Volume 21 No. 3 â€“ September 2007
Shared oyster grader for Clyde oysters Value-adding trout at Arc-En-Ciel Royal whiptail catfish makes a splash Cultured amur restore NZ waters Manipulating silver perch flavour Farmers bounce back from QX disaster Breeding yellowbelly flounder Wakool saline basinâ€™s fish harvest
Editor-in-chief Dr Tim Walker Regular contributors David O'Sullivan John Mosig Dave Field Subscription/editorial Austasia Aquaculture PO Box 658, Rosny, Tas. 7018 Ph: 03 6245 0064 Fax: 03 6245 0068 Email: AustasiaAquaculture@netspace.net.au Advertising Megan Farrer
FA R M P R O F I L E Tassie industry gives barra farmers the environmental message Getting Catty ‘Shared’ oyster grader for Clyde River World first begins with a fishing trip Thurla Farm’s Murray cod Value adding trout at Arc-En-Ciel F E AT U R E
Design/typesetting Beverly Waldie
Silver and white amur ‘clean up’ in waterway restoration An attempt to manipulate the flavour of silver perch Broken Bay oyster farmers bounce back from QX disaster
Prepress Crystal Graphics
Printing Focal Prinitng 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.
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NAC victory – aquaculture stays off National Pollution Inventory New Zealand oyster industry tour summary South African study tour visits Oz TAFE works with aquaculture industry to tackle skill shortages
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RESEARCH Yellow belly flounder focus of breeding efforts Major study of ornamental fish industry in Australia Wakool saline basin produces a good feed of fish
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A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Prawn imports: Continued caution urged
TECHNOLOGY A 20 year association with Australasian aquaculture
Cover photo A montage of photos taken from stories contained in this issue. Captions and photo credits as per the details inside.
Seafood Directions 2007 – Seafood for Tomorrow – Embracing Change
AGK Technology / Fresh By Design AirEng All Tanks Ajay & Duraplas Tanks Astral / Hurlcon Aquaculture Supplies WA AquaFauna Biomarine Aquahort Aquasonic Aquaspex Aquatic Diagnostic Services International AQUI-S Audentes Investments Austasia Aquaculture - subscription page Australian Monofil Company BGB M arine – Underwater Light & Vision BST Oyster Supplies Buono Net Australia Davey Products Elders Fisheries & Aquaculture Brokers Hanna Instruments HR Browne & Sons Intervet Australia Jeyco - Mooring & Rigging Murray Darling Fisheries Namoi Valley Aquafarming NATI / Professional Development Network Oblomov Trading Plastic Fabrications Pro-Aqua P/L Quinntech P/L Seafood Directions 2007 Seapa SED - Shellfish Equipment Scanz Technologies P/L Skretting Superior Fibreglass Technolab Marketing The Market Place – classified ads Tooltech Tuckaway Engineering Uarah Fish Hatchery Ultra Violet Products (Aust) Wedeco 2 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
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Tassie industry gives barra farmers the environmental message
four day trip was undertaken by ten barramundi farmers (all members of the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, ABFA) in May this year. Funded under Seafood Services Australia’s Industry Mentor Program, the aim of the trip was to learn from the experiences of representatives from the Tasmanian aquaculture industry on EMS. The barramundi farmers were from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. During their trip the Barramundi farmers discussed the current status of their industry and their estimates suggest that the total production in FY06/07 could be in excess of 3,000 tonnes. This is a significant increase in the ‘official data’ released for FY05/06 of 2,075 tonnes worth some $17.2 million (ABARE 2007 Australian Fisheries Statistics 2005-06). This is an indication of the high level of confidence in barramundi farming which is one of the few aquaculture sectors which has been showing expansion in production and value over the past five years. Atlantic Salmon
farming in Tasmania has show significant growth with a 21% increase in tonnage from FY04/05 to FY05/06 and a staggering 39% in value over the same period (19,219 tonnes worth $221 million). The schedule of visits was organised by Dr Matthew Bransden, Technical Service Manager, Skretting Australia and included two farms, two processing plants, a hatchery, a feed manufacturer and an R&D facility. A workshop was also provided with presentations by EMS experienced industry members (Dr Judy Marshall and Col Dyke) as well as representatives from Skretting. Use of a bus and accommodation in the same hotel provided plenty of opportunity for the participants to discuss issues on environmental protection. There was excellent information exchange both within the Barramundi group and with the Tasmanian farmers. An Action Plan has been drafted for EMS introduction in the Australian Barramundi farming industry. One of these is the invitation of Col Dyke, Judy
Marshall and Ted Loveday to present talks on EMS at the APFA-ABFA conference planned for Brisbane in late July. The use of the Tassie mentors was significant and, through the ABFA, the aim is for an industry EMS to be developed as part of the sector’s overall, Strategic Development Plan. Individual companies or regional group can extract relevant information for the development and implementation of their own EMS or Plan. There was agreement for the following Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 3
FARM PROFILE Photos by Dan Richard, Mick Lisle and Wil Con.
basic steps to be undertaken: • Identify environmental risks (use HACCP) – both from on-farm and off-farm sources • Analyse risks (most are low), these will vary with technology and location • Prioritise issues • Develop appropriate control measures/standards and monitoring methods (including third party auditing process) • Setup adaptive management to overcome risks • Identify relevant stakeholders, including authorities especially for regulatory changes • Setup feed back and review to process to improve continuously • Document and report - This can include a once or twice yearly workshop to ensure that those farms that 4 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
have ‘signed up’ for the implementation of EMS are on track to meet timelines. EMS mentors could be present at one or both, to aid individual businesses and the ABFA in EMS uptake. Also address. Feedback from the participants has been unanimous in praise of the trip and the excellent assistance provided by the Tasmanian aquaculture industry and for the funds provided by SSA. According to Wil Con from Daintree Barramundi (Qld), the best part of the field trip was being able to have active discussion with fellow ABFA members and engaging with industry mentors with respect to specific EMS questions. Australian Barramundi’s (NT) Dan Richards said that the whole of (barra) industry needed to work together to
identify and prioritise issues, agree on appropriate standard control measures/ standards and then develop individual plans within this context. John Hutton (Marine Products Australia Ltd, WA) recommended that ESD be identified as an industry issue and industry EMS Risks be identified for inclusion into ABFA Business Plan. Mick and Julie Lisle (Qld) said that the ABFA needed to get ESD signed off. “It needs to be farmer friendly and work within overall farm management, HACCP and health/predator management plans. It must be able to be adjusted from site to site, and be applicable for ponds, cages and RAS. EMS consultant Dr Judy Marshall said that the main drivers for EMS included: • Market access (accreditation shows
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Col Dyke’s Benefits of EMS • • • • •
• • • • • • • •
Attitudinal and behavioural change of employees Better informed staff, improved job satisfaction Greater security for business (proven sustainability) Improve management of our environmental aspects Improving awareness and management of other’s environmental impacts on our business, EMS enables the impact of others on your operation to be assessed and managed Improved community perceptions Lead by good example Provides links between QA, OH&S, HACCP, QMS and license/compliance Beneficial relationships with R&D, local government and Care groups Reveals potential business opportunities Improved business – “we set the price for our oysters, higher than others” Looking to increase Third Party scrutiny through JASANZ Process leading into self regulation – discussion week with ministers.
Murray Darling Fisheries Specialist in breeding and supplying Murray Cod Golden Perch Silver Perch T: 02 6922 9447 M: 0419 600 926 F: 02 6922 9448 E: firstname.lastname@example.org 1795 Old Narrandera Road Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 5
• • • • •
that you are sustainable). Self regulation Reduction of government red tape for expansion National uniformity of regulations, standards Low environmental risk relates to lower financial risk. Having an EMS allows for application for National funding to facilitate incorporation of EMS processes into
the business structure. • Federal Government position is pro EMS. Federal directives should therefore help facilitate uptake of EMS at State level. Legendary oyster farmer and environmental ‘warrior’ Colin Dyke’s take-home message for the farmers was “Nothing is impossible!” “Industry must learn to be proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “ESD and EMS are
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the pathway not a destination, and many benefits (see insert box) will accrue to industries that embrace the process. The industry wide EMS approach presented in the workshops by Judy and Col, and the experience of the Tasmanian salmon farmers, provides a robust model for managing the environmental issues relating to aquaculture. The widespread adoption of this approach through the ABFA will form the basis of a strong industry standard position for engaging with key stakeholders. This will improve the security of the industry, ensuring ongoing access to the essential natural resources the industry depends on, while providing regulators with a level of surety that may enable the pathway to self-regulation in the future. By Dos O’Sullivan (Australis Aquaculture Ltd, USA), Dan Richards (Australian Barramundi, NT) and Wil Conn (Daintree Saltwater Barramundi, Qld)
Getting Catty The ornamental industry in Australia is currently undergoing many changes, some originating from within the industry and some from changes in market trends. With the increase in availability of many new forms of fish in the aquarium trade due to changes in quarantine laws and accessibility to global markets, many farms are expanding their range of fish to reach consumer demand. A Tasmanian company is now breeding and supplying Royal Whiptail Catfish.
or Tasmanian Ornamental Fish Farm owner, Greg Willis, the decision to bring in a new breed of fish was reached after re-evaluating the farm’s breeding facilities. Firstly, TOFF’s 6m x 10m Discus (Symphosodon sp.) hatchery room at their northern Tasmanian facilities was being poorly under utilised. “Discus can provide a good return,” said Greg, “But when things go wrong, it’s a lot of time and money that go straight down the drain. Problems with inbreeding can occur without the introduction of new stock but to bring in those fish, you also run the risk of bringing in new diseases, and with Discus, that usually means parasites. This is a road we have gone down before and have paid a heavy price trying to control and then eradicate the problems. So we had to make a decision, run the risk of bringing in new broodstock or diversify into a different fish that had similar water quality requirements but with less disease risk.” The solution presented itself when a wholesaler noticed that large Royal Whiptail Catfish (Rineloricaria lanceolata) had paired up in their wholesale rooms. The Royal Whiptails are a light brown, highly patterned sucker mouth catfish that grow to about 15 to 20 cm long, about two thirds of which is their tail length. This tail ends in a long filamental fin that can be moved in a whipping action when the fish is being territorial.
normal catching and packing procedures. These fish also have not historically preformed well during shipment, and as most of them are still caught from the wild in South America or imported from overseas, which has added to their high market price, only low numbers remain to be sold. As with most of the catfish family that are mainly supplied through importation, a reliable source within Australia that could provide the numbers required would greatly enhance the fish’s profile in the consumer market. Heated breeding room To this end the pairs were shipped to the farm and isolated into a row of former Discus tanks at TOFF - 100L tanks made from 6mm glass. Greg said that keeping the breeding pairs all together in one part of the room enables the equipment used to be kept separate from the other stock in that room and
the farm in general. Under gravel filtration equipment was replaced with home-made block filters, which consist of a 10cm x10cm x 20 cm cube of Dacron foam that has a pipe of PVC working as an uplift. Air is provided by a 0.5HP motor airpump that provides aeration for the entire room via 35mm irrigation pipes that run behind the glass tanks along each rack. The air is heated by an outside domestic furnace while insulation in the building prevents the heat from escaping. The Discus room has always been kept hotter (between 28 and 30°C) than the rest of the farm, due to the warmer conditions needed for successful growth rates in tropical fish. This temperature range also seemed to suit the breeding requirements of the Whiptails, according to the limited sources of information that could be found. These juveniles are from the first batch of fry and at 6 weeks of age are already approximately 4cm in length.
The unusual shape of the fish make it popular with consumers who want ‘something different’, but the length and slimness of the tail are also one of the weak points of the fish. The spine and tail can be very easily damaged during Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 7
According to Greg, the Whiptails, originating from Brazil, prefer water of <40 ppm hardness and a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. This is provided from water storage tanks that can be either from filtered main water supply – but filtered down to 2 microns to ensure removal of larger compounds – or from a reverse osmosis system that removes all chemical compounds leaving the water with a 0 ppm water hardness reading. With the reverse osmosis system the water is passed under pressure over a membrane that separates all compounds which are removed down one outlet pipe, while the pure water can be sent down another to be stored separately. The ‘waste water’ from the reverse osmosis filter is used for baby Angels and Rams, who can make use of the extra compounds, particularly calcium, via the gills. The two sources of water can be accessed by different pumps or can be blended to achieve the required hardness.
Whiptails are known to be a harder fish to keep due to their fussiness of water quality parameters but also because of their feeding habits. They are notoriously ‘lazy feeders’, if food is present they will eat but they are not active food seekers as are most other scavenger fish. This also adds to the difficulty in getting well conditioned fish for breeding.
1. The dual revervse osmosis filters provide water with nil water hardness to encourage breeding behaviour for the catfish. 2. The racks of 100L glass tanks with dacron block filters will be used to grow on the juvenile catfish. 3. The egg sac of these juveniles, at 2 days of age, is almost depleted and the fry are beginning to develop normal feeding habits.
Upon arrival, they were fed time times per day exclusively on 1mm protein pellets that had extra vitamins and Spirulina added, to see if they would take the normal food that was fed on the farm. When they were weaned onto this food, they were also given once per day a commercial frozen food mixture that contains plant material and a mixture of protein sources. This combination proved to be highly successful, as, within three weeks of the arrival, pairing and mating behaviour was first noticed. When mating the female deposits the almost clear eggs on the male’s preferred nesting site, which can be any clear area of the tank that allows the male to cover and protect the clutch with his body (usually along a glass wall or uplift
8 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
pipe). The eggs are very large, about 45mm in diameter and resemble slightly squashed soccer balls when first laid but they soon ‘inflate’ to a normal egg shape. The male then moves over the nest and fertilises the eggs and continues to lay over them in a protective stance until they darken and begin to hatch (this usually takes a few days).
The male royal whiptail catfish protects and aerates the developing eggs.
A clutch of eggs is produced about every 2 to 3 weeks depending on the health and age of the female. The clutch size for all of the females started at about 60 to 70 eggs but appears to be increasing slightly with every clutch produced. However, it is not anticipated that there will be a big increase in egg production as the body cavity of the female does not appear to be increasing with age or growth. Unlike most others of the sucking catfish type on which this farm has worked, the female’s body does not deflate to a normal size after laying the eggs.
The eggs after 4 days of development have darkened and the body outline of the fry can be seen.
“The laying process is very quick,” remarks Greg, “You can walk out of the room when there has been no sign of breeding activity and walk back in 10 minutes later and have a huge clutch of eggs.” Hatching takes place anywhere between 3 to 5 days after being laid, being temperature dependent. “The pair of Whiptails just inside the door has the coolest tank and will always hatch out first. The pairs in the middle of the room, where the temperature is more constant take up to two days longer to hatch”. Upon hatching, the fry are about 4 to 6mm in length and swim in a spiral until they settle and feed on a prominent egg sac which lasts about 48 hours. The fry are then free swimming and feeding, although they appear, for the first week, to favour areas of high aeration. Interestingly, even though the eggs are laid in a very quick period of time, the fry will hatch out over a period of between 12 up to 36 hours. This occurrence has been noted with all of the pairs and with every clutch of eggs and is quite perplexing to farmers who
are used to almost simultaneous hatching of fry. “There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this pattern, it’s not like the last to hatch are weaker or have smaller egg sacs or take longer to develop once hatched,” says Greg. “So we’re assuming, for now, that this is normal for Whiptails. However, it would be nice to have some reliable reference material to see if any other breeders have noted this. Unfortunately, the bulk of the stock sold is still collected from the wild and those that breed them in large numbers (mostly in Northern America) closely guard their secrets.” Growth and feeding Growth rates after hatching appear to only be limited to how much food the fry can physically take in, and will approach a length of 50mm within a four week period. After this, the growth rate slows as the fish put on body mass as well as length. The fry are
kept to the same feeding regime as the parents and also introduced to different frozen food combinations in an effort to make them ‘non-fussy eaters’. “One of the biggest problem in this industry is that you have no control of the product once it leaves the door, and then, typically the fish goes through two to three other hands before it is placed in the customer’s tank at home. The fish has to be used to all kinds of food before it leaves here to ensure that it will recognise different food material throughout the rest of their life. This is especially important for the Whiptail due to it’s lazy feeding habits. If they die because they are difficult to feed, consumers will not continue to buy them and the market becomes very limited to a few specialist Catfish hobbyists.” They also gain their normal adult body colour patterns at this stage and, as the tail lengthens, it begins to grow the long Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 9
MANAGEMENT METRICS Key Management Decisions for Tasmanian Ornamental Fish Farms include: • Diversifying into different fish lines that make use of existing equipment • Specialising in fish that do not recover from importation well • Moving into stock lines that reflect market change. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Royal Whiptail Catfish include: • Culture System utilised: bare bottomed 100L glass tanks • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <6 months (<1g to 10g) • Survival rate: 98% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: in growout situation, 75 -100 per 100L • Annual harvest: for whiptails approx. 2,000 – 3,000 with current breeding stock
filament that grows off the end to forms the ‘whip’ from which the Catfish gets its name. They are commonly sold from the length of 8cm at a price of about $25 from the wholesaler which can increase by over 300% when they get into the aquarium shops. Greg believes that the Catfish will easily reach this size within 6 to 8 months, but is hoping to create a market for a smaller sized whiptail. “One of the reasons they are sold at this relatively large size (for the ornamental trade) is that they have a better survival rate from being captured and imported at a larger size. Our shorter transit times should increase their packing and transport survival, as well as the stock originating from tank reared stock. So the farm is hoping that we can get a product out at about 6 to 7 cm, even smaller if possible, that the wholesalers and buying public will recognise as viable fish.” Work is also to be done on the stocking rates of the growing fish. Due to the ease with which their tail can be damaged, it may not be feasible to grow them in the larger 350L or 1,000L tanks
with other breeds of fish as is done with other forms of sucker Catfish, such as Bristlenoses (Ancistrus dolichopterus). “We may have to change over some of our dedicated tanks to these Catfish so they have their own grow-out area, which then affects the room we have for our main lines, such as Rams and Angelfish. All of these considerations will have to be taken into account when we determine the end price we want for the fish.” Having said that, it is expected that a reliable home source of these Catfish will be most welcomed by the wholesale market and consumers alike. The Royal Whiptail Catfish may also provide a gateway into greater Catfish production by the farm. By Louise Willis For more information contact Greg Willis, Tasmanian Ornamental Fish Farms 214 Opossum Rd, Launceston, Tas 7250 Telephone: 03 6339 1111 Fax: 03 6344-7200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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‘Shared’ oyster grader for Clyde River Last year the McAsh Oyster Company purchased and installed a Tasmanian-made SED automotive oyster grader capable of grading over 10,000 market grade oysters in an hour. The grader is significantly reducing handling time and now the system is being made available to other oyster farmers on the Clyde River (NSW) for grading their small as well as market grade stock.
fter some time as a commercial fisherman and working in local government for more than 25 years, Kevin McAsh was looking for some new challenges. With son Ewan having just finished a Bachelor in Marine Biology from Wollongong University and interested in aquaculture, Kevin decided to get into oyster farming in 2004.
“We purchased a Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea commercialis) farm on the Clyde River (3 hours south of Sydney) which had 13ha of developed leases,” Kevin explained. “There is a mixture of intertidal and subtidal leases; we have seven floating rafts, everything else is on intertidal rack and rails.” When the Kevin and Ewan purchased the farm, there was a wide range of different types of culture equipment, including wooden trays (60cm wide by 180cm long by 20cm high), traditional 2m long wooden sticks, wire trays made from concrete reinforcing and Stanway cylinders. They have phased out most of these systems and are replacing them with Seapa Baskets hung on an adjustable long line system. “We didn’t come in with any background in traditional oyster farming so we can pick and choose what is the best for us. In our quest to make our farm less labour intensive and more efficient it was important to reduce our different cultivation methods so we will eventually just use one type of growing vessel. We felt that Seapa baskets combined with
Loading Seapa Baskets onto adjustable longline- footage from South Australia.
the long line system gives us versatility in on-lease management and the streamlined, efficient product handling we are after.”
around. However, we will take oysters later, if they are available. The aim is to have around 1-2 million oysters in the water at any time.”
Streamlining Operations with Mechanisation Kevin said that they were always looking to streamline their operations. They thought it would be less effort to buy seed than catch their own. ‘We are currently stocking around 700-800,000 seed each year. We like to get them in the water around April or May so they can really kick on when spring comes
“We buy seed from the north coast, usually from the Hastings or Wooli Rivers. Usually we like to get the seed between 12-35mm in size, they would cost as much as 12c each. Recently, we have been getting QX resistant seed from Tony Troup at Camden Haven. This stock is supplied by the Select Oyster Company hatchery. They grow quickly so we can increase turn-over and are a more hardy oyster.” Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 11
“We start smaller oysters in 6mm Plastic Tooltech AquaTrays, larger oysters are stocked straight into 20mm Seapa baskets. Juvenile oysters are initially grown in the upper less saline reaches of the estuary, to avoid winter mortality and overcatch. Once they have reached 35-45mm (12 months) in size they are brought down and finished (6 months) at the mouth of the River.”
The McASh Oyster shed has been carefully planned and organised to increase efficiency.
The Seapa Baskets on the adjustable longline system which has been used to replace the wide range of culture systems originally on the farm.
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Kevin and Ewan have spent some time in South Australia and Tasmania examining the bulk scale culture techniques in use in the Pacific oyster (Crassotrea gigas) industries. “Those growers are at least ten years ahead of us. They lead in things like selective breeding, automatic handling and mechanical grading. There is a real need for a sharp catch-up period by us NSW oyster growers. With rising fuel and other costs it is vital that we look at efficiencies.” The first thing a visitor notices in the McAsh shed is the sealed concrete floor and the orderly layout of their mechanised plant and equipment including: • 12m long SED ShellQuip (MACH V) oyster grader and bulk bins • 2.5 ton Toyota Forklift • Karcher K 520 pressure cleaner • Overhead gantry with a 500kg Hitachi crane • Crown 1.5kg electric lifter • Pneumatic oyster knives • Auto tipping oyster boxes. “We have put in a lot of equipment to reduce manual lifting. We have planned everything out carefully. We now move all our oysters through in (bulk) batches, regularly grading them to ensure uniform growth. The key to it is the SED ShellQuip oyster grader which we purchased in April, 2006.” Kevin said that the $100,000 price tag (plus $20,000 for the sealed floor) was more than they could afford and the huge through-put it could handle was many times more than they could ever hope to produce. “So we looked at setting up a system that could be used by us as well as other growers. We were able to source
$60,000 from the DOTARS (Department of Transport and Regional Development) Regional Partnerships Program. We have set up a system where we charge per thousand oysters when using the grader. We’ve set up a new wharf (10x5m) so that farmers can tie up their oyster barges with their oyster trays and we can use the forklift to unload or load them.” Many of the small growers on the Clyde have established the Batemans Bay Oyster Marketing Co-op and they would normally hand grade their market size oysters. “Now those growers can use our ShellQuip for grading their markets as well as their growing oysters.” Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy Kevin is certainly a firm believer of utilising new technologies. “It just has to be done. If you look at the NSW Oyster Industry Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy (released by NSW Fisheries in October, 2006), it states that to achieve sustainability, the oyster industry must embrace new technologies. So we did just that! Our ShellQuip Grader and
change to Seapa Baskets is one part of our strategy. Using selectively bred single seed oysters is another part.” Kevin believes that the Sydney rock oyster industry is beginning to lift production. “In the early 1990s overall annual production was around 8,000 tonnes and it has been falling ever since. Now single seed production and innovative growing techniques means more oysters are being produced. Our grader can handle every oyster on the river (if needed). The best we’ve done was 25 bags (around 17,000 oysters) in 1.5 hours; these were sorted into four grades. It can easily handle 10-12,000 oysters per hour and we could run it all day and all night if we wanted to.” The oysters are loaded out of their culture trays or baskets into bulk self tipping hoppers which drop the oysters onto a bulk feeder belt and into a washer before falling into a collection bin. Another moving belt picks up the individual oysters and lines them up in a row – this is called the ‘singulator’ and then there is a spreader which separates the oysters by about 2cm. The lined up and spread out oysters are carried under
an imaging camera and along another chute where air jets push them into their selected grades, oysters are collected in Seapa baskets if returning to the lease or into hesian bags for sale. “An imaging camera measures the length and width of each individual oyster. Oysters are sold on size (length) and we have developed programs in the computer to recognise the different grades. We run some through to check the grades are right before cranking it up.” “Stick oysters although more irregularly shaped when compared to single seed oyster, can be put through the grader. Any doubles (co-joined oysters) come out the end as rejects. Some hand sorting after the washer stage can pick out dead shell. So by the time you have graded them a couple of times through the machine you get rid of the problem oysters.” “We have two farmers who use it regularly, other growers are still getting used to it. The ShellQuip does a terrific job at grading and has the potential to save time and money but the challenge for many farmers is to incorporate it into their own farm practice.”
Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 13
MANAGEMENT METRICS Key Management Decisions for McAsh Oyster Pty Ltd include: • Purchase of larger (>12mm) single seed rather than catching own, using some hatchery reared product • Streamlining the many different growing methods into two and eventually one system (Seapa baskets). • Introduction of large scale mechanised grader with auto tippers, washers and graders • Other mechanisation in plant and equipment including overhead cranes, hydraulic boat cranes, forklifts • Opening facility for use (at a small fee) by other growers. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): • Culture System utilised: Seapa baskets on adjustable long line system; Tooltech AquaTrays on rafts. • Growth rate (from stocking to market): < 2 years (5g to 50g) • Survival rate: 90% from first stocking to sale size • Annual harvest: 60 000 oysters • Productivity: 30 000 dozen per Effective Fulltime Unit (240 days, 48wk x 40hr) • Production cost: $2.64 /dozen oysters.
Rafts for growout The rafts are made from a wooden frame (4” x 2”) that is 12 m long by 4m wide. Thirty six 240L drums are strapped onto the frame with 12 mm rope. The modules of ten AquaTrays (1 x 1m) have 90mm long spacers inserted through the corner straps to allow good water flow through the trays. “We use yellow strapping tape to hold the modules together. They are easy to lift up with a jib crane on the barge, every three weeks we like to pull them out and sit them on top of the rafts for two to three days in summer to kill off any overcatch. In winter this time is increased to three to four days every six weeks. Other than over-catch we can also get fouling from barnacles, cunjevoi, mussels and algae.” 14 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
Kevin & Ewan McAsh dropping a bundle of 6mm Aquatrays into the raft.
Kevin said that there were no major poacher or predator problems and QX not present as yet (QX has been identified in the river, but not in the virulent form). “There were some occasional winter mortality and we can lose oysters through heat kills during a low tide with air temperatures over 35°C. “On rafts the oysters grow quickly as they can continue to feed 24/7 so they are graded every 4 to 8 weeks. When they are about 45 mm in size, we transfer them to Seapa Baskets in the intertidal area for three to six months. This finishing time is to fatten the oysters and allows the oysters to harden up, strengthening the adductor muscle which is turn means longer shelf life once they are harvested and sold. “We are lucky on the Clyde as this river has relatively pristine catchment area and we do not experience the same pollution problems other estuaries battle with. Our waters have been classified by the SQAP (Shellfish Quality Assurance Program, run by NSW Food Authority) for Direct Harvest; we have a dual management system so when salinity falls below 25 ppt we revert back to the depuration of sale oysters as a precaution.” “Most of our sales are to Sydney, the North Coast and up to Brisbane. We are
probably doing around 700 000 oyster per year. The Sydney Rock Oyster is very popular and there is plenty of room for our business to expand.” “By tooling up and adopting more efficient cultivation and handling systems we plan to take the focus off just growing oysters and concentrate on supplying to our customers needs” Kevin said Ana Rubio; a PhD student at Australian National University Canberra had been studying nutrient levels in the Clyde River. “With the drop off in numbers of oysters in the river, there was better growth in the oysters that were stocked. All of the growers in the river will need to decide on what levels of oyster numbers will be grown in the river. Hopefully by reducing the time it takes to turnover oysters we can produce more without over-stocking the river. That will be covered in an Environmental Management System (EMS) we are currently drafting....but that is a whole other story.” By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Kevin McAsh, McAsh Oyster Pty Ltd, 6 Evan St, Mouya, NSW, 2537. Tel: 02 4472-7565, Mobile: 0405 232-262, E: email@example.com
World first begins with a fishing trip Most people believe that a fishing excursion should be a chance to get away from work, but for Bruce and Alan Sambell, it was the beginning of a project that has led to one of the first large scale spawning of the Archer Fish in the ornamental industry.
he Archer Fish (Toxotes sp.) ranges from India east to the Philippines, south to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia and into Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. There are seven species within this genus. This fascinating animal was first imported into Europe by P. Nitsche in 1899. Their unique hunting abilities led to them becoming highly prized among aquarists, with orders being filled by wild caught populations. Australian supplies of the fish have consisted of imports from Indonesia mainly, where the fish is a popular food source, and also from stocks captured from the Northern Territory. The Australian species has been classified as Toxotes oligolepsis, and is commonly known as the Kimberly Archer Fish. These fish are brackish in origin, and need a high concentration of salt in the water to survive, a factor which worked against them becoming easily acclimatised to fresh water aquaria. However, a fishing holiday to Cape York 18 months ago could see major changes to the seasonal availability and cost of the fish. The interest first began when Bruce’s son, Alan, asked his father to obtain some brood stock. “We already held a permit for Archer Fish, we have a Culture Stock Permit for almost all of Queensland’s freshwater fish.
Bruce Sambell showing an archerfish caught from the Northern Territory.
This photo highlights the preferred habitat of the archer fish, featuring banks overgrown with vegetation.
“We were fishing on Laura River which runs into Princess Charlotte Bay, on the shoulder of Cape York,” says Bruce, “It Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 15
lot of damage to themselves and the larger they are, the more damage they seem to do.”
The large, deeply cleft mouth shown with this wild caught archerfish is used to form a water spout that knocks it’s chosen prey into the water.
It is not known if these are Kimberly Archer Fish as they have not been officially classified, however, Bruce believes they could be a new fresh water species due the catching site being so far from the river estuary. The fish were kept in a pond on the farm at Childers, with other species, such as the Coal Grunter (Hephaestus carbo), being grown on for brood stock. When the time came in January to collect the Grunter broodstock and check for egg samples, some of the Archer Fish who didn’t manage to jump over the net were caught and examined for breeding condition.
Juvenile archer fish display more distinctive black, white and gold colouring than the adults, as is shown by this 6 week old fish.
The archerfish juveniles lose the defined black bands that act as camouflage in mangrove areas, as they grow into adults. The archerfish at 3 months of age have reached between 2.5 – 3 cm in length.
wasn’t a familiar area and we were keeping an eye out for salt water crocodiles even though we suspected we were a little far inland for them.” Twelve potential breeding individuals were caught using small hooks baited with bread on a fishing line, which may 16 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
seem an unusual way of obtaining fish to be used in a breeding program. Bruce explains, “It may seem strange but this is the easiest way to get the Archer Fish to shore without risking their health as they have a habit of thrashing about in a net and causing a
‘Running’ male “I give the credit to Alan, as he was the one who noticed the running male, and it was then that, mainly out of curiosity, that we started looking for females,” says Bruce. The sperm of the running male was inactive in salt water, being another confirmation to Bruce that this variety is strictly fresh water. Two fish that were thought to be female were among the catch, but the attempt to get the egg samples failed. The catheter was too large for the oviduct. and they also could not tell the direction or length of the oviduct, risking fatal injuries for the fish. It was decided to put the male into a 2,000L spawning tub in the hatchery with the most likely candidate for a female. “When you work with native fish for so long you get an idea for the shape of conditioned adults and one fish in particular had a discernible swelling where you would expect the ovaries to be, so she was our pick,” explains Bruce. The hatchery tank was not specifically prepared for a spawning, with normal pond water obtained from overland flow providing a pH of 8.5 and a total hardness reading of 150-200ppm. Aeration was provided to the tank using a diaphragm pump and, being summer, the ambient air temperature gave a water temperature of 27°C. The male fish weighed in at 145 grams
while the female weighed 260 grams and the fish are thought to be about 2.5 years old. Both fish were about 20cm in length. What happened the morning after next was shocking, even for this seasoned professional. Bruce continues the story, “When I came into the hatchery there was a work experience student taking out the tank’s stand pipe to clean it. When I asked what they were doing, they replied that the fish had spawned but the eggs were infertile and that Alan wanted the tank cleaned. I asked them to leave it because, at the very least, I wanted to see the eggs. I almost died when I saw the larvae wriggling. Needless to say, we put the tank back together in a hurry but I still believe that about 20% of the spawn was lost on the floor.” Even with that sizeable loss the amount of surviving eggs is impressive. “I estimate at least 10,000 eggs hatched successfully,” says Bruce, “but it’s hard to tell. At the time when we noticed the larvae the eggs were pelagic (although they may have been adhesive when first laid) and it was difficult to estimate numbers with the huge amount of floating eggs”. On the very few occasions when Toxotes jaculator have spawned it was estimated that the size of the clutch numbered about 3,000 and that there were fry hatching at the 12 hour mark.
Bruce believes that, like other Australian native fish, egg production may be linked to the age, size and condition of the fish. “It makes sense,” he says, “They have similar body forms, eat similar foods and are reactive to the same environmental parameters.” Archer Fish have been found in the Mitchell River, which flows west into the Gulf of Carpentaria form Cape York, 1,000 km from the river mouth at 30cm in length, so it could be reasonable to expect larger spawns from these larger fish. The fry were fed on freshly hatched brine shrimp and at 2 days of age were put into a 0.1 hectare (1/4 acre) plankton pond. At this stage, the fry were put under the microscope and there were found to be no deformities, with the fish looking exactly like tiny miniatures of the adults. It may seem to some that there is a potential risk to put such valuable fish in an outside pond at such an early stage but it is in line with the philosophy held at Ausyfish. Bruce explains, “We have to compete with imports and things have to be done as cheaply as possible and this is the easiest way to ensure that the entire spawn has easy access to all the food available. Besides, we don’t know anything about growing these fish. I believe that we have to let nature takes it’s course to see how the fish will react to different environmental parameters to know how to manipulate things, if need be, when we are growing them for the
The trees along the Laura River provide cover in which the archer fish can hide while tracking their prey.
Hunting habits of the Archer Fish In the wild, the Archer Fish will feed on small fish and floating fruit, but their main source of food consists of insects. The fish has two predatory habits. Both are aided by the taxonomy of the fish. The elongated, laterally compressed body shape of the fish makes it possible to swim close to the surface without detection while the forward eye position, close to the mouth, allows the fish to clearly discern its’ target. The long, well developed pectoral and caudal fins help propel them out of the water in a leaping action. This is the first method of predation amplifying the ability of the fish to catch insects by it’s mouth. The second hunting method, and the one for which it is most known, is the ability to collect a sizeable amount of water in it’s mouth and expel it in a stream that will knock the prey off overhanging vegetation into the water. A fish as small as 3 cm can produce water jets of 10 to 20cm but a full grown adult can produce streams of 2 to 3 metres, often up to 7 times in quick succession (although they are accurate to only 1 to2 metres). These hunting scenarios make this a popular fish among diehard aquarists who love the challenge of hand feeding or replicating the Archer’s natural environment and feeding habit. Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 17
Bruce and Alan attempting to gain an egg sample from a suspected female archer fish.
market. I want to see how well they do with minimal involvement in terms of labour, feeding and equipment costs.” Quick Growth The fry have grown quickly in the early weeks in the pond, reaching 2.5 - 3.0 cm in 3 months, despite having a small crop of Pearl Danios (Danio albolineatus) as pond mates. This may have been assisted by the ease with which they can be fed. “They will eat absolutely anything and everything. They’ve fed on everything we have given them and are displaying their normal predatory habits by feeding on any insect that comes near the pond water.” The growth rate has slowed down over the winter season, which Bruce believes to be a normal response to the colder weather and expects the rate to increase again when warmer conditions prevail, as their preferred temperature range is between 25 and 31°C. It is believed that with these fish, the greatest problem will be when harvesting time comes, due to the fishes’ ability to jump over nets and be damaged if caught. Traditional netting methods used on the farm might be problematic as, from their prior experience in catching the original 18 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
Key Management Decisions for Ausyfish Pty Ltd includes: • Identification of the market opportunity for locally grown ‘freshwater variety’ Archer Fish. • Use of plankton pond to allow the juveniles easy access to their natural diets. • The vagaries of the climate will also have a selection effect on hardier individuals.
brood stock, most of the fish will simply jump over the net. Although the Archer Fish will be left in the pond until August or September, Bruce is already thinking around this problem. “I think we will use fyke nets,” he says. “These have wings which direct the fish into a tunnel. When the front of the net is lifted the fish have no choice but to be trapped in the tunnel and cannot jump out. From there, they can be transferred to transfer vessels quite quickly and with minimal fuss.” Another potential problem to fish growth and production is how predatory birds will affect the numbers. As the fish swim close to the surface to feed, they will become prime targets, and netting may have to be used as a protective measure. As this fish is, traditionally, a high value product, Bruce has no problem with taking extra measures to protect a the crop, although it is most likely that this first spawning will be kept and grown up as brood stock, cancelling the need to obtain more from the wild. He hopes to produce fish for market that are between 7 to 8cm in length that are currently worth between $11 to $16 at wholesale prices. However, the price will also be influenced by the volume of Archer Fish in the market. The greater
the number produced, the cheaper the market will expect to pay. If the fish can be raised easily with minimum input, a cheaper price will be viable for the farm. “We will have to see how many fish survive the winter to get a good idea how many we’ll be pushing onto the market, and at the moment it’s hard to make an estimate. Years ago, the fish were popular due to their feeding habits and curiosity value and people wanted the challenge of keeping them. However, the less hardier, brackish variety that have been the mainstay of the market lately may make people put the Archer Fish in the too hard basket, even though the fresh water variety will be much easier to keep”, laments Bruce, “But a good product that is fairly priced will always sell once the word gets out that it’s available”. And being a market innovator in both the ornamental and food fish industry, he has the experience to know! By Louise Willis For more information contact Bruce Sambell or Alan Sambell, Ausyfish Pty Ltd, PO Box 324, Childers, QLD 4660. Tel: 07 4126-2226, Fax: 07 4126-2221 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ausyfish.com.au
Thurla Farm’s Murray cod M
urray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) have long been an iconic fish in Australia; however their production has not always been commercially successful. One grower who appears to be on the right track is Col Beasley of Thurla Farms. Situated at Millewa, 20 minutes south east of Mildura in Victoria’s Mallee country, Thurla Farms is a family operation that is run on an industrial scale. It grows a wide range of produce, including 300 acres of wine grapes, 5,000 acres of dry crop, 700 acres of horticulture, and 5,000 sheep feed lot. With water becoming more precious as global climate change impacts on available reserves – not to mention costly to buy – Col is an advocate of multiple use of water. “There are 51 water storages in the Mildura area of over 100ML. We store 270ML here at Thurla; the main dam holds 130ML. We estimate we can produce 500t of fish a year from it and use the nutrient enriched water in our horticulture and other farming operations”. The project is part of the Fisheries Victoria integrated agri-aquaculture project. The principle is to utilize an already existing water delivery systems to spread the cost of water and create wealth and employment in rural districts. It will also spread farmers’ market risk, an ever present nemesis of rural communities. Thurla Farms has been involved in the project since its inception four years ago and the data so far gathered is encouraging enough for Col to be talking enthusiastically about the next step into commercial production. The water Thurla is predominantly sand hill country, ideal for viticulture and horticulture. The farm’s annual allocation of secure water is 1,400ML. This arrives at the farm along 6km of open channel and 8km of pipeline. The water storage used for aquaculture is 300m x 350m and 8m deep. The water is exchanged 11 times through the irrigation season. Annual loss from evaporation is 50M but this will be reduced from running
more cageway modules that will break wind action on the water surface and provide a certain amount of shade. The dams on the farm are clay lined. This causes water turbidity from the colloidal clay. While this minimizes light penetration it also limits temperature extremes and algae production. Plankton blooms and the subsequent crashes and the usual diurnal and nocturnal daily dissolved oxygen and pH swings are not a problem. The constant water exchange makes a major contribution to maintaining DO (Dissolved Oxygen) at 80% of saturation and prevents nutrient build up and stratification. If, at any time, water allocations are reduced, supplementary aeration is provided by paddlewheel aeration that pushes water through the netting of the cageways. There is also a blower fitted (air lift) to each raceway so that the water can be circulated and aerated from within the growing area. The farm aerates from two to eight hours a night utilizing the cheaper off-peak rates to break any stratification that might occur plus an hour during the day. The farm The floating farm has been designed in modules. Each module consists of a central holding tank 11m x 2m x 1.2m deep. Attached at right angles to each long side of this central handling cageway are eight (four a side) growing pens, each 2m x 12m x 2m deep. It sits over the deep part of the dam, 50m off the bank and is connected by a gangway. The whole farm is floated on pontoons. The pilot model is only four raceways (half module), two each side. The central compartment is fitted with grading bars so fish can be brought in, graded and drafted off into separate growing cageways, harvested or treated for parasites. Nursery cages for fish too small to be contained by the mesh in the growout cageways are attached on separate pontoons. This arrangement keeps labour to a minimum. Col says that aside from the extra hands needed for harvesting, it only takes one labour
1. Travis demonstrating the air blowers that help aerate the water and push water through the cage system. 2. The air blower mounted on the pontoon that helps maintain water quality. 3. Gangway panels being manufactured on the farm to bring the pilot module up to full capacity. 4. Travis with the framework for the central control cage from which the growout modules are mounted.
Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 19
unit to handle 200t of fish. This is within commercial cost structure parameters for finfish farming and has greatly reduced the cost of production incurred on other warmwater fish farms. “From the day the fish go into the module they are only handled once,” he says. The framework of the pilot farm is a hybrid of metal, wood and plastic construction. Once the commercial operation gets under way the modules will be totally moulded plastic. The Sunraysia District is one of the country’s most productive horticulture and viticulture regions and is well serviced with support industries. However, because of the government subsidy for rainwater tanks, most of what would normally be spare plastic moulding capacity has been taken up. Col said he expects the first commercial model to be in the water for next season’s cod spawning in August.
Water temperature and feeding Water temperature ranges are from 12°C to 28°C. It reaches 20°C in mid November and falls below that by mid May. The cod feed well down to 16°C giving an optimum growing period of seven months.
The irrigation water comes into the dam from the top and is taken off a metre above the bottom. Col said this pulls fresh oxygenated water down to the bottom and keeps the substrate aerobic. The irrigation season runs from September to May.
Col uses Skretting Classic barramundi feed – 43% crude protein 17.5MJDE. This is giving an FCR of 1.2:1 which Col feels they can get down to 1:1. In fact he sees it as a basic economic requirement if the cost of production is to be reduced to a competitive level. He’s are discussing with feed manufacturers the possibility of supplying a specific Murray cod ration in line with this target. 1. Col is shown here proudly displaying a sample of the cod grown in the growout module he designed himself. 2. The coupling designed by the Beasleys to hold the floating farm together and at the same time flex with any movement in the water surface. 3. Filamentous algae grows on the top section of the netting and is easily removed with a yard broom 4. These Murray cod are nearly ready for the market.
20 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
Col’s son Travis runs the aquaculture operation. Travis says they are able to feed 2% of body weight per day once the temperatures are over 23°C. During the winter this ration is cut down to 1% every second day. Once the water climbs back to 16°C the daily ration returns to to 1% a day and by the time it reaches
20°C they are feeding 1.5% of biomass. Feeding is delivered via a Sweeney vibrating feeder. Powered by a solar battery, the feeder can be programmed over a 24 hour period. Travis has found the cod feed best in the morning and midday. They get a third feed for the day in the evening and he is able to program the feeders to accommodate the cods’ preferences. One thing being explored at Thurla is the increased feeding activity in the raceways when fresh water is coming into the dam and the behaviour of the cod under different atmospheric conditions. Fishermen, both anglers and professionals, have long recognized that the cod bite under certain weather conditions and won’t look at a bait under other conditions. The Sweeney’s 24 hour feed regulator allows feed uptake to be maximized and, consequently, feed costs to be minimized. A mixture of floating and slow sinking feed is used. The fish feed at the surface and in the water column. However the jury at Thurla is still out as to which type of feed gives them the best results. Obviously the floating feed is easier to monitor. Whilst feed trays are not run under the pens Col reckons out that with their FCRs close to the mark, not too much is being missed. However, he does note that there are pyberry (bony bream - Nematalosa erebi) and shrimp (Macrobrachium australiense) in the incoming water and that these may be contributing to the dietary intake. While he feels this may detract from the FCRs they are recording he also feels that any waste feed is being taken up by the ‘fodder crop’. The dam is also stocked with Murray cod, golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) and silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), a ‘free range’ population not only mops up any waste feed but keeps the dam free of yabbies (Cherax destructor) that, as their scientific name implies, could create leaks by burrowing through the clay lining of the storage. Even though light penetration is minimal, filamentous algae grows on the netting of the cageways. It is restricted however to the top half metre and is easily brushed
FARM PROFILE 1
1. Here Travis is adjusting the feeding rate on the Sweeney vibrating feeder.
2. Shown here are two of the pens of the pilot module used at Thurla to prove up the methodology to be employed on a commercial scale. Note the bird netting. 3. Col and Marissa filling the hopper on the automatic feeder. 4. Removing the algae is just part of the daily routine around the farm and Travis said it takes no time at all to keep the nets clear.
off with a yard broom once a fortnight without having to remove any gear. General hardness of the water is between 240ppm and 320ppm and the pH is neutral. Carbonate hardness is 30mg/l. The proof of the water quality and the stress-free nature of operating the system, both on the operators and the fish, is reflected in the mortalities: 3% over a seven month production cycle.
Production cycle Col says the growout is not unlike the sheep feedlot he operates on the property. The fingerlings are stocked at 100g and take seven months to reach the market size of a kilo. This is three doublings in 210 days and represents an average daily gain of just under 1.25%. Each cageway holds 5,000 cod, which means an eight raceway module will produce 40 tonnes of cod over the seven month optimum growing period. The project has also grown trout and salmon in the module during the winter. The growth rate is three times better than that being achieved on the Goulbourn Valley trout farms at the same time of year. Presently the farm procures Murray cod seedstock from Queensland. But, with an eye to the 4-5 local growers who installed recirculation systems to grow fish but found the cost of production too high, he says growing fry to fingerlings would bring otherwise unutilised infrastructure back into production and help boost the local economy.
The economics With the current fuel price it costs between $1,200/ML and $1,400/ML to sink a dam. The 130ML storage on Thurla would cost $190,000 to build today. To purchase enough secure water just to fill it - at $2,600/ML - would cost $364,000 plus $182,000 to replace
evaporation. To do just two half water exchanges a year would bring the cost of securing water to over $900,000. The annual cost of that amount of water would come to $70,000. As Col says: “We’re not using water here; we’re just borrowing it.” On the other side of the equation, the
By using contract growers to grow the <1g fry up to 100 advanced stockers, Travis feels that grading in these early stages will eliminate much of the size differential that shows up in the growout cageways. It would certainly make marketing and harvesting simpler as well as lowering the mortaily rate by growing the vulnerable juveniles in a controlled environment. Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 21
130ML dam can produce 500t of Murray cod that is currently fetching $12/kg to $17/kg on limited offerings at the domestic wholesale level. That translates to between $6m and $8.5m gross return. The water use upon which Col has based production figures is 11 exchanges during the course of the irrigation season. That bumps the water usage up to 1,540ML and the procurement cost to $4m. The annual purchase price would increase to $308,000. At the moment one of the farm’s biggest costs is buying advanced stockers. It is also a management risk that is out of their hands. Col feels that eventually, when they scale up production, they will be able to reduce this cost by centralising the breeding and supply chain of 100g fingerlings. The cost of production through the smaller production systems – principally recirculation units - has been calculated at around $9.50/kg. Using the low cost production method at Thurla they have already reduced that to below $7/kg. With quantities of scale Col expects to be able to make further reductions to below $6/kg. This would make Thurla’s ‘Murray Gold’ an extremely competitive brand on any market for premium finfish. Marissa Bailey of the Department of Primary Industry (DPI) is overseeing the project. She speaks encouragingly of the system at Thurla saying there was no need for 24 hour mechanical aeration as
found in some systems. Water temperature spans in other situations in the region where the water was clear were also wider than in the colloidal clay waters, ranging from 8°C to 30°C. The markets Very much aware that growing the fish is one thing, being able to sell them is another, Col has probed overseas markets. The response has been encouraging to say the least. “We’ve sent fish to five overseas markets and the demand from every country is quite high. We just haven’t been able to produce the numbers of fish to supply that demand. Australia’s biggest seafood exporter has told us unequivocally that he’ll take every Murray cod we can produce over the next three years. “Over the project we’ve sent six shipments now to Japan. We’re receiving $17/kg FOB for HOGG fish (heads on, gilled & gutted). The Cambodians have said they’ll take 2,000t a year. The Asian market is huge,” he adds. The growing and marketing program is aimed at the premium quality market. With 95% of production earmarked for overseas’ customers, Col says they’d be keeping the pressure off the local market, enabling the price to remain buoyant. At 86% the recovery percentages after gilling and gutting are comparable with other species.
The future Judging from the above, the future looks promising for the development of Murray cod farming in the region and for Thurla Farms and those associated with the project. Markets seem secure and the crucial cost of production is under control. Sunraysia is one of the most isolated horticulture regions in Australia and Col is conscious of the benefits that will flow on to the local economy from the development of an aquaculture industry. This isolation has its benefits. The region has of necessity over the decades developed a comprehensive infrastructure, service and transportation sectors. “We’ve registered the name ‘Murray Gold’ and patented our system. We want the fish here. We want to generate income out of the area. We can handle the whole chain with the infrastructure already in the district,” he says. “Aquaculture’s in its infancy up here. We’ve still got a fair bit to do, but we’ve got a lot of confidence in the whole system. This is as much about building an industry as growing fish.” By John Mosig Col Beasley or Travis Beasley can be contacted by phone on (03) 5024 1203 or by email on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Russell Sydenham pictured with several of the products produced at the farm. Including; smoked trout pate, whole smoked trout, trout caviar.
Value adding trout at Arc-En-Ciel The award winning recipe at the Arc-en-Ciel Trout Farm in central NSW has been expanded by the new owners with increased range of value added products as well as the re-introduction of their fish-out facilities.
he Arc-En-Ciel (it’s French for rainbow) trout farm was built in 1984 by Ron and Ivy Bishop. The farm grows Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). It is located at Hanging Rock, which is 20 minutes from Nundle in New South Wales some 80km from Tamworth, 2.5 hours’ drive from Hunter Valley, and 4 hours from Newcastle. The farm is 1,200m above sea level on top of the Great Dividing Range with the Peel Valley to the East
and the Hunter Valley to the South. The farm is now owned and run by the Sydenham family - Russell, wife Meg, and son Roger. It produces around 12 tonnes of fish a year. By value approximately 65% of the product is smoked and 35% is sold as fresh or fillets. Russell previously sold office consumables. He became interested in aquaculture when NSW Fisheries
released an aquaculture strategy document. Russell attended several meetings, which drove the interest into a passion and he began researching aquaculture in Australia. The research aided Russell to form a checklist of ‘must haves’ for the aquaculture enterprise he would like to own. This made assessing properties easier and attempted to remove emotion from the largely business decision. Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 23
1. Roger, Russell and Meg, Sydenham with their most popular product sold at the farm, smoked trout fillets, which retail $55/kg. 2. Hatchery in the serene silence of a fresh winter coating of snow. The perfect environment for cold water species such as trout. 3. Hatchery holding tanks with fresh clean water directly from the spring water, which surfaces on the Sydenham’s property. The fish are held here when nearing stocking into one of the 4 grow out ponds. 3
Russell first touched base with the Bishops around 3 to 4 years prior to purchasing the property, however, at that stage the Sydenhams were not in a position to up root their lives, with children at school and the respective stages of their careers. Despite looking at various different aquaculture enterprises the Sydenhams kept returning to Arc En Ciel, with its beautiful surrounds as it was a well established trout farm with a twentyplus year track record. In January 2006 the Sydenham’s finally ‘took the plunge’ and purchased the farm and began their new challenge. Like many other farmers, they find in today’s climate it is difficult to solely rely on the farm income, so Meg provides an off farm income as a qualified psychologist. Their ultimate goal is for the farm to provide sufficient income to sustain their lifestyle choice. 24 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
Water supply The farm’s water source is a spring which becomes the foundation of McDivitts Creek, which flows into the Barnard River. Russell is able to draw from the spring via a diversion licence (20ML, which was reduced to 10ML during the drought). The spring forms the boundary of the Sydenhams’ property with their neighbour but there is minimal contamination from their neighbour’s property prior to the water being used within the fish farm. “Being at the start of the water supply ensures there are no unexpected surprises with the water quality being deteriorated by other upstream users,” explained Russell. “This ensures our waterway remains clean well into the future.” The farm is 202ha, with the total area underwater approximately 2ha, consisting of four lined ponds (6m x 12m x 1.83m deep). There are also three hatching troughs (40cm wide by 3.35m long) and four juvenile holding tanks (3.2m dia.). Water is exchanged about every 3 hours in the ponds (12L/second) and is exchanged four times an hour within the hatchery. The wastewater from the farm is able to be discharged directly into the river, without the use of a settlement pond. The water exiting the
system has had an excellent testing history with the EPA; as a result around 12 months ago the EPA approached Russell with the intention of reducing the testing frequency of the discharge water to twice a year. “With the reduction of testing they have further reduced our costs, we were very pleasantly surprised when they approached us,” Russell told Austasia Aquaculture. Upon taking possession of the farm the State was in the midst of one of the longest droughts and the preceding 12 months were the driest and hottest on record for Hanging Rock. As a result Russell needed to find alternatives to ensure an adequate water supply to culture trout. “Our water flow was significantly reduced last summer leaving us with few options, so we altered the farm to include a recirculation pump which enables 50% of the water to be recirculated at times of low water flow. We only use the pumps when we are required to, as we were last summer. Around 6 weeks ago we began to receive good rain and snow falls which have enabled us to return to the flow through system once more.” Stocking Fertilised eggs are sourced from a Tasmanian hatchery and are hatched
and grown in the troughs. The ponds are normally stocked with fingerlings at around 50g. Under normal conditions the farm produces fish from egg to plate size in around 10 months, under the drought conditions this was closer to 12 to 14 months. Last summer Russell purchased around 50,000 eggs. “Currently we have the capacity to hatch up to 80,000 eggs in the hatchery. There is room to further expand the hatchery operation in the future with space to add more trays and troughs to the current system.” Trout fingerlings (greater than 20g) grown on the farm are also sold for stocking in farm dams. Again, during the drought this form of income was reduced due to most farmers having very little water in their dams. The fish are hand fed three to four times a day, with a Ridley 90% floating feed. “We are currently gaining further advice from Ridley as they have some new products that are designed to aid in enticing shy fish to feed,” explained Russell. “There can be problems if you have shy and dominant fish within the system. When this occurs the net result is a larger disparity in growth rate within the ponds. The new Ridley products are designed to have a larger portion of feed that will sink, making more feed available to the shy fish.”
airlines in the ponds and the hatchery.” By separating the two airlines Russell was able to increase his control over the two systems. The small tank based hatchery and the large pond based grow out systems required different air pressures to effectively maintain the two systems. “Trying to achieve this with the one airline and pumping system was simply inadequate, since separating the two systems they have both operated far more effectively.” Predators The farm enjoys very few problems from aerial predators due to it’s heavily treed location in a temperate rainforest valley. However cormorants have been a problem at the fish-out dam, but the majority of predation risk is only when the fish are fingerlings. “The cormorants were also at their peak during the drought. Due to the lack of alternative food for the birds in the surrounding area they came to the farm. We simply used to scare them away from the ponds. Since the arrival of rains in recent months and the resurgence of surrounding rivers the cormorants have
Two diaphragm pumps push air through the ponds to enable oxygen to be dissolved into the water. “We installed a second bank of diaphragm pumps shortly after acquiring the property as there were problems with maintaining adequate pressure in the lines. We have also separated the
The other predators encountered on the farm include feral cats, foxes and quolls. “We had one cunning fox that used to watch us grading and feeding the fish. He used to catch quite a few. We did have to remove him from the farm. The quolls, however, are more annoying than destructive. They tend to set off the alarms at night; they are hopeless fish hunters, so very few fish are affected by them”. Feral cats can also be a problem. “Luckily we don’t have many, but their claws damage the fish even if the cat has not been successful in catching any.” Marketing Weekly operations generally involve orders being taken on a Monday with smoking on Tuesday and Wednesday for delivery to Tamworth. Harvesting of the fish involves the use of a large framed pull-through net in the targeted harvest pond. Fish are then netted out
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If all fish receive the same amount of feed the frequency of grading can be reduced, which saves both time and money within the operation. Currently Russell grades the fish on a weekly basis. Water temperatures vary substantially throughout the year. They range from 4°C in winter to 19°C in summer. Summer temperatures are high in the upper range for salmonids with the fish experiencing minimal stress.
moved onto other areas within the district. As a result they are not considered a significant problem and we have not found the need to install bird netting at this stage.”
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Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 25
MANAGEMENT METRICS Key Management Decisions for Arc-En-Ciel Trout include: • Expansion in the number of products being sold, with focus on changing the product mix to maximise income. • Installation of additional aeration systems and the recirculation of water when inlet supplies are low. • Improvements to the back-up and disaster recovery systems. • Re-introduction of the fish-out facility and collaboration with accommodation venues to publicise facilities on offer. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture System utilised: ponds and tanks, flow-through. • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <11 months (250g to 600g) • Survival rate: 90% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: 20kg/m3 or per culture unit (range is 20kg to 30kg/m3) • Annual harvest: 12 tonnes • Production rate: 6,000kg per ha (growout system area) per year • Water use: 200L per kg produced per year • Power use: <1kW per kg produced per year • FCR: approximately 1:1 (number of kg of food to produce 1kg stock).
and placed into a batching bin beside the pond, before transfer into the processing plant, where a person is waiting to hit the fish on the head with a ‘killing tool’ to ensure the fish are quickly and humanely slaughtered before being gilled and gutted. “Our processing facility is about 100m2, and has concrete flooring and insulated cool room panels. We have a gutting trough, vacuum packer, stainless benches, freezer, cool room, smoker, and washing sink. We employ three casual staff to help with the processing 26 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
and tourism facilities.” The fish are placed onto stainless steel racks and smoked for 18 to 25 minutes achieving a minimum core temperature of 70°C.” The wood used for smoking is a local hardwood growing naturally on the property. Once out of the smoker the fish are allowed to cool, then each fish is individually packed in a sealed poly bag ready for market. Smoked pate, whole fresh fish and fillets, whole smoked trout and fillets, and more recently trout caviar are also produced. “We are also looking to develop further caviar products including smoked trout caviar and ginger trout caviar. We want to increase the return of the business by increasing the number of value added products we offer, rather than attempting to significantly increase production of the farm.” Tourism Expansion The ability of the farm to sell directly to the public enables good retail prices to be attained. Fresh whole fish are sold for around $20/ kg, smoked $30/kg, fresh fillets $40/kg and smoked pate $55/kg. Upon taking over the farm the Sydenhams were very vigilant about maintaining the methods and techniques of the previous owners, as what they were doing was working. “This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, however, I believe when taking over a new business (especially a successful one) changes need to be introduced slowly and only once the previous methods have been trialled,” explained Russell. “When we first took possession of the farm we spoke to the previous owners and asked what additions they would make to the business if they were in a position to do so. Their response was tourism. We set off researching the ideas and we found there were three common factors between all successful rural attractions. They all provided people with something to see, something to do and something to buy – all at the one location.”
Russell started the farm tours and renewed the lapsed fish-out licence. He has also opened a coffee/gift shop on site. “In the future we are looking to expand the coffee shop to include light meals for visitors also.” Russell is also involved in the Community Development Program and the Small Towns and Villages Program within Nundle, to help attract more people into the town. “I work closely with the local accommodation within Nundle, which has proven to be a beneficial partnership for both parties. The more attractions in the area that the accommodation venues can suggest to people, the longer they stay.” The type of promotion for the different farm products varies. The fish-out profile has been largely lifted through word of mouth recommendations and Nundle promotional websites on which the farm appears. The Tourism Tamworth office also plays a key role in sending visitors to the farm, especially during the Country Music Festival held each January. “The pride we take in the quality of our fish, the reliable clean spring water and the friendly service will ensure we continue and build on the previous success of the farm,” Russell told Austasia Aquaculture. “We also accommodate tour buses. We generally provide either a meal and fishing or meal and tour packages, which are proving very popular.” The farm currently attracts around 2000 people per year. “We are considering adding yabbies to our licence to add another dimension to the farm.” Other farm income comes from harvesting tree ferns, which are grown on the property, both Dicksonia Antarctica (soft tree fern) and Cyathia spp. (hard tree ferns). By Jennifer Savage with Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Russell Sydenham, Arc-En-Ciel Trout Farm: ‘Malonga’, Hanging Rock, NSW 2340. Tel: 02 6769-3665, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
F E AT U R E 1
Silver and white amur ‘clean up’ in waterway restoration H
o w would you like to be farming a species that could be grown both without fishmeal and at the same time be a decided benefit to the environment? Gray Jamieson of New Zealand Waterways Restoration Ltd (NZWR) is doing just that. Based at Warkworth, about an hour’s drive north of Auckland, his company has the rights to stock both white amur (Ctenopharyngodon idella) and silver amur (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) in New Zealand for weed and algae control. Fishmeal replacement in aquaculture diets has long been a goal of fish farmers and nutritionists. Researchers have experimented with all sorts of protein source replacement to reduce the industry’s dependence on the wild harvest of this high value product. By and large, particularly when feeding high order predators, this has not proved to be cost effective. However, the two amur species respond admirable to herbivorous diets. They are native to the Amur River in Siberia and grown extensively in China as a table fish. They also play an important role in biological weed control.
Jamieson says the advantages of biological weed control in an aquatic situation are obvious. “Herbicide use only destroys the living plant leaving the nutrients free in the system, polluting the waterway and eventually finishing up in the sea. From any point of view, this is not acceptable. By using weed eating species like white and silver amur, the consumed nutrients are converted to fish flesh and the intrusive aquatic plants are removed to make way for the recovery of native vegetation and beneficial phytoplankton”. The two amur species work in conjunction with each other. White amur literally eat grass while the silver amur are filter feeders, taking out the harmful algae species.
White amur White amur are veracious feeders. Young fish – 25cm to 40cm – will consume over 70% of their body weight a day in wet aquatic machrophytes. Even mature fish can remove up to 70% of their body weight in wet vegetable matter under optimum temperature conditions. Their selection range also depends on temperature. Under optimum circumstances – 18°C to 28°C - they will consume any vegetation within reach, including raupo (Typhaceae – cumbungi [Aust]) rhizomes and filamentous algae (Spirogyra). At temperatures of 14°C their selection range is confined to preferred species. At <10°C they cease feeding altogether. Polyculture They have a shorter digestive tract than most herbivorous species and when the amur are feeding voraciously, when the water temperatures are about 20°C, around half the vegetable matter consumed will pass through
1. Gray Jamieson collecting juvenile amur as part of the regular monitoring of growth rates and general health. 2. A net full of white amur ready for stocking in a water restoration program. 3. A juvenile silver amur 4. White amur fingerlings gather around a water intake in one of the nursery ponds NZWR’s Perry Road establishment.
Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007 27
F E AT U R E 1
1. A juvenile white amur.
2. One of the broodstock ponds at NZWR. Note the clarity of the water and the neatness of the grass around the edge of the pond. 4
3. Ponds heavily infested with filamentous and blue green algae, such as this one, are cleaned up biologically by stocking with silver amur. 4. An aerial view of the Perry Road Fish Farm, Warkworth. 5. Hatchery Technician Adrian Paarman holding a female silver amur broodstock at Mahurangi Technical Institute.
the gut undigested. While this seems wasteful at first glance, it provides a rich food source for detrital feeders such as daphnia and freshwater crayfish and shrimps. Conveniently, the temperature range at which this occurs is also coincides with the optimum temperature for freshwater crustacean production. In a pond situation this would generate two crops without having to feed either of them. In a wild situation, daphnia and freshwater crayfish are a major food source of omnivorous and carnivorous finfish. As a further credential of their suitability for biological aquatic weed control, they do not breed in New Zealand waters. NZWR contracts the Mahurangi Technical Institute (MTI) (AA 21-2) to breed the species at their Warkworth facility. One of its outstanding successes has been the restoration of Lake Omapere in New Zealand’s Northland. This 1,200ha lake was threatened with biological collapse in 2001. Within three years of their introduction, white amur had eradicated the carpet of Egeria densa that threatened to kill most of its aquatic life. 28 Austasia Aquaculture | September 2007
Silver amur Silver amur are filter feeders removing plankton, including toxic blue green algal blooms. They will also feed on surface scum and have proved invaluable in cleaning up several eutrophic waters in New Zealand and other parts of the world. Their natural range is Eastern China, the upper Amur and its tributaries. Because of its ability to control harmful plankton blooms and value as a table fish, it has been introduced to many countries around the world. Unlike the white amur, it has an elongated alimentary canal and is an efficient feeder, consuming 10% to 15% of its body weight daily. Optimum conditions are similar to those for white amur. Like the white amur, it can only be bred in New Zealand by hormone inducement making it an ideal biological control species. Growth rates Under restoration conditions – high available food levels – growth rates for white amur are impressive. Jamieson says that white amur were stocked in Lake
Western Springs in Auckland at 25cm (250gms). They were grown out to that size on the farm to ensure good survival. After 12 months the stocked fish reached an average weight of 2.5kg. After their second full year they were 4.5kg. These are highly commercial outcomes. Silver amur don’t have the same veracious appetite as white amur but they still reach impressive sizes having been measured at 12kg in New Zealand and 20kg overseas. Jamieson didn’t have any restoration site data but he has noticed that they outgrow white amur in the fry ponds. Breeding techniques Once the ponds reach 19°C and the eggs are in an advanced stage, broodstock are brought into the MTI hatchery for the final conditioning. The actual breeders are selected on egg condition and spermatozoa mobility. Dr. Tagried Kurwie says she liked to see the eggs at the vesicle migration (eccentric nucleus) stage. White amur are easier to breed than silver amur. In fact, until NZWR developed their process of managing waterway restoration two years ago
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