have all concerned in one forum to hear from a renowned international expert, as well as Australia’s own, highly regarded scientific community. We intend to address the issues from a scientific standpoint as well as hearing about and trying to address the apparent mismatch in policy between development and reef rescue initiatives.” By Dos O’Sullivan All photos by Pacific Reef Fisheries. For more information contact Alistair Dick, Pacific Reef Fisheries (PRF), Ayr, North Queensland Tel: 07 4783-6068, email:

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RESEARCH Market fish, note lovely silver colour due to farming in algal turbid ponds not cages!

Success in marine fish culture in ponds (1) The use of prawn or other coastal ponds for the culture of a range of marine finfish species is being undertaken along the NSW and Queensland coastlines. In this, the first of two instalments, the growout of Mulloway in prawn ponds is examined.


ncreased competition from imported prawns has caused a decrease in the value of prawn production in NSW and similar pressures on profit margins are being experienced by other prawn farmers in Queensland and Northern Territory. This has caused a number of prawn farmers to look for alternative crops. Already a few have been culturing Barramundi (Lates calcarifer). Other fish showing potential include Mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus), Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) and several Grouper species (Epinephelus spp). In addition to providing a diversification option, growing a crop of finfish can provide biosecurity benefits to break the

cycle of some pathogens in the prawn ponds. The opportunity for an offseason crop provides a third benefit. Mulloway Growout Mulloway (known as the Suzuki in Japan, and Dusky Kob in South Africa), an iconic species in northern NSW, is highly sought after as a recreational species. In South Australia it is cultured in inshore seacages with the national harvest estimated at 2,000 tonnes, mostly 1.5kg fish or bigger. Dr Jeff Guy, a Southern Cross University researcher at the Coff Harbour’s National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) has been working on Mulloway growout since 2008.

“We believe that Mulloway has a great future,” he says, “It is ideally suited to northern NSW growing conditions. We now know that the species grows well in prawn ponds, with production rates over 10 tonnes per hectare. Eggs and fry are available year round from the NSW Fisheries hatchery at Port Stephens as well as other hatcheries (e.g. Searle Aquaculture).” NMSC’s commercial partner Palmers Island Mulloway Pty Ltd (PIM) purchased the 18ha Pearler Prawn Farm in June 2008 and converted it to Mulloway culture. Owned by father and son team Peter and Andrew Carroll, PIM stocked their 0.9ha ponds in August 2008 and started Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 39


harvesting the crop in March 2010, a little earlier than anticipated. Farm Manager Andrew says: “I work on about 24 months of growout to harvest fish over 2kg. We are currently harvesting around 600kg/week. However by Christmas we will start harvesting a batch we stocked in December 2008 and that will allow around 1.5 tonnes per week. By late next year we will be harvesting over 2 tonnes a week.”

Transferring anaesthetised and graded Mulloway to a new pond.

Some of the 1,000 L tanks (left) for growing larvae at NMSC, miscellaneous tanks to the right.

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40 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

Southern Cross University researcher Dr Ken Cowden has been examining the nutrition of Mulloway larvae, especially fatty acids. “We found that Mulloway have a very high level of DHA in their eggs,” Ken explains. “And that enrichment of Rotifers did not improve the growth, survival or quality of larvae compared with those fed unenriched Rotifers. However, high levels of enrichment were critical in the Brine Shrimp we fed the larger larvae. We hope to publish this research in Aquaculture Nutrition (an international scientific journal).” Green-water techniques have been adapted from Barramundi and other finfish for the lowering of fingerling production costs. “We have a couple of options on where to purchase fry and we will be doing our own breeding this summer,” explains Andrew. “We have selected fast growing individuals for our female broodfish and will breed them with wild caught males. The cultured fish are used to nets and noises and are not bothered by the handling. Wild fish can stress and take several months to settle down to the cultured conditions. “In the first summer fish (25mm total length) are stocked at a density of 15,000/0.9ha pond and then graded and split into two ponds of 7,500 (large and small) for on-growing to market size,” explains Jeff. “Pond temperature have ranged from 13.7 to 31.8ºC but Mulloway grow best at 18-30°C and these water temperatures occur for eight months of the year. The best FCRs and growth occurs at 24-26ºC. Mulloway grew quickly to plate size (500-600g) in the first 12 months


(FCR of 1.5 and a SGR of 1.5%/day) and averaged 1.8kg by the end of the second year.â&#x20AC;? Survival rates were also high. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In four crops over the first summer we averaged around 90% survival and the majority of mortalities were during transport of fingerlings from Port Stephens,â&#x20AC;? says Andrew. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Mulloway swim in schools of similar size fish,â&#x20AC;? he continues. â&#x20AC;&#x153;After the initial 12 months of growth we grade each nursery pond into large and small fish. This not only halves the biomass and risk but also allows smaller fish to grow a lot faster.â&#x20AC;? Harvesting techniques used for pond culture of Silver Perch (Bydanus bydanus) were adapted for the larger Mulloway. A seine net (30mm mesh, knotless in the

cod end, knotted for the wings) is used to crowd the fish in a small area in which there is a floating cage with a canvas net holding a sedative, usually AQUI-S. The fish can be easily transferred by sliding them down 250mm pipes (with running water) to two new ponds. Jeff says that this method had been extremely successful allowing over 90% of the pond in the first summer to be harvested in one seine saving time and labour. Recent research has suggested that stocking at a larger size (40mm, g) is preferred due to problems in transport. Likewise a strategy of out-of-season indoor production to allow the early spring stocking of 12g (100mmTL) fingerlings could mean that 1.5kg fish could be harvested after a 16-18 month period.

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According to Andrew, winner of the 2010 NSW Young Farmer of the Year, the market prefers fish over 2.3kg for filleting. He has worked on a Mulloway sea cage farm as well as on a Silver Perch pond farm so knows that a rested harvest is critical for the final quality of his fish. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mulloway can stress easily and the rise in pH in the blood can taint the flesh. We stop feeding a couple of nights before the harvest and crowd, and we can sedate and grade or harvest our fish within a number of minutes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;After sedation the market size fish are placed in an ice slurry. We know this adds value to the end product quality and buyers have commented on our productâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long shelf life.â&#x20AC;? Quality analysis of the first harvested

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acids providing important health benefits for consumers.

Harvesting the fish initially involves using a seine net to crowding the Mulloway into a small area.

“The Mulloway is a good fish for processing, allowing a 47% meat recovery for skin-on boneless fillets,” he adds. Branded as Palmers Island Mulloway, Andrew says that the product is well received in many top Sydney restaurants including Pier, Quay and the Balmoral Bathers. Japanese chefs also use it has sashimi and the product has even been sold in USA and Russia. Sales of both farmed and wild Mulloway vary on the Sydney Fish Market depending on supply and time of year. On average the fish has a medium market value of between $8-9/kg.”

The second step of the harvesting is to transfer the crowded fish into a floating cage before adding AQUIS.

Andrew believes that his fish are in better condition and look more appealing than those from seacages or the wild. “In ponds the natural algae adds some turbidity to the water so the Mulloway feel a little more protected; likewise they can move down to the bottom of the ponds which they can’t do in 8m deep nets. In cages the fish are regularly exposed to predators (sharks, seals and birds). We have bird netted our nursery ponds to keep the predators away. Our fish are healthy and their skin is a beautiful silver colour and they have a thick body for fillets. They also have all of their fins and look like a fish caught off the beach.”

fish revealed only minor heath issues with excess fat on internal organs as well as some minor monogenean infections. “We subsequently changed our diet to use lower energy pellets which has given us better FCRs and overcome most of the fat problem. “I regularly taste samples of our fish to keep an eye on potential off flavours.” Dr Ken Cowden hard at work grading Mulloway larvae in National Marine Science Centre hatchery.

42 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

Jeff reports that nutritional profiles are better for cultured fish than wild caught Mulloway with the farmed fish’s high levels of omega-3, EPA and DHA fatty

However, the higher quality is not always associated with good market prices as some buyers will always go for lowerpriced product. Andrew sells direct to wholesalers in Sydney and realises that whilst he is building a reputation for reliability and quality, he will have to work hard to get his prices up. “I am confident we can build up our sale price to $11/kg as we get our brand established.” By Dos O’Sullivan. For more information contact: Andrew Carroll Dr Jeff Guy, National Marine Science Centre (NSW) Ken Cowden


Increasing post release survival of hatchery fingerlings Restocking of a range of native fish (both large and small) to help restore threatened fish stocks or for recreational fishing activities is underway in the Murray-Darling Basin. Unfortunately hatcheryreared fish can have behavioural deficits related to domestication that hinder their survival in the wild. Research in Queensland has provided methods to ‘train’ hatchery-reared fingerlings for improved changes of survival. The research has significant outcomes for not just restocking waterways but also stocking of fish in farm dams or unprotected growout ponds.


he Murray-Darling Basin covers a significant part of our continent and is generally recognised as Australia’s food bowl. The principal aim of its governing agency – The Murray–Darling Basin Authority – is to manage the Basin’s water resources in the national interest. A major MDBA management program underway since 2004 is the Native Fish Strategy (NFS); its aim is to rehabilitate over a fifty timeframe the Basin’s native fish communities back to 60% of their estimated pre-European-settlement levels (from just 10% now).

To contribute to the recovery of fish stocks the MDBA is rehabilitating fish habitat, protecting fish habitat, managing riverine structures (including barriers to migration), controlling alien fish species, protecting threatened fish species and managing fish translocation and stocking. Unfortunately there are catchments in the Basin where various native fish species have already become locally extinct. For example Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peeli) and Freshwater Catfish (Tandanus tandanus) are presumed extinct in much of the Paroo River system (SW Queensland)... or, if not extinct, they are in extremely low numbers. In other areas a range of native fish species are threatened or endangered. For example, Silver Perch Bidyanus bidyanus are now extremely rare in many river systems of the Basin. In such situations a carefully managed reintroduction program may be required. Such a program may involve the use of hatchery-reared fish for restocking.

Within the Basin hatchery-reared Trout Cod (M. macquariensis) have already been stocked as part of a recovery program for that species. In New South Wales (NSW) the small-bodied Purple-Spotted Gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) has been captive bred and restocked and, in South Australia, the captive breeding of Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis) and PurpleSpotted Gudgeon is aimed at reintroducing these fish into secure sites in the lower Basin. Of course restocking with fish for recreational fishing has been underway for decades. Hatchery-bred fingerlings from large-bodied species such as Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua) are regularly released into impoundments and weirs in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. Yet fisheries scientists have known of poor post-release survival rates of hatchery reared fishes for over a century. Bribie Island research Fortunately a MDBA project undertaken by scientists at the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation’s Bribie Island Research Centre (an hour north of Brisbane) has resulted in a range of excellent strategies being developed. The multi-skilled team led by Michael Hutchison included Danielle Stewart, Keith Chilcott, Adam Butcher, Angela Henderson, Mark McLennan and Philip Smith.

From the top: VIE tagged Murray cod. Note green tag at base of anal fin. Photo M. Hutchison 1000L tanks used for evaluation of live food foraging trials. Photo M. Hutchison Predator recognition and avoidance training tank. The mesh screen is permeable to fingerlings but not predators in place in a 5000L tank. Note the removable solid PVC screen. Solid screens were removed to initiate predator exposure. Photo M. Hutchison

Research included a considerable literature review and discussions Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 43


cannibalism in Cod (which is also seen in Barramundi [Lates calcarifer] a species which is commercially produced and restocked but not within the Basin), there was virtually no exposure to predation by fish in the hatcheries or farms. Pellet feeding was another unnatural behaviour driver, but mainly confined to fish reared to large sizes. “The failure of hatchery-reared fish to recognise or respond appropriately to predators, as well as the inability to recognise natural or wild foods (i.e. less efficient foraging behaviour) can be a cause of high mortalities in these fish when released into the wild, or into unprotected ponds,” Michael says.

From top: Michael Hutchison positioning of the release sock to exclude predators whilst fingerling acclimate to new water conditions. Photo A. Butcher Soft release of Silver Perch fingerlings into a predator free sock. Plastic cover has been folded back for release. Note floating aerator at rear. Photo A. Butcher

with fisheries scientists and hatchery managers from around the world. According to Michael, most of the fish experts agreed that many of the life-skills considered as instinctive or inherited traits – such as foraging, predator avoidance and reproductive behaviour – are now considered to have a significant learned aspect. “Absence of natural conditions and experienced conspecifics in a hatchery environment can therefore impact on natural and social learning in hatchery reared fishes,” he says. A 2007 review of hatcheries (supplying fingerlings of threatened Murray-Darling Basin fish species) and grow out facilities (potential providers of adult and subadult threatened fish) concluded that hatchery-reared fish tend to be produced in ponds and exposed to live invertebrate foods. There was also some exposure to predation by birds, which hatchery owners tried to limit by netting their nursery ponds; more difficult to do in larger growout ponds. Excluding 44 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

He suggests a similar situation is thought to occur with breeding. “For example NSW fisheries scientists Gavin Butler and Stuart Rowland published research in 2009 that speculated that the complex parenting skills essential for Eastern Freshwater Cod (M. ikei) to successfully reproduce may involve learned behaviour. They suggest that strategies such as planting of experienced parents to act as surrogate trainers may be required to ensure the success of future remediation programs.” Other than hatchery-related behavioural deficits, factors that can contribute to poor stocking related outcomes include increased stress from transport, fish size (small enough to be preyed on by fish already in the system) as well as the timing of stocking. A number of Australian and US researchers have recommended stocking fingerlings as early as possible in order to take advantage of the spring and summer growing season. “Researchers have consistently found that most mortalities, particularly those due to predation, occur immediately after stocking, i.e. in the first few hours and days, rather than first few weeks,” Michael continues. “Other research suggests that if fingerlings are able to survive the early stages of stocking, they have a much better chance of surviving to adult size.” Adding 0.5 to 1 kg of sodium chloride (salt) to 1,000L transport freshwater can

also help reduce stress and minimise infection during transport. The MDBA report provides a number of other methods which can be used to minimise transport stress. Other research is summarised on the benefits of habituation or acclimatization of the fish at release. Reducing domestication effects prior to stocking There has been increasing interest in pre-release training and conditioning of hatchery-reared fish to overcome domestication effects. Yet most of the experiments involving fish have been either lab- of pond-based; few field-based trials are available to confirm their findings. This MDBA project tackled these deficiencies The key findings were: • Pond-reared fingerlings seem to retain live food foraging skills and some bird avoidance behaviours but are naïve in avoiding predatory fish. Fish reared to larger sizes (i.e. to adult or sub-adult stage) in grow-out facilities tend to be fed on artificial pellet diets and are protected from birds and other predators. These fish are highly likely to be naïve in foraging for live foods and poor at avoiding predatory birds like cormorants and pelicans if stocked into the wild. Pre-release training of hatchery-reared and growout facility reared fish is one strategy available to improve post-release survival. The value of pre-release training was evaluated in this study. • Tank-based training exposed fingerlings of Murray Cod, Silver Perch and Freshwater catfish en-masse to predatory fish and alarm cues from conspecifics’ skin extract. Tank-based validation experiments confirmed that this training significantly changed the predator response behaviour of all three species compared to untrained controls. At least 72 hours training was required for Murray Cod and Silver Perch fingerlings and 48 hours training for catfish fingerlings to lead to a significant behavioural change. • Sub-adult Murray Cod and sub-adult Silver Perch from grow-out facilities (where they were reared on pellet diets and protected from bird expo-


sure) were trained to avoid simulated cormorant attacks, using a combination of bird models to harass and chase fish, cormorant odour and alarm signals from conspecifics’ fish skin extract. Trained sub-adult Silver Perch showed significant behavioural changes in response to simulated cormorant attack compared to untrained controls. However sub-adult Murray Cod showed no significant change in behaviour. • Sub-adult Murray Cod and adult Silver Perch from grow-out facilities were also trained to take live food. To assist this process a wild conspecific was introduced into each training tank to help cue the behaviours of the fish from the grow-out facilities. Silver Perch readily adapted to taking live shrimp in the training tank, but pellet-reared Cod refused to take live shrimp over a one-month training period. • Michael and his team found that subadult and adult Silver Perch seem to be readily trainable, but sub-adult Murray cod are not. “Silver Perch are a social schooling species and this may enhance training. In contrast

Murray Cod tend to be territorial and solitary. We recommend avoiding use of long-term pellet-reared sub-adult Murray Cod in conservation restocking programs. If large fish are required, then translocation of wildcaught sub-adults or adults may be a better option.” Stocking trials at three sites in the northern Murray-Darling Basin were used to test if pre-release training conferred a survival advantage on stocked fingerlings of Silver Perch and Murray Cod. Predator-free release cages were also tested as a stocking method to improve survival. Prior to stocking, fingerlings were marked with visual implant elastomer tags to denote if stocked fish were trained or untrained and whether they were released directly into the wild or into predator-free release cages. Half of the trained fish and half of the untrained fish were released into predator-free release cages at each of the stocking sites. Trained and untrained fish were stocked at least 1 km apart. Fish were acclimated to the receiving waters in the cages for 90 minutes before being released into the wild. The results were:

From the top: Standard release of Silver Perch fingerlings. Photo A. Butcher DPI scientists from left Keith Chilcott, Adam Butcher, Danielle Stewart and Angela Henderson unloading tagged fish for release at Caliguel Lagoon. Photo M. Hutchison

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• Pre-release training led to a significant improvement in survival of trained Murray Cod compared to untrained control fish. At locations where predators were more abundant this survival advantage was up to four times higher than for untrained fish. The mean survival of trained Murray Cod was twice that of untrained Murray Cod. • Pre-release training of Murray Cod fingerlings that are to be used in conservation stocking programs is recommended. This training may also be of benefit to recreational fish stocking programs.

• Predator release cages seemed to confer a disadvantage to the survival of stocked Cod fingerlings. The reason is uncertain but it is possible that the behaviour of Cod within the cages may have attracted predators to the vicinity and these predators then preyed on Cod when they were released from the cage. It is therefore recommended to stock Cod fingerlings directly into the receiving environment. • In contrast to the tank-based validation results (where trained Silver Perch had very different behaviour to

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untrained Silver Perch) there were no significant differences detected between trained and untrained Silver Perch stocked into the wild. One possible explanation is that Silver Perch are a schooling fish. Rapid dispersal from the stocking sites and amalgamation into mixed schools of trained and untrained fish may have led to rapid social learning of the untrained fish from the trained fish. Mixed schools of trained and untrained fish were detected very soon after stocking, despite these fish being stocked up to two km apart. Based on the laboratory results and the likelihood that social interactions confounded the field results, it is recommend that pre-release training still be used when stocking Silver perch fingerlings for conservation purposes. • Predator free cages neither advantaged nor disadvantage stocked Silver Perch. It would appear to be acceptable to release Silver Perch directly into the receiving waters. • Predator abundance was a significant parameter influencing survival outcomes for both Murray Cod and Silver Perch. The patchiness of predator distributions within a site means it is appropriate to use several release points at a site. This will spread the risk. Large batches should be stocked at each release point to ensure some swamping of predators. By Dos O’Sullivan. For more information contact Michael Hutchison. Tel: 07 3400-2037, Fax: 07 3408-3535, Mob: 0429 624-985, email: References: Butler, G.L, and Rowland, S.J. 2009, Using underwater cameras to describe reproductive behaviour of the endangered Eastern Freshwater Cod Maccullochella ikei. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 18, 337-349. Hutchison, M. et al 2010, Strategies to improve post release survival of hatchery-reared threatened fish species, Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Native Fish Strategy, Canberra 76pp. For a copy email:

46 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010


Australia’s peak industry body From the National Aquaculture Council, Chief Executive Officer, Justin Fromm

NAC scaling back its operations


t is unfortunate but this will be my last, and possibly the National Aquaculture Council’s for while, editorial in Austasia Aquaculture Magazine. The NAC has had an operating deficit of around $100,000 per year since 200708 when the $100,000 support funding from the Australian Government (associated with 2004 Aquaculture Industry Action Agenda) ended. During the Action Agenda period the NAC was able to build some reserves of which it has since been steadily depleting. Unfortunately, despite implementing a number of strategies that included project management, seeking industry supplier support and providing executive officer support for smaller sectors, the operating deficit has not been overcome. The members are themselves not in financial positions to be able to provide anymore funds.

new structure that will allow the continuation of the NAC but at a reduced capacity to match available resources. The key elements of the new structure are as follows • An Executive Chair to be elected by the members from the membership. The Executive Chair’s organisation will be engaged to provide NAC’s secretariat; • The members will be asked to take a greater role in the development of the industry responses and submissions to key policy and strategic issues; • The Executive Chair will coordinate the industry’s responses, submissions and attendance at key national policy forums; and • The NAC will remain the key driver behind the Australasian Aquaculture Conference Series. A new NAC structure will come into effect from the NAC AGM on 15 October. My position as the CEO will finish soon thereafter. Aquaculture Award

In light of this the NAC Board is restructuring the NAC’s operations in order to maintain a balanced budget. The greatest costs to the organisation are the costs of the CEO and Chair and with the NAC’s revenues unable fully cover these; the restructure means they will no longer be required.

The industry should be aware that the Aquaculture Industry Award 2010 has been in full operation since 1 July 2010 when the Transition Provisions relating wage rates came into force. The award can be found on the Fair Work Australia website at modern_awards/30Jun10/ MA000114_30Jun10.pdf.

However, while this has been a difficult decision, the Board were adamant that the Australian aquaculture industry should maintain a peak industry body. In this vein the Board will implement a

I am no industrial relations expert, but through the process that the NAC undertook I can pass on to you that there are a number of clauses in the award that may constrain your

operation. I recommend that you seek professional assistance to guide you through the award. The NAC held an industry roundtable on the 27th April to discuss these clauses and as a result developed a strategy to seek to have them changed by Fair Work Australia. The core element of the strategy was the engagement of Industrial Relations Consultant Mr Frank McMahon to guide the NAC in the development of a submission to FWA to make the changes. Obviously this costs money, and as the opening to this editorial has shown, the NAC did not have the funds to undertake it on its own. The NAC therefore called upon its members to contribute funds to NAC to undertake the submission. Unfortunately, they either did not have the funds to contribute or did not see the value for their sector. The result is an award that, through comments made to me, is not particularly aquaculture friendly and is likely to cost businesses money rather than save money. Again, I highly recommend that you seek independent advice on the impacts the award will be having on your business. Thank you to Austasia Aquaculture Magazine I’d like to finish of my final editorial by thanking the Austasia crew for their support of me, the NAC and the Australasian Aquaculture Conference series over my short term as CEO of the NAC. Thank you.

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 47

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– a safe and effective treatment to prevent melanosis in prawns


odium metabisulphite has been traditionally used as a treatment to prevent the occurrence of melanotic blackening or ‘blackspot’ – a natural process that discolours the shell after harvesting – in a variety of species of warm and coldwater prawns.

Although melanosis is harmless, it does affect the appearance of the prawns, which in turn can make marketing difficult and increases the reject rate. However, sodium metabisulphite is a far from satisfactory given well-documented evidence that such treatments are hazardous to the health of fishermen, farm and processing workers; the sulphur dioxide fumes released during treatment can harm operator’s airways and lungs. Metabisulphite is also corrosive and can cause serious damage to expensive plant and equipment in processing factories. There are also marketing considerations. For example, Australasian exporters will already know of a growing trend by European food buyers to avoid products containing sulphite additives. Such trends are likely to be replicated across the rest of the world. There are, however, alternative and more effective treatments to sodium metabisulphite. One of these – Prawnfresh – is manufactured by Xyrex Ltd and distributed in Australasia by Hampidjan NZ Ltd in partnership with Scanz Technologies Ltd. This partnership capitalises upon their two core areas of expertise – wild capture fisheries and aquaculture. Shellfish farmers, processors and fishermen already using this liquid solution treatment have found immediate benefits. Prawnfresh’s active ingredient is safe to use and leaves no chemical residues or taints. It works by inhibiting the enzyme present in the prawn that results in melanotic blackening.

Prawns (Nephrops norvegicus) seven days post harvest after being treated by Prawnfresh. Source, University of Glasgow Langoustine Laboratory (Dr Amaya Albalat and Professor Douglas Neil, the Langoustine Lab, University of Glasgow)

Prawns treated by Prawnfresh have a much longer shelf life before melanosis sets in. Significantly, scientific research in 2008 by the Langoustine Laboratory at the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that Prawnfresh retained its antimelanotic properties even on prawns that were frozen and then thawed. This is crucial for shellfish farmers in the Asia Pacific region looking to develop both the home and export markets. An increase in shelf life and better overall appearance should in turn result in buyers paying higher prices. The active ingredient in Prawnfresh has been approved for use by the European Union and has also gained the approval of a number of other food regulatory authorities around the world, including in Australia and New Zealand (by FSANZ under the standard 1.3.3 code for processing aids), as well as in USA, Canada, South Africa and China. The application of the treatment is very straightforward and involves dipping the harvested prawns into a tank

Prawns not treated with Prawnfresh after seven days, showing melanotic blackening (Dr Amaya Albalat and Professor Douglas Neil, the Langoustine Lab, University of Glasgow)

containing saltwater with Prawnfresh added at a ratio of 1:1000. Queensland’s Seafarm is one company that has benefited from using Prawnfresh, using it to treat farmed banana prawns (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis) at its Crystal Bay Prawns brand operation. Dr Trevor Anderson, general manager of Seafarm, says: “Prawnfresh allows the sweet natural flavour of Crystal Bay Prawns to come through. The Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 49


environmental approach of Xyrex and the natural ingredients in Prawnfresh is a natural fit with our chemical free natural Crystal Bay prawns grown in the pristine waters of Australia. “It also ensures that we avoid sulphur allergy issues in our customers and

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processing staff. It means we can offer our customers a product, which is safer, healthier and more natural. It also overcomes the problem we find with metabisulphite, which results in erosion of the shell.” Donald Kristensen, managing director of seafood processor Royal Fish Denmark A/S, says he has noticed a big improvement in the welfare of his processing employees after switching from sodium metabisulphite to Prawnfresh. “All our employees used to have general breathing problems including irritated eyes and nose. This is no longer an issue after changing to Prawnfresh. Tests have shown that prawns treated with Prawnfresh stays nicer in colour, texture and odour, longer than raw material




Hampidjan New Zealand Limited Phone: +64-3-548 7942 Email: • Web: 50 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

treated with sodium metabisulphite. We also feel it is a healthier additive for the consumer.” Independent testing of 12 different products by the UK Sea Fish Industry Authority supports the fact that there are alternatives to sodium metabisulphite. Its study in 2005 (see http://www. asp?id=1239&p=ca for more details) found that prawns (Nephrops norvegicus) treated with 5% metabisulphite lose some visual qualities through bleaching and attain high sulphite residues, often above the permitted 150ppm. Furthermore, prawns treated with high concentration sodium metabisulphite were found to have poor flavour. The other alternative treatments (see table) were compared against sodium metabisulphite. The study found that Prawnfresh delivered the best results in terms of shelf life, with a maximum of nine days from harvest and treatment before the onset of melanosis. Prawns treated with Prawnfresh also rated best with regards to appearance and eating qualities. Paul Freeman of Hampidjan NZ Ltd says: “The new relationship that we have forged with Scanz Technologies means that we can offer the best level of advice and expertise for both shellfish farmers and fishermen who are interested in finding out more about the benefits of Prawnfresh. “As well as the marketing benefits in using this more effective treatment, a key underlying advantage for crustacean farmers, processors and fishermen in using Prawnfresh is that it aids the wellbeing of processing operatives by preventing their exposure to the potential health risks experienced when using sulphite based treatments.” More information from Paul Freeman, marketing and operations manager, Hampidjan NZ Ltd, tel: (03) 548 7942,, or John Davis, managing director Xyrex, tel: +44 (0) 870 402 0660, email:, web:


Unique training in commercial aquaponics C

hallenger Institute Of Technology (formerly Tafe) in conjunction with the Armadale Noongar Corporation (ANC) have been running a pilot commercial aquaponics system since February of this year. The venture is giving ANC members both training opportunities and a means to develop an income stream. The training is being conducted by Challenger and 16 ANC members are completing the Certificate 2 in Aquaculture. It is planned that ANC members, once they have finished their training, will become mentors for other aboriginal communities to start their own aquaponics systems. This will help isolated indigenous communities gain access to fresh food, particularly vegetables which are sorely lacking from many communities as the cost of transporting fresh food into remote communities is very expensive. Not only will this reduce the cost for communities but the health benefits in eating fresh vegetables will improve the overall health of the community. The aquaponics system was designed by Tony Bart, a lecturer in Aquaculture and Aquaponics and then built by ANC members on their site which is just on the southern outskirt of Perth. The system consists of 5000 litre fish tank, 1000 litres sump tank and submersible pump, filter box biofilter system and 96 metres of Nutrient Film Technique ( NFT) channels to grow the vegetables in. The tank is self cleaning as an effluent arm ensures that all solid wastes are quickly taken out of the tank and filtered through a swirl separator. High oxygen levels are maintained by airstones but also the water is splashed in air as it returns to the fish and sump tank. Two systems are being trialled by the ANC members. Each system is expected to produce the equivalent of 4000 lettuces a year and 300 kgs of fish. At the moment each tank has 350 trout which will be harvested in October.

The system has created a great deal of interest and several other systems are going to be built by Challenger in the Perth region. A large pilot commercial system is being built at Challenger’s Murdoch Horticulture Campus and it is planned to farm Barramundi in the system all year round. Challenger now has its own Barramundi brood stock and fingerlings will be available to stock the system by October. Challenger has been running short weekend courses in aquaponics for the past year and access to the ANC pilot commercial system has been a great asset for students.

From Top: Tony Bart – pictured here (centre) with Bill Hansen (left) and Graig Hansen (right) – designed the aquaponics systems. Each system is expected to produce 4000 lettuces a year and 300 kgs of fish.

For more details contact Tony Bart at Challenger Institute of Technology, WA Maritime Training Area, 1 Fleet St. Fremantle, 6160. Tel. 08 92398015


The Codfather

Providing genetically superior weaned fingerlings for commercial aquaculture • Murray Cod • Golden Perch • Silver Perch For more information call

02 6956 2147 F: 02 6956 2245 E:

Spring 2010 | Austasia Aquaculture 51


Integrated temperature control for heat exchangers Teralba Industries have developed, costeffective Temperature Control Systems to integrate with their Mueller Accu-Therm Plate Heat Exchangers. Teralba Industries produce Mueller Accu-Therm Plate Heat Exchangers in Australia, under licence from USA based, Paul Mueller Co.

Integrated Temperature Control Systems start with simple digital readout and control valves for service media, with variable temperature set points (as pictured), through to systems with data output to integrate into a production line, and progressing to complete standalone pasteurises.

Temperature Control Systems designed and incorporated as part of Heat Exchanger, provides manufacturers of food, dairy, beverage, chemical and pharmaceutical products as one-stop-shop for heating, cooling, pasteurising all types of liquids.

Peace of mind that comes standard when dealing with Australia’s leading family-owned Heat Transfer Company, now in its 34th year of trading. For further info contact Teralba Industries Pty Ltd.


Heat Exchangers for every application L RA


For further information please contact Teralba Industries on In Australia Telephone: 61) 2 4626 5000 Email: Web: In New Zealand Aurora Agencies Telephone: 64) 7 847 5315 Toll Free: 0800 55 77 33 Email:

Australia’s leading wholesaler of coral rubble and sands to the aquaculture industry. The finest natural bio filter and calcium reactor media available. From micro 0.05mm coral sand to 40mm coral rubble. Call our friendly sales team on (07) 3374 3691 or (07) 3374 0136 for more information

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52 Austasia Aquaculture | Spring 2010

Market Place Expressions of Interest Business Opportunity

AQUACULTURE SERVICES AUSTRALIA Get the right information by purchasing copies of

Shearwater Power is looking for interested parties to run an aquaculture facility.

The Australian Yabby Farmer at $47.50 and The Australian Fish Farmer at $97.50 (inc GST & postage) Call us on 03 9817 3043 or email:



Universal Artificial Reef System - Tel: 0419 894 172 AQUACULTURE CONSULTANCY SERVICES Fast Disease Diagnosis & Control • Independent Lab Confidentiality • Microbe & Parasite ID’s • Water Quality & Biofilter Taming • Depuration Monitoring & Control • Disease Risk Assessments •

• All Hours, All Species, Every Day • Larval Mortality Control • Specialty Vaccines Prepared • Designs for Disease Minimization • Serious Biofilter Microbes • Antibiotic Selection

Contact: Dr Steven Nearhos Unit 6 No 8 Shannon Place, Virginia Qld 4014


Phone (07) 335 66 111 Fax (07) 335 66 833

OzBugZz © Biofilter Starter 1-2-3 Fast starts can be routine. Pure fresh-cultured OzBugZz© microbes nitrify & denitrify waste in marine & fresh water recirc. & purge systems. Quality + O.Night Del + Tech Support. Dr Steven Nearhos Baseline (07) 335 66 111.

Both Freshwater Recirc System and Saltwater System. Permits in place for tourism development and saltwater fishout. Fantastic location on main tourist road at Phillip Island, Victoria. Partnership, lease or purchase. Massive potential For more information Phone: (03) 5956 6545, 0408 351 212 or Email:

MUST BE SOLD Aquaculture Farming System Fully Operational Floating Tamco Raceway System Available for inspection at Coochin Creek Farm, Roys Road, Beerwah Qld (100km north of Brisbane) Capacity of 14 tonnes of fish at one time

All reasonable offers considered Contact: Charles on 07 5494 6333 or 0418 157 250 Email: (Photos can be emailed to interested parties)

Prawn Farming Industry Grading Machines and Systems for the prawn farming industry Prawn Grading Machines • Prawn Cookers • Prawn Washers Single machines as well as complete systems • IQF Freezers

Prawn grader KM1130

KM Fish Machinery A/S – Tel: +45 9886 4633 • Fax: +45 9886 4677 • Web: Agent in Australia: Terry Gorman & Associates – Tel: 02 9979 7269 • Fax: 02 9997 4203 • Email:

ASIAN PACIFIC AQUACULTURE 2011 held in conjunction with

GIANT PRAWN 2011 aquaculture â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the future is here


17-20 January, 2011 Le Meridien Resort and Convention Center, Kochi, India

Govt. of India

Hosted by:

College of Fisheries (Kerala Agricultural University), Kochi


Dept. of Fisheries (Govt. of Kerala) MPEDA

Technical Sessions on aquaculture, processing, product devolopment, marketing, economics & more International Trade Exhibition




Stay in touch with the program developments for ASIAN-PACIFIC AQUACULTURE 2011


through our Web Page at:



sion bmis ! u S t ed rac Abst e Extend e at t lin Da it on .org m b Su w.was . 2010 ww th Sept e 30 befor



log on to for booking your exhibition booth For more details, log on to

Spring 2010  

Austasia Aquaculture magazine, Spring 2010

Spring 2010  

Austasia Aquaculture magazine, Spring 2010