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Volume 22 No 1 – March 2008

Stocking density on prawn farms Koi breeding a work of art Barra destined for world markets NSW oysters thrive on good water Health strategy for silver perch Australis wins sustainability award Sea cucumber in Queensland Cod research finds promising opportunity

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47 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:


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.

39 FA R M P R O F I L E S Stocking density management critical for Gold Coast prawn farm


Steve Grammer builds new government standards into viable fish hatchery 9

NSW’s Health Management Strategy for silver perch


Giant Kokopu exported in world first


Australis wins Australian Sustainability Award for Environment


$140 million Innovative CRC to reinvigorate seafood industry


TECHNOLOGY INVE Aquaculture launches new logo


Multi purpose tray aids aquaculture & agriculture industries


The breeding of a piscatorial work of art


WBA barra destined for the world


Sea cucumber aquaculture in far north Queensland


Historic Ballarat hatchery pivotal in introducing salmonids


Murray cod: research quantifies a promising opportunity



F E AT U R E S NSW oyster industry looks to better water quality


Clean Waters Model for progressive councils


Better Beef Assist Better Oysters


Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 1

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Farm Manager Darell Herbst with a net full of harvested prawns.

Stocking density management critical for Gold Coast prawn farm Two of the prawn industry’s most experienced farmers – Noel Herbst and Nick Moore – are now working together. Well known for their fierce but friendly competition to ‘grow the best prawn’ over many years, Noel and Nick have joined forces. What else could be expected with two such people but a continued and steady growth with a focus on environmental management and quality control at Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture.


old Coast Marine Aquaculture is a prawn farming institution. Founded by Noel Herbst in 1985 the farm has had many outstanding achievements ... from winning awards for the quality produce to significant increases in the facility’s productivity. Awards include the 1998 SEAQUAL gold award for leadership in Quality Management as well as several gold medals at the Sydney Royal Show’s Fine Food Aquaculture competition for cooked Black Tiger Prawns (Penaeus monodon).

Nick Moore, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture’s general manager, is likewise a well known figure in the prawn farming industry having been on the Australian Prawn Farmers Association for 14 years and the general manager of Seafarm Pty Ltd (Australia’s largest prawn farm) for over 19 years.

to prawn farming. Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture is located at the mouth of the Logan River in Woongoolba on the northern end of Queensland’s Gold Coast. The catchment of the Logan River is known to be impacted by a large number of human activities and the prawn farmers don’t want to add to the problem.

Own ecosystem The importance of good environmental management and sustainability is a hallmark of both Nick and Noel’s approach

“We manage our farm as an ecosystem with its own intake and discharge points,” says Nick. “We do our own water quality testing on a daily basis in both the morning and the evening. We Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 3


The farm have won numerous awards for the quality of their Black Tiger Prawns.

Management metrics Key Management Decisions for Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture include: • Lined ponds and walls to reduce erosion and solids input • Large area for water treatment and bioremediation with aquatic plants and fish • Selective harvesting of prawns during growout period to manage stocking density • Integrated – two hatcheries, onsite process and freezing/holding facilities • Continual focus on innovation and quality control. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture System utilised: lined ponds, usually 1ha • Growth rate (from stocking to market): 5 to 6 months to 30g+ • Survival rate: 73% • Av. stocking density: Maximum of 40 m2 can be down to 30 m2 • Annual harvest: One crop per year, an excess of 250 tonne is considered a good harvest, with 320 tonne from 27 hectares as the farm’s record harvest in 2006/07. • Production rate: 8-12 tonnes/ha/year • Water use: 47,000,000 LT per pond/crop • FCR: 1 : 1.5 - 1.7 • Productivity: 8-12 tonnes per Effective Fulltime Unit (240 days, 48wk x 40hr)

test the dissolved oxygen levels, temperature, pH and algal density on a daily basis and salinity weekly. We manage the densities of the prawns and how much food we put in. The discharge is also tested every two weeks for total nitrogen, total phosphorus and total suspended solids. Due to the treatment system for our farm we find that the quality of the discharge is often better than the river water especially levels of the total suspended solids! “The secret of our exceptional discharge quality is our water treatment system and good pond management. Our treatment system covers 30% of the farm. All of the effluent travels through this system which incorporates a settlement pond divided into ten sections, each one linked to the next section. This enhances the retention time of the water allowing a longer time for suspended solids to settle out of the water as well as increasing bioremediation undertaken by aquatic plants and fish (mullet and milkfish) that are in the pond.” The facility’ 31 ponds covering over 27 hectares are currently being augmented

4 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


another 22 ponds, each one hectare in size. Ten ponds of these are ready for the 2007/08 growout season giving a total working area of 37 hectares.

The onsite facilities are capable of processing one tonne an hour of prawns which includes grading, cooking and freezing.

The farm has two onsite hatcheries. “We have used our own broodstock for the last five years and supplemented it with some wild caught broodstock from Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory,” explains Nick. “Each year we select from thousands of our own stock and only take 200 or 300 from the wild. Selective breeding is difficult in monodon so we consider anything over 20% of the stock being domesticated to be a success. In 2006/07 we stocked 20% of the farm with pond reared progeny – in 2007/08 we expect to stock 40%.” The hatcheries contain ten tonne parabolic tanks which are each stocked with 1 million nauplii. Each tank also has its own heater to maintain the temperature at 29°C as well as its own water supply and alarm systems. The water in the hatchery is filtered to 1 micron and treated with ozone and UV sterilisation prior to use in the tanks. While in the hatchery the larvae are fed a combination of algae and Artemia, both of which are grown onsite to guarantee the reliability of the quantity and quality of the live feed.

GCMAs markets are mostly wholesale but they do supply our Gold Coast Tiger Prawns direct to the public on Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 3:00pm.

“The hatcheries contain about 800 tonne of water,” says Nick. “Our best production has been 48 million but at full capacity the hatchery can stock 80 million. We only use 15 million to stock our own facility and we sell the rest to other farms. We are currently supplying New South Wales and the Northern Territory but we are able to stock any part of Australia.”

When the prawns reach PL15-17 they stocked at a density of 40 per metre. The ponds are mostly around 1 hectare and their plastic lining also covers the edges. This eliminates erosion of the pond banks, in turn reducing the total

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For transport, the Post Larvae (PL) are packed in plastic bags with water at a density of around 10,000 PL to a bag. Shipments are sent by air as it is the fastest, most reliable method and reduces stress thereby keeping mortalities to a minimum.

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 5


An aerial view of some of the 31 ponds on the farm.

suspended solids and helpoing to maintain water quality. “We hold up to around 400,000 PLs in a pond where they are kept until they are ready for harvest. However, we do reduce the density in the ponds as they grow by selective harvesting so we don’t put too much pressure on the pond.” Selective Harvesting While the farm doesn’t undertake any specific grading during the growout stages they do perform selective target netting. “We use a net which has a range of set mesh sizes,” explains Nick. “We use this net to do a partial harvest of the larger prawns which will remain in the net while the smaller ones pass through. The frequency that we do this is dependant on a number of factors such as the time of the year, the estimated stocking density and the quality of the stock. “We have been able to achieve a harvest of 10 tonnes per hectare of prawns 30g or more by using this method to reduce the density (and therefore the pressure 6 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

on the pond). GCMA has maintained this standard for the last two years. Very few other farms can boast this achievement.” With the daily water quality monitoring the farm can ensure the prawns have the best possible conditions. “We have an average water exchange of 1-2% a day over the life of the crop and each pond is set up with 20 horsepower of aeration. We use both air injectors and paddlewheel aerators.” By ensuring high water quality the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks are minimised. “A lot of diseases are stress related so we reduce the pressure on the system, decrease biomass and maintain water movement with aeration. “The presence of endemic disease is natural and we can live with it. I have more concern about the potential threat of disease from prawns imported from overseas. The government has already banned raw imports from countries that have diseases we do not have such as

white spot, yellow head and taura syndrome. “I don’t have any issue with the importation of all prawn product – just the raw product. If we were to introduce any new disease from overseas it would potentially be a disaster for not just the prawn farming industry but for the wild catch also. Because of the good health status of Australia we naturally have a high survival rate and together with our superb water, good feeds and correct aeration it is normal for us to be able to expect harvests of eight tonne/hectare or more.” High survival rate The farm has an excellent survival rate from first stocking to sale of 73% “We think a survival rate of 60% is acceptable and that over 70% survival is terrific,” Nick suggests. “In prawn farming you come across many problems and once you’ve been in the industry for a while you’ve usually experienced them all. So you try to solve them and make sure they don’t happen again. We have


alarm systems for loss of power (for all farm equipment) and water temperature (hatchery), as well as coldroom air temperatures in our processing and our freezer storage. The farm also has backup generators to ensure that essential equipment can be run during any power losses.� The farm has very few problems with predation onsite. “The main predators we could have would be wading birds and they don’t cause us significant concerns. Likewise the diving birds such as the shags and cormorants. The settlement pond – which is stocked with fish – has proven to be a more popular target. It’s an added bonus from that extensive treatment system.� Whilst in the ponds the prawns are fed on a commercial diet produced by Ridleys and C.P. “We try to use Australian food where possible. We are currently achieving a food conversion ratio of 1.5-1.7 which we are happy with.� The size and frequency of the feed is dependant on the size and the appetite of the prawns in the pond. Feeding is done using the feed truck which is

equipped to hold enough food to feed the whole farm in one go (about 1.5 tonnes) and a blower to evenly distribute the feed over the pond to ensure all the stock gets fed. The farm usually goes through around three tonnes of feed a day; at full production towards the end of the season this can rise to 6t/ day. At full size the prawns are fed five times per day. Single Production Crop Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture produces one crop per year; the ponds are stocked in September and grown out until the end of April. It employs 17 people during the slow season (May -August) but during peak season that number rises to 29. Once the prawns have reached 30g or more the pond is harvested and the prawns are taken to an onsite processing plant equipped to process one tonne an hour of prawns. This includes grading, cooking and freezing the prawns depending on the market. The plant is both AQIS and HACCP certified. A onsite blast freezer and high capacity storage for frozen product sig-

nificantly increases the quality of the frozen prawns. “Our markets are mostly wholesale but we do supply our Gold Coast Tiger Prawns direct to the public on Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 3:00pm.� Once the ponds are emptied (usually before May) it is time to start cleaning them ready to stock for September. All the dirt and inorganics from the bottom of the pond are removed. These would mainly be dirt from erosion and any suspended solids the rain may have brought in. This sediment is used as landfill and makes for an excellent topsoil especially for salt tolerant grasses. The pond is then left to dry, harrowed and turned over. Lime is added to neutralise the pH in the soil and then the pond is ready to be filled and stocked for the next successful season. By Andrina Fay and Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Nick Moore, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, Marks Rd, Woongoolba, Qld 4207. Tel: 07 5546-1361, Fax: 07 5546-1492, email:


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Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 7



Austasia usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | June June 2008 2008 8 A


Steve Grammer builds new government standards into viable fish hatchery T

he NSW Fisheries Hatchery Quality Assurance (HQA) requirements will see some dramatic changes in the native fish breeding sector in that state. One breeder who has invested in the future the industry is Steve Grammer of Namoi Valley Aquafarming (NVA). Steve, an earth moving contractor by profession, has been farming fish since 1993 and in that time he has built up one of the most progressive operations in NSW.

Steve demonstrates how aeration is controlled from a central panel.

The farm Consisting of 50 ponds, the farmed area covers 8ha. Steve has approval for 80 ponds and plenty of bore and irrigation allotment water to be able to farm all of them. Water is pumped into a 0.25ha x 4m deep turkey’s nest holding dam from two sources and delivered around the farm through a 90mm pipe. One bore delivers 18,000L/hr and the other twice as much. This gives the farm a daily capacity if required of 1.3ML. The water has a pH of 5.5 before aeration blows off the excess CO2. It is soft, gin-clear, with no iron or salts and at a constant 22.5°C. This enables Steve to use it in the hatchery to manipulate water temperatures. Pond sizes vary, as you would expect on a diverse hatchery that breeds golden and silver perch (Macquaria ambigua & Bidyanus bidyanus), eel tail catfish (Tandanus tandanus) and Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii). Ponds range from 0.05ha through to 0.5ha larvae production ponds with all sizes in between to cover the numerous stock handling and holding contingencies that arise. Steve’s 250ha of scrubby country is undulating and the irrigation delivery channel runs through the property. The ponds are set in the contour of the land. The hatchery is set beside the holding dam and the water is gravity-fed through the hatchery before going off to the production ponds, broodstock holding ponds. It finishes up in the yabby production ponds.

The hatchery is flow-through supported by aeration. The property is only single phase which, Steve says, is more expensive but the whole farm being gravity fed does cut down on power use. Three phase power is not an option: bringing it onto the farm would cost $150,000. Power is available at the production ponds and the aeration units are all fitted with timers. Mechanical aeration is only needed intermittently with water exchange the preferred method of aeration at night. Such water movement has

the added benefit of boosting plankton production in the larval ponds. Steve imported some 1.5hp Italian paddle wheels over ten years ago and they’re still in operation. “They cost $450 at the time and I’ve certainly had my money’s worth out of them.” He reckons some of the attractively-priced Asian models have limited life spans. A big investment in the hatchery is a sign of Steve’s faith in the future of the industry. It will cost NVA $100,000 to Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 9


around the farm) and clean sand – also readily available on the property – is spread back over the sandstone. This renovation process has ensures that the ponds are ‘fresh’ and healthy. While disease and water quality management are on-going management practices at NVA, outbreaks have not been an issue. Being away from any major wetland has meant that the bird problem is minimal. The prolonged El Niño has also taken its toll of the local population of predators.

The new drive through QA hatchery at NVA With demand increasing for over wintered larger fish for stock enhancement, grading is becoming a regular task at NVA.

A cod nesting box made up of two cherry bins joined endwise.

Natural food Some angling clubs feel that they get better results from on-grown fish and would rather pay a little extra and stock larger fish in the Spring when the season is on the up rather than in the winter when flows are traditionally low, feed scarce, predators hungry to lay on fat for the winter and the water is cooling. Instead of leaving the farm in the autumn as 35m to 40mm fry, these fish will be grown out to 80g to 100g fingerlings Happily Steve has found he can grow silver perch ‘organically’. One 0.3ha pond stocked with 3,000 silvers reached a kilo in two years on natural feed. Production cycle Under the new Hatchery QA regulations, licensed hatcheries will be given collection permits for the designated zones. Steve intends to carry broodstock for four zones: • Zone 4 –Barwon, Gwydir, Castlereagh & Namoi rivers; • Zone 5 –Macquarie River; • Zone 6 Lachlan River; • Zone 8 Darling & Bogan rivers.

top meter or so is clay and sand but once that’s scraped away there’s a bed of sandstone. To build a pond, Steve moves the top down to the sandstone and builds the pond in it. Then a layer of sand goes back over the solid base.

bring its production facility into line with the NSW Hatchery Quality Assurance (HQA). The plumbing is all set under the concrete floor. Breeding is done in the warmer months so ambient temperatures are acceptable within the requirements of the species. Sliding doors allow the temperature to be controlled by airflow and the concrete floor is reinforced to allow vehicles to be driven through. The north south lying building has 40mm insulation.

An advantage of having the firm base is that as soon as a pond is drained he can get in with machinery and start any maintenance that needs doing. Production ponds are drained after each cycle and the substrate scarified.

The property has its own gravel pit and the roads all-weather. Steve says 90% of the ponds are built on sandstone. The

Every second or third year each pond is dried out and the silt build-up scraped out with a bobcat (for use as top dressing

10 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

Being so far north and so far west, the NVA season is earlier than most Murray Darling hatcheries. Cod breeding starts in late August and finishes late October. Perch, both golden and silver, can be bred between September and May. This spread season, coupled with the sandstone underlay of the ponds, allows Steve to turn his production ponds over at least twice a year, sometime three times. The cod are bred from eggs collected from nesting boxes placed in broodstock ponds. After collecting the eggs from the nesting boxes they are incubated at around 20°C. Steve has found that by manipulating the water temperature he


can hasten or extend the incubation and yolk sac phases. He has learnt to do this so egg batches that have been spawned apart can be stocked in the plankton ponds at the same time. Incubation can be spread from 4-7 days, up to nine and even ten days at a pinch. The yolk sac phase is not quite as flexible. 8-12 days sees them ready to take feed. They are then stocked in freshly flooded ponds at 50/m2 to 75/m2. Harvesting is strictly controlled. Steve has found cannibalism to be a major factor in survival percentages. “By four weeks they’re 25 to 30mm long and by eight weeks they’re 40 to 50mm,” he says. “Twelve weeks is the longest you can leave them in the ponds before the increased value is less than the losses from cannibalism. Some of the shooters will be over a 100g by this stage whereas the average for the rest of the pond is 8g. They take anything that moves in front of them. I’ve counted up to six fingerlings in some of them. You might only get 50 shooters in a pond, but when they’re taking a feed every two or three days it soon adds up.” The hatcheryy usuallyy onlyy needs to do

One of Steve’s ‘stud’ cod rises to the ‘bait’.

one pond of silver perch to cover its orders and they are done in conjunction with the golden perch. The perch are induced with hormones. Golden perch females are given a 1,000i.u./kg injection; the males, if at all, receive 500i.u./ kg of body weight. The silver perch females get a 500i.u./kg jab and the males a 300i.u./kg dose. They are held in the hatchery during the 27 hour incubation period. After a further three days they are stocked in freshly flooded p p plankton ponds at 100/m2 to 150/m2.

Whilst the farm also carries eel tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus), broodstock but orders are small and NSW Fisheries currently has an embargo on the movement of catfish. So until that embargo has been lifted Steve says breeding catties is off the schedule. The farm’s infrastructure and business model has been built up over 14 years. It works extremely well and the attention to detail clearly evident. Of course, with Steve being an earth moving contractor, p to a minimum. Part of costs are kept

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the planning can be seen in the yabby operation. The water that is cycled through the hatchery and ponds finishes up in the yabby production ponds. There is 2.3ha devoted to yabby (Cherax destructor) production. These ponds are very productive. Steve says it’s only during June and July that berried females can’t be found. Nutrient demand is satisfied with hay and a local pellet that’s fed lightly – 40kg a month – to supply calcium for shell production. Water replenishment from up-line production ponds to replace evaporative losses also ensures a steady inflow of nutrient-rich water. Over 137,000 juvenile yabbies were sold last year. Farm Water Manager Ron Bonhart explains that things have changed in many areas. “You used to be able to go out to your local yabby dam and get enough bait yabbies for a month of fishing. But the bores have all been capped and the bore drains converted to pipes. And bobby cod (Spangled perch Leiopotherapon unicolour) have found their way into the yabby holes the drought hasn’t wiped out. We get orders from all over the place. We even sent some down to Wangaratta the other day (N.E. Victoria).”

A fish transport box at NVA

Catfish breed naturally in the ponds, however sales are restricted to aquarium trade.

As an aside, Steve notes that bobby cod are in many respects a miniature cod which grow to a kilo – a 250g fish is a plate size meal – and are excellent eating. He wonders whether we may be overlooking a potential aquaculture species. Markets Most sales are for re-stocking fish. Murray cod is the hatchery’s flagship fish and it produces between 250,000 and half a million depending on orders. Golden perch come close in value numbering around a million tails. About 200,000 silver perch are sold, mostly going to on-growers. Bait sales through the angling network, distributors and door sales have paid for the operating costs and any profit has been ploughed back into the farm. It is now a viable operation. The investment in the new hatchery has been the last major expenditure. It’s worth noting that Steve reckons that if he knew now when he started in aquaculture he probably wouldn’t have built his first dam. “Fish farming is a 24/7 job. We’ve seen

12 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


so many go by the wayside. There’s no part time in aquaculture,” he says. NVA have received inquiries for cod from overseas as far away as Canada, but it is still China and South East Asia that make up the bulk of the export enquiries. There has even been interest shown in the Middle East. The backbone of the industry is still the re-stocking sector led by the angling clubs. Steve says that the farm is set up to cater for the department’s new hatchery regulations regarding tagged broodstock and catchment controls through the QA policy. He says that it would be relatively easy to change the farm over to a performance-enhancing genetic production for farmed fish. However to go the other way (ie from a genetic program to a re-stocking program based on the NSW catchment enhancement regulations) isn’t so simple. Recognizing that his investment was already in re-stocking, and aware of the long lead time to recoup investment in a performance-based genetic program, he says it would take a fair-sized financial enticement to persuade him to change from his present direction. The future Steve is not so sure about the future of the inland aquaculture sector. While prices for the product were increasing, so were costs. It doesn’t affect his business so much, but he feels those growing table fish will be hit hard by increasing feed prices, transport costs and regulatory costs. With the new Quality Assurance protocols soon due to be embodied in regulations, it is envisaged that the hatchery sector in NSW will take another step up. Orders from angling associations are strong, despite the drought, and the NSW governments dollar for dollar scheme drawn from angling licences has encouraged fishing clubs to become proactive. Coupled with interest in cod from overseas and the future for Namoi Valley Aquafarming looks encouraging. By John Mosig Steve Grammer can be contacted by phone on (02) 6792 2364, or by email on

The nesting boxes are set up in the warm shallow water at the pond’s edge. This and the dark colouration helps retain warmth.

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 13


These adult koi are clearly tame and used to interacting with their owners, especially at feeding time. The large fish in front of the child’s hand is a white based, red, black and white ‘Sanke’.

The breeding of a piscatorial work of art For Bill Passey, perhaps better known in Australian aquaculture for his involvement in the snapper industry, the keeping and breeding of ornamental Koi is a passion, describing himself as a ‘Koi junkie’ for over 15 years. His ongoing quest to breed the perfect piece of living art has earned him the reputation of one of the most knowledgeable people on Koi in the country.


he Koi is an ornamental variety of Cyprinus carpio and is referred to in Japan, where it was first domesticated and bred, as Nishikioi, or, the ‘brocaded carp’. They are closely related to the goldfish (Carassius auratus)., although they grow much bigger and have a more elongated body shape. It is believed that this fish has been bred in captivity in northern Japan since the 4th Century.

The practice of keeping Koi became very popular after an exposition in Tokyo in 1914 and gradually became a global fascination. Ironically, spending 14 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

40 years on the ocean has not dampened Pill Passey’s passion for dealing with these fish on land. “I had the chance to go commercial 15 years ago, as we had the land available and the economic means but, if I had done that, I’d have lost the hobby I loved, and that was too big a price to pay.” Bill mainly breeds Koi to better his collection as extremely good Koi are very hard to find. “If you do find one then most often it is not for sale at any price,” he says. “However, there is considerable trading between keen Koi hobbyists.” The keeping of Koi is very popular in

Western Australia as over 20,000 houses have a Koi pond. Bill’s house is no different except he has more than one pond and they are considerately larger than the usual urban pond. Two ornate ponds house his adult fish; the smaller (85,000L) one holds the males and the larger (130,000L) pond is inhabited by female broodstock. Five 50,000L earthen ponds at the back of the property are used for growing up young Koi. The breeding enclosure is 1,000m2, covered by netting to protect fish from predatory birds and fenced off with chicken wire for more protection. In


here Bill uses 8,000L breeding tanks. Five separate Hi Blow 60 air pumps deliver air around the hatchery through 19mm plastic hosing. Bore water is used to provide a 10% water change per week for the larger fish while the babies have their water changed using town water that is first passed through a carbon filter. “The quality of the water when the fish are very young is important as high metal content can have varying levels of toxicity and create problems with deformities. Once the fish are older and finished their period of rapid growth, they are able to handle water of variable quality although to get the best out of them they really do require good water.” Regular water changes are also important to counteract the build up of toxic products of the nitrogen cycle. This is the process where ammonia, as a waste product from the fish, is converted by bacteria into nitrite, which is, in turn, converted into nitrate. Ammonia and nitrite, in particular, can be extremely lethal to Koi fry as well as damaging the fins and body of the developing fry. Bill believes the right volume of the biological filtration to be very important. “The filters should approximate 25% of the pond surface area if you are to maintain maximum water quality to bring out the best in your Koi. Bacteria may only be active in filters down to 60cm, although this depends on your aeration supply (most important for bacterial growth). Filters constructed to two metres depth will increase the overall volume of water in the system, which effectively reduces pollution. It is most important that the filters are constructed with a funnel shaped base so they can be flushed of waste.” Breeding Tanks For breeding, an 8,000L tank is half filled with town water and rectangleshaped, floating spawning mops made of cloth curtain material are placed in it. Koi have one spawning season – at the time of spring/summer when water temperatures start to rise and day length begins to increase. Bill says that a sudden water change is the main trigger

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Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Bill Passey include: • Production of show quality fish. • Establishment of a selective breeding program to develop new colours and patterns. • Education of public in correct methods of Koi keeping and breeding. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture System utilised: constructed ponds • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <12 months • Survival rate: 10% (due to deliberate culling) from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: 2,000 per 50,000L • Annual harvest: approximately 200 sold, rest are culled.

Club Web Sites Koi Society of Western Australia: Started in 1989, with over 200 active members at present the society runs an Annual Show of fish. In 1991 the Society formally became an affiliated member of the world wide parent organisation based in Japan, Zen Nippon Airinkai. The Society also offers a service to collect unwanted pond fish seeing this as preferable environmentally to persons dumping fish in waterways and dams.

Australian Koi Association, Inc: Formed in 1981. Aims for the promotion of friendship & understanding through Koi. To have available an advisory service to all Koi keepers. To hold shows, displays & exhibitions to help introduce our hobby to the public. Public entrance to such events is free. This is a family oriented club.

Koi Society of Australia, Inc: Formed in 1974, the Koi Society of Australia is dedicated to the protection, preservation and improvement of Koi. An annual show is one of several events organised to educate members and the general public on the finer aspects of Koi appreciation. The society holds regular monthly meetings, information days, auctions and publishes a monthly magazine to provide information on responsible Koi keeping under Australian conditions. Seven local branches exist throughout Sydney and other areas of New South Wales to encourage an atmosphere of friendship and the common enjoyment of the hobby.

for Koi to spawn. “It is not unlike in the wild when the snow melts on the mountains in the beginning of summer. In Western Australia the water temperatures are generally 20°C throughout the year creating ideal keeping conditions for Koi.” He does not believe in letting fish ‘rest’ and then conditioning them up towards 16 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

the spawning season; instead they are fed good quality food for the entire year. The protein content should be between 31-38% and Bill believes that the type of protein in the food is also very important. “Feeding a cheap protein such as blood and bone based food is all well and good but the fish need much more of

that food to get their required amount of nutrition as some forms of protein the fish just don’t absorb well. And there’s the problem of water quality induced by overfeeding. “I feed a product based on white fish meal which, as a protein, will be better absorbed by the fish. So I need less feed and create fewer water quality problems. Bill uses a 1:1 ratio when breeding, depending on the size of the male. Females can be bred from four years of age while males are fertile from three years of age. A female can produce anything from 50,000 to 500,000 eggs per spawn depending on her age and condition. For a larger spawning female, two males may be required to ensure a high percentage of successful fertilisation. Bill usually places the female in the tank first and the male put into the tank around 0.5 hours later. With the pair set up in the morning, there will usually be eggs by the evening; in some cases, spawning will continue overnight. The pair are separated and returned to the male and female broodstock ponds when spawning is completed to prevent the loss of eggs by parental predation. It can also limit potential damage to the individual broodfish due to continued aggressive spawning behaviour by either of the pair. The eggs will hatch 2 to 7 days after fertilisation, depending on temperatures and water conditions. Bill sets up four spawning pairs a year. For all the potential Koi fry that he gains from a single spawn, Bill will usually allow less than 160 fish to reach full maturity. The first cull occurs in the first three months and can significantly decrease the size of the batch. “I would be happy to get 20 good quality fish for sale to help offset some of my costs. After all, I am trying to breed the perfect piece of art for my own collection. You can have a pond of 2,000 Koi and each time they come up to feed, you see that one particular fish is the pick of the spawn. That is the ultimate goal, that one solitary perfect fish.”


Breeding ‘old’ & ‘new’ lines A specific breeding selection strategy is key Bill’s success. He believes in preserving the old while experimenting for the new. “Some of these colour varieties have been developed over hundreds of years so why tamper with them? These ‘older’ colour varieties had been imported into Australia before the ban on Koi importation was introduced in 1986, giving Koi breeders a good variety of disease-free stock to continue these lines.” However, new colour varieties are becoming popular around the world, such as those with metallic coloured bodies or variations of scale pattern. These can only be acquired by cross breeding different lines. It is then a waiting game to see what presents in the young fry. “Sometimes you can get lucky through communications with other clubs or articles that will give a ‘recipe’ for the lineage for a new variety. That gives you something to work with when it comes to developing new colours and patterns. But mostly, you are looking at what differences present (in the offspring) and then working to incorporate them into your brood stock.” The fry must be moved into the dams before they are ten days old as between 10-21 days they begin to form gill plates and fins which can be damaged by handling and become a permanent disfigurement. The fry are all moved by being netted into a container and then placed into the dam to feed on the natural flora and fauna. They are also fed on a commercially prepared food, in a smaller pellet size and higher protein content (50%) than is fed to the older fish. Bill sources a commercially produced Koi food from Japan sold in small quantity bags, thus limiting the amount of vitamin deterioration that occurs gradually after the packet is opened. It is vacuum packed in aluminium foil with a resealing capability that diminishes its exposure to air and can also be kept chilled, both of which helps to preserve the food. Although Bill feeds about $300 worth of food per week, he believes that it is the best value in the long term. “I know of quite a few people who play around

Colour Varieties in Koi The beauty of Koi is that they are bred to be viewed from above and to provide a show of colour and pattern in a water setting. Over the hundreds of years of Koi breeding many variations of body colour, patterns and scale formations have developed. There are 13 colour varieties recognised in international shows that are based on the major colours of black, white, red, blue, yellow and cream. The three most popular the Kohaku (white skinned with red patterns), Taisho Sanshoku (white skinned with red and white patterns) and Showa Sanshoku (black skinned with red and white patterns). Varying scale patterns are popular, such as the Kin Gin Rin, being a Koi with shiny scales and Matsuba, whose scale patterns resemble the markings of pine cones. In showing and breeding, the quality of the fish will be determined by many standards, including the quality and strength of colour, the quality of the skin, body shape, and the sharpness of the patterns.

This platinum coloured koi has red (or ‘hi’) markings on its back and is best described as a peacock patterned koi.

Above: The kohaku variety is exemplified by the solid red and white colours of this fish. The sharp lines to the red body markings are also signs of a high quality fish.

Above: The clearly defined edges and strong, solid colours of the red, black and white patterns of this fish indicate a good quality ‘showa’ variety.

Above: A grand champion for the past 2 years, Bill sold this ‘showa’ as a young fish and has since followed its development into a truly superb specimen.

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 17


with their food sources, buying different protein sources or products from different countries. But I found this product a long time ago and know I can trust the contents and quality of the food. “That, to me, is of the utmost importance. Besides, when you are showing fish and selling your fish on the basis of their quality, it’s not worth the risk of letting the condition of the fish deteriorate by experimenting with food.” Fish Transport The fish will reach 60cm in three years, with the most popular size for sale being at 12 months of age and 25 cm in length. This is also the easiest size to transport as Koi fish stress during handling and packing and deplete the amount of oxygen in their plastic bags

or containers quickly. For this reason, Bill recommends the use of a large a bag as possible with as much oxygen as is practicable or the use of a battery-powered air pump and air stone for transport in a container. Bill sells all of his Koi through sales and auctions arranged by the Koi Cub of Western Australia (see box insert), which has over 200 members. Small Koi can fetch a price of about $20 to $500, depending on their actual size and colour pattern while adults can be priced over $100 to $5,000. The highest price ever paid for an individual Koi was $1.2 million although that has recently been eclipsed when a Mr Kato in Japan paid $2 million! Bill laments the restriction of trade for

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Koi in Australia as they are only legal in New South Wales and Western Australia. The escape of the fish into waterways are believed to cause many problems, including introduction of diseases, erosion of river banks, out competing native wild fish stocks for food and breeding areas, and eating native fish fry. “The only two countries in the world that ban the importation of Koi are Australia and New Zealand. The only two states that allow them to be kept are New South Wales and Western Australia, yet we do not have a problem with them here and they are not a problem anywhere else in the world. “In Japan and Israel Koi farming is a multi-billion dollar industry. There are established commercial farms in Australia and more are developing. These farms will supply the general public and farm may even export as Australia is the only ma country in the world free of KHV (Koi cou Herpes Virus). This disease has recently Her devastated many Koi farms around the dev world. Recently AAHL Fish Diseases wo Laboratory (Geelong) imported some Lab KHV into their laboratories to experiKH ment if they could use it in our waterme ways to eradicate the common Carp way (also known as European Carp Cyprinus (als carpio) without killing other (native) car fish. fish As a hobbyist with a collection of Koi that took decades to collect and hundreds of dollars to acquire and hun house, it is scary to think that KHV is hou sitting in a bottle on our shores.” sitt “There “Th Th is a conflict between the benefits of having a KHV free Koi industry and h wanting to be able to import new blood wan lines. line With the current spread of KHV and the devastating consequences, I don’t don think there is a hobbyist in Australia tral that would want the ban on importing Koi lifted anymore. However, imp we would just like to see other states in Australia be allowed to enjoy the hobby Aus as w we do.” Byy Louise Willis and Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Bill Passey on Tel/ Tel/fax: 08 9535-7011, Mob: Mo 0438 357-732, email: ema


Part of the Aquatic Science Centre at West Beach.

WBA barra destined for the world I

t could be said that barramundi, with production units in Asia, Europe and North America as well as Australia, is fast becoming a global species. While not produced in the volumes of other global species such as Atlantic salmon, Pacific oysters and black tiger prawns, their acceptance in the final arbiter of future growth – the market place – is persuasive. To match the consumer driven growth there has to be a commensurate growth in seedstock production. West Beach Aquaculture Hatcheries (WBA) has set itself to satisfy some of that global demand. WBA came about when Robarra, one of several barramundi producers in South Australia, felt the need to secure a reliable supply of year round seedstock. Previously larvae and fry had been brought down from hatcheries based in tropical regions producing stock naturally during the

warmer months. This had worked well up to a point. Robarra has an annual output in the vicinity of 200 tonnes and when the opportunity came along to establish a hatchery facility in South Australian Research and Development Institute’s (SARDI) Aquatic Science Centre (at Adelaide’s fashionable suburb of West Beach) Robarra saw the opportunity to institute seedstock security and a year round supply of seedstock. It also allowed the company to select broodstock from the type of fish they want to produce: fast growing with efficient food conversion capability and the classic Australian barramundi shape. Initially larvae and fry were brought down by air and reared. There were limitations to this, not the least of which was reliability. WBA soon moved on to conditioning selected broodstock from the growout

farm and spawning their own fingerlings. While South Australia is more famous for its oysters, bluefin tuna and its shishimi grade yellowtail kingfish, it is also a major producer of barramundi, particularly for the live fish trade in Melbourne. Raised in tanks in temperature controlled sheds, it is the third largest producer of farmed barramundi behind Queensland and the Northern Territory. Manager, Andrei Perez, after completing a science degree at University of South Australia, collected another in aquatic resource management from University of Central Queensland whilst working in Sea Harvest and later at Hart Fisheries Townsville cage culture farm. That both establishments have been wiped out by cyclone damage is an indication of the risks associated farming in a Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 19


Andrei sampling fingerlings being grown out for growout at Robe.

region that is subject to violent storms. Storms that are becoming increasingly violent with global climatic instability. WBA has been in operation since 1992. Since Andrei Perez took on the management in 1997 the team has been developing their breeding techniques and selecting family lines of broodstock.

Cages of barramundi being grown on to fingerling size for the farm at Robe.

The Aquatic Science Centre was established in 1989 as an aquaculture park for the research and development of marine species and has access to both marine water from St Vincent Gulf and fresh bore water. This enables WBA to condition broodstock in a marine environment, spawn, hatch and wean the larvae onto a dry diet and a freshwater environment, ready for sale. The farm The farm is split between two facilities. One, connected to the treated marine water from St Vincent Gulf, holds

20 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


broodstock that are checked periodically and breeders that meet the criteria for ovulation are moved to the hatchery. The hatchery nursery facility is in another building and consists of an office , laboratory, hatchery, larval rearing tanks, algae and zooplankton production room and fry and fingerling growing tanks. The facility was the pilot for Fish Protech (AA 20-1) back in 1990 and the original system has been modified for use as a nursery unit. Cages are hung in the water along the edge of the modules so that the fingerling destined for the Robarra farm can be reared to 100mm. All incoming water is UV treated. Both systems are connected to bio-filtration units. Each stage of the hatchery nursery system has its own filtration system so that in the event of any untoward event occurring the problem can be isolated and dealt with. Production cycle Once the breeding team has been selected the broodstock are injected to trigger ovulation. Egg count varies with age. Andrei says a he can get five million eggs

from a 10kg female. The fertilized eggs take 12 hours to hatch and the larvae live for 48 hours on their yolk sack. They are fed rotifers and artemia before being weaned onto a range of commercial diets. Natural attrition takes its course through the development stage. Andrei says although they could possibly get 90% of the fertilized eggs through to weaned fingerlings; he reckons this as counter productive. “Natural attrition is nature’s way of culling. We also grade off a percentage of the fry along the way ourselves. We generally work on harvesting 50% of the hatch. This way we know we have good strong fish that are going to perform well on the farms. By the time they get to the growout facility the need for grading has been cut to a minimum.” One of the results of selective breeding through family lines has been that the fish are more domesticated. Being are a high order predator, cannibalism among fast growing juvenile barramundi makes grading a constant chore. To this end,

WBA has bred barramundi with a more placid disposition which has significantly reduced this management input. Andrei also contributes part of the improved performance at the Robe farm to the domesticity they have bred into their line of barramundi.. Team effort Andrei has nothing but praise for his team of technicians at WBA and gives credit to the success of the business to the belief and support of the owners. “Aquaculture is often represented as a glamour industry, but not by the people in it: it’s a lot of demanding repetitive work. But more than that, it takes courage and faith to invest in it”. There are six full time people on the payroll and when Andrei took on the management one of the key elements he sought was commitment from all of them. “Operating a hatchery is a full time occupation. In the old days we used to sleep in the hatchery when a breed was underway. Now, in the era of electronic alarms, we can take it in turns to have a skeleton crew rostered

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on around the clock and still be sleeping in their own beds. However, you still have to have dependable staff for this to work. I’m more than comfortable with the way this crew has come together. They’re a professional team.”

Technician David Bennett putting barramundi fry through the grading machine at WBA.

The fish are transported in either the traditional plastic bags filled with water and oxygen in polystyrene boxes or in bulk transport bins. Andrei has been impressed by the bulk bins which have a battery-driven pump that puts oxygen in the tanks and allows the CO2 do be degassed. “The fish are loaded at the same density per cubic meter, but as the bulk tank fits into an aviation container (AV) the handling and turbulence is reduced. The fish can also be left till the last minute to pack. This further reduces they time they are in the high density transporting situation.”

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WBA has the added advantage of being situated just ten minutes drive away from Adelaide International Airport and the state head office of the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS). The fish can be inspected by AQIS veterinarians on the farm at minimal cost to tthe buyer before they are packed rath than having them boxed off on rather the farm, taken to the AQIS inspection faci facility and re-opened. Some of the nor northern hatcheries are several hours from an airport, and some even have to fly their stock to an international airport bef before they start their overseas journey. Marketing Ma WB s markets are threefold. Being an WBA’ ass associate company of Robarra, it raises 100 100mm fingerlings for stocking in the com company’ s flow-through system (using war artesian water) at Robe. There is warm also the local market and the growers in eas easily-accessible Victoria. There are also ord from the northern Australian orders gro growers, especially during the winter mo months when the northern hatcheries are out of production. The growing market, however, is oversea “One of our biggest clients is on seas. the east coast of America. And we have bee getting a lot of inquiries from been


Some 21 day old fry ready for grading.

Keeping tabs on what’s happening from broodstock conditioning to orders requires good planning.

Europe. The barramundi has been acclaimed over there for its eating qualities and there’s keen interest in growing it in re-circulating systems”. There has also been strong interest from Asia. While Lates calcarifer, known locally as sea bass, have been farmed in south east Asia since the late 1970s, the quality of WBA’s barramundi fry is of such high standard that growers are prepared to pay the extra for Australian fry. That’s especially the case those producers switching from traditional pond and cage culture to climate-controlled indoor fish farms. A key aspect of recirculation technology is the farmer’s ability to control all aspects of production, including disease management. Due to the tight protocols minimising the risk of introducing or transferring lymphocystis virus, barramundi nodavirus or other diseases or parasites into or within South Australia, plus the tight internal protocols in place internally, WBA are able to obtain Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) certification for their barramundi. This enables them to meet the most stringent health requirements, making them the hatchery of choice for several importers. The future Andrei sees aquaculture entering a new and exciting phase. “More and more of the fish consumed are farmed. Prices for seafood are firming across the board.

A view of the algae room at WBA

Buyers have recognized the absolute quality of farmed fish, especially those grown under controlled conditions and this is also reflected in the strong demand for live and fresh fish. “With the growth of the industry and the global interest in Australian barramundi we’re in a position to satisfy a good deal of that demand. We turn off around two million tails a year now. Ten percent of that is for our own farm, and growing fry out to 100mm fingerlings

takes up space, but it hasn’t reduced our capacity to produce seedstock for the industry. We have the experience, the expertise and the physical resources to expand as the need arises. We’re certainly capable of increasing production as the need arises.” By John Mosig Andrei can be contacted by phone on (08) 8235 0489, or by email on Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 23


Satisfaction in landing a tricky Ballarat region brownie


he first successful translocation of Australia’s salmonid stocks was via a sailing ship from Britain. Salmonid ova were packed in peat moss and covered in ice within a purpose built ice-houseconstructed within the lowest decks of the Norfolk, a three masted 953 tonne clipper.

On the 15th of April 1864, after 84 days of ocean sailing 90,000 Atlantic Salmon and 2,700 Brown Trout ova arrived in Melbourne, with an estimated 80 percent survival. The Victorian government - identifying with the urgency of further transport to Hobart – then offered the services of the state’s only battle gunship, the steam sloop H.M.S Victoria for the final leg of the journey. The surviving salmonid ova arrived on the 20th of April 1864 and transferred to the Plenty Salmon Ponds (upper Derwent Valley). Finally, on the 4th of May, Australia’s first fry hatched. This successful venture was financially supported by the Tasmanian and Victorian government and the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria. Formed in 1861, the Society, aimed to introduce and disperse exotic plants and animals including fish into suitable parts of the colony with the intent of creating a new English landscape.

Historic Ballarat hatchery pivotal in introducing salmonids Operating for more than 100 years, the Ballarat Trout hatchery and its fish acclimatisation society has a historic and significant role in pioneering salmonid culture and recreational angling in Australia. 24 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society Formed on the 1st August 1870, the original purpose of the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society (BFAS) was to introduce fish from Europe, especially trout, into what then was considered suitable Victorian waters. This organisation of dedicated volunteers has managed the Ballarat Trout Hatchery for more than 100 years providing brown and rainbow trout ova, juvenile and adults for public purchase and gifted to the people of Ballarat an annual stocking of “original trout bloodlines” into neighbouring Lake Wendouree (drought has put a temporary halt to this generosity). Before and into the early years of last century the BFAS also supplied trout ova and juveniles to N.S.W, South Australia and Western Australia. The Society was also active internationally with trout introductions to New Guinea,


Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), and Natal (South Africa). From about 1907 until 1946, the BFAS through their hatchery provided the Victorian state government with trout ova and juveniles. In 1946, the Victorian Snobs Creek facility came into operation, although the state government continued to purchase Ballarat ova and juveniles until the early 1950s. From the 1950s to the present day, the Ballarat hatchery has supplied fish to private buyers including recreational fishing clubs and farmers wishing to stock their dams.

The sign says it all. What will become of this aspect of early fisheries science and Australian recreation fishing history? Photo by Alex Sobowleski.

According to veteran volunteer hatchery technician Frank Grey, the BFAS also supplied trout for Rex Hunt Future Fish community recreational fishing and environmental stewardship projects and public water storages like Tullaroop Reservoir. Oldest mainland trout hatchery The initial supply of trout ova to the mainland arrived from Tasmania in 1870 and were transferred to a Ballarat property called “Ercildoun.” Trout were successfully ongrown by 1871 and released into local waters by 1872. This success evolved from pioneering Australian expertise in fish husbandry techniques and in a short time frame BFAS trout were being cultivated and released in other parts of Australia. John Clements (in his 1988 classic book Salmon at the Antipodes) wrote that the first hatchery established in 1873, consisted of a brood pond and spawning ground (called a rill) within the northern end of the botanical gardens. In 1885 the Ballarat Council donated a new hatchery site within the southern end of the botanical gardens and importantly closer in proximity to Lake Wendouree. By 1890 a new fish hatchery was operating from this site and in 1894 additional fish hatchery buildings were constructed. Later that year, the facility was officially opened by a Dr William P Whitcombe, an original founding member of the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society of 1870 (O’brian 1988). This is the same facility being used to this day.

The flyfishers’ quarry, so beautiful, yet noxious seems too harsh a word, feral implies something wild. Photo by Alex Sobowleski.

The present hatchery boundary consists of approximately two hectares of land fenced from both ends of the hatchery building to the boundary fence of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, thus forming a rectangular shaped fence line. Complimenting the hatchery building are 46 oblong shaped and shallow concrete ponds, ranging from approximately 68,000 litres to 273,000 litres in capacity. There also exists eight long shallow rectangular concrete raceways approxi-

mately 15,000 litres in capacity. At its peak the Ballarat hatchery produced annually in excess of 750,000 rainbow and brown trout ova, 70-80,000 fry, 20-30,000 fingerlings, 50,000 yearling fish and 25,000 mature, 2 year old plus fish. Problems with the drought According to former BFAS hatchery curator and trout husbandry expert Neil Coulter, “in the early days of the last Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 25


Frank shows how to handle fish

century water was moved from Lake Wendouree via a windmill driven pumping system, to brick header tanks outside and adjacent to the hatchery complex and distributed throughout the hatchery and nursery facility.” In more recent times, lake water was supplied at approximately 30 litres a second with a 15 horsepower pump. The drought and climate change have affected the Victorian central highlands region significantly, with Lake Wendouree eventually drying out in 2006. This dire situation may have doomed the historic facility were it not for the proactive and supportive Ballarat Council donating and providing a bore water supply (approximately 3L/sec, at a constant temperature of 16 degrees Celsius). However, because of severe Stage 4 water restrictions the Ballarat Council allows only 12 hours per day allocation of this precious resource. This limitation has severely hampered hatchery production. “Now the hatchery produces less than half of previous output, and we keep only a few big fish for show,” says Frank. In 26 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

B.F.A.S volunteer Frank Grey catching yearling trout for customers

addition to severely impacting hatchery production, the drought has reduced the demand from people wishing to stock their waters. Pre-drought Operations Normally each cold winter spawning season would see mature brown trout aggregating at the hatchery outflow into Lake Wendouree. Here, the hardy members of the BFAS would seine net fish and select the finest broodstock. “Broodstock would be chosen for good looks and size, qualities highly regarded by the angling community,” explains Neil. “All suitable broodstock would be hand stripped on the spot, the ova being collected in buckets and dry fertilised when a suitable buck was found. The fertilised eggs were transferred urgently to the hatchery and placed on glass rod trays within the hatching troughs.” Each day, members of the BFAS would care for the next generation of Lake Wendouree’s special trout. With military precision, volunteers would arrive early to clean the trays of any dead or suspect

eggs and make sure the hatchery was functioning properly. Hence water was tested, flow rates checked and adjusted if necessary. Also this was a very special and social time of year for the volunteers as many a cup of tea was drunk, Anzac biscuits consumed and stretched stories told of big cunning trout. Today, according to Frank, the glass rod trays have been replaced with up-welling Bowden jars. “People have less time these days for a chat and I guess the upwellers are efficient time wise, the social side has changed somewhat, less cups of tea are drunk and stories are only told when the duties are over.” Fry rearing and Ongrowing The young fry stay in the hatching troughs until late November when they have reached around 25 to 50 mm in length. During this time they are hand fed to satiation 1 to 2 times a day with a trout crumble diet from Janos feeds, Forbes. “Its all about timing,” says Frank, “We need to sell the previous season’s yearlings before Ballarat Cup Day, so that


we can drain and clean any available raceway or pond for our next generation. However, what’s most important is keeping an eye on the seasonal effects of increasing water temperature. That’s the main reason why we try to get them out of the hatchery by Ballarat Cup Day and into any available raceway or pond.”

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Upon leaving the hatchery, the now fingerlings are preferentially distributed into the smaller and more manageable raceways, smaller ponds being used if necessary. Prior to drought, the original stocking densities per raceway approached 30 kilos per 1,000 litres of water. These days, densities have been severely reduced because of the limiting water allocation. As the trout put on size they will need more room to move in. “Another grading will usually occur in December,” Frank explains. “We simply select the fastest growing fish by dragging a net of nominated mesh size through the raceways and ponds, the smallest get through the mesh and we keep the biggest. These fish will then distributed into any available pond.” According to the former hatchery curator Neil Coulter each pond has its unique ecosystem and the fish are stocked according to this dynamic. “The pond distribution of Ballarat hatchery trout fingerlings is a blend of science, art and experience.” Frank believes that the hatchery’s biggest problem is water temperature as this stresses the fish out and they get sick. “I’ve seen it climb to 28°C and it killed quite a few fish. Generally the high temps are around 24° and I only get worried when the temperature climbs over 22°. There’s not a lot we can do except not to feed fish and hope the stocking densities are not too high. Experience usually gets us through. After all we have been doing this for over 100 years.” Acclimatisation and the ‘whoops if we had only known factor’ Although a hardy species some people suggest that the days of the trout are becoming increasingly limited and trout may be succumbing to the ravages of

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climate change. This is definitely evident within the Ballarat region. If increasing temperatures and lower rainfall eliminate trout from some of the former famous fishing waters of the Victorian landscape, the Ballarat hatchery may become irrelevant except to those who understand or remember its history. Additionally some members of recreational fishing organisations, scientific community and government fisheries management utilities (that once managed trout populations) seem to be increasingly shifting their concerns toward managing extant native fish. A 2004 policy review of South Australian trout stocking, strongly suggests a precautionary approach with the stocking of a predatory non endemic fish where small native fish occur. However, others have suggested that any impacts of trout are evaluated in the context of other significant factors such as land clearing, water extraction, salinisation, man made climate change and drought. The acclimation of exotic animals including fish, was supported by a zoological and botanical movement

throughout Australia. The process of acclimation saw a plethora of species deliberately introduced for sporting purposes many of which have became enormously damaging to Australian natural and agricultural landscapes (eg. rabbits, foxes). Within the menagerie of introductions were fish species that today are considered noxious freshwater pests, including carp and redfin. The European Carp was introduced into Australian in 1850-1880 for ornamental purposes. However freshwater fish population research now suggests that carp accounts for more than 80% of fish communities within the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Murray systems with an annual environmental management bill of approximately $15.8m million dollars. Another study investigating carp associated impacts to commercial and recreational sectors within the Gippsland Lakes region, the annual cost was estimated as $35m. European perch commonly called redfin, was introduced in 1862 for acclimatisation. It is considered a significant predator on small native fish including galaxias and pygmy perches and a significant com-

petitor for larger natives including cod and golden perch. And a virus called EHN carried by redfin is known to be dangerous to Australian native fish species, including Murray cod. Community cost benefits Whilst many of these introductions have resulted in catastrophe and high mitigation costs, salmonid translocations provide economic benefit through recreational angling to communities in Victoria, N.S.W, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The W.A Department of Fisheries has estimated that Victorian trout anglers spend on average approximately $600 per season. And in an economic survey of the Snowy Mountains conducted by Dominion Consulting almost $10m was spent in 12 months by about 7,100 visiting Victorian trout anglers (approximately $1,400.00 per angler). In Tasmania, a survey by Henry and Lyle determined that trout anglers spent approximately $535.00 per head to fish Lake Crescent during the season. The average spend by anglers for the above three studies is $845.00 per head per season (note, these figures do not include guiding cost ). Of course todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s figures will be a lot more as a result of rising fuel costs and the effects of inflation. The debates on the costs/benefits of continued salmonid restockings are becoming increasingly more passionate. Hopefully management decisions will be made based on scientific data that will effectively cater for all people within the angling community and ensure the sustainability of both native and salmonid fisheries. By Alex Sobowleski and Dos Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Sullivan. If you are interested in any aspect of salmonid history in Australia contact Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society (PO Box 75 Ballarat, Victoria 3353), Secretary Peter Burnett on (03) 5334-1220 or Vice Secretary Barry Kentish on (03) 5330-1207.

28 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


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F E AT U R E Lease Clean-up on the Hawkesbury River.

NSW oyster industry looks to better water quality To tackle problems of variable water quality, pest and disease outbreaks and encroaching urbanisation of their catchments, NSW oyster farmers been collaborating with NSW government agencies, catchment management authorities and other stakeholder groups. Dozens of projects completed or underway are turning the tide allowing many of the farmers to direct harvest (without depuration) their oysters, a significant saving in operating costs! Here’s how northern and mid-coast farmers are faring (next issue profiles the south coast). It is well known that oysters, like other shellfish, can become a food safety risk (see insert box). As part of the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program, the objective of the NSW Shellfish Program (NSW SP) is to protect the health of shellfish consumers. This is achieved through the administration and application of procedures described in detail in the comprehensive Operations Manual ( pdf/Manual-Shellfish-Program. pdf#search=“shellfish program”). Those procedures: • assess the risk of shellfish contamination by pathogenic bacteria and viruses, biotoxins and chemicals derived from the growing area; 30 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

• control the harvest of shellfish in accordance with the assessed risk; and • protect shellfish from contamination after harvesting.

keted in NSW. With increased consumer confidence comes higher demand for shellfish, and of course, potentially more money in the pockets of the growers.

The NSW SP Operations Manual describes the general criteria and operational processes for attaining shellfish safety outcomes as determined by the NSW Food Authority and the NSW Shellfish Committee. In addition, the Manual describes administrative procedures for the operation of Local Shellfish Programs as specified under the Food Regulation 2004.

A leader in this process has been the NSW Farmers Association (Oyster Section) which, Chairman Mark Bulley says, is involved in projects up and down the whole NSW coastline.

The direct result of this joint industrygovernment program is to ensure shellfish are safety produced, harvested and mar-

Mark says that after many years of butting heads with bureaucrats, the oyster growers and the whole community are now reaping the benefit of working cooperatively with government agencies, and stakeholders such as catchment management authorities and other environmental groups.

F E AT U R E Port Stephens oyster baskets.

period after water quality in the river failed to meet an adequate standard. At the time, the river supported three oyster farming businesses. The NSW Food Authority quickly confirmed that all shellfish farms had ceased harvesting in the affected area and consumers assured that all shellfish purchased through commercial seafood outlets were safe.

Bellinger River The Bellinger River (near Coffs Harbour, north coast of NSW) oyster harvest area extends for 2.5 km long its the lower reaches, immediately upstream of the township of Mylestom and shares a common entrance with the smaller Kalang River located to the south.

Re-opening the Bellinger River for oyster harvesting was a key priority for the Bellinger River Taskforce formed by the NSW Government in April 2006 to address the river’s water quality issues. The Working Group comprises representatives from the NSW Food Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, NSW Health, Bellingen Council, Department of Premiers and Cabinet and Bellinger oyster growers.

Commencing 18 April 2006 the NSW Food Authority prohibited oyster harvest from Bellinger River for an indefinite

“The plight of oyster growers and the wider issue of water quality in the Bellinger are of great importance,” says

Chairperson John Williams (NSW DPI Northern Regional Manager). “By bringing the key agencies and industry to the one table, we can coordinate the effort going into identifying the sources of the problem, working with industry and the community and developing strategies for remediation.” The first task of the group was to establish a regular water monitoring program at strategically-important sites. “While a lot of good work had already been done in this area by Council and the Food Authority,” John continues, “existing information had not provided us with a clear picture of the origin and source of water quality problems.” The NSW Food Authority conducted an extensive shoreline survey of the river and Council undertook investigations in the Man Arm Creek checking for potential sources of pollution. “The Bellinger River dairy farmers also participated in an industry-funded program to review farm management practices Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 31

“We all want to be able to use the water without any fear of reprisals,” he said. “The oyster growers are the sentinels of water quality and we rely on the purity of the water to harvest oysters direct for human consumption. If our oysters are growing well, then the water is healthy and other species are also going well. Like a dentist looking at your teeth, we can look at the growth rings in the oysters and the shell characteristics (eg. growth in the shell lip) we can determine a lot of the oyster’s history; this is a good indication of the health of the estuary.”















capable of causing adverse impacts on water quality.”

John Stubbs sampling oysters at Mara Mara Creek.

Following 18 months of remediation and water quality monitoring effort the Bellinger River was re-classified as Conditionally Restricted on the 7 December 2007. Bellinger River oysters are back on the menu at local restaurants and seafood retailers in the Coffs Coast region. Oyster farmer Jeff Wright says that he had never been on a committee that was so active. “No-one likes an unhealthy estuary and we have received great support from the state government and local council.” “With the opening (by the Food Authority) we will be able to undertake restricted harvests with a 36 hours depuration. “We fill a niche during September and October when lower supply of fat oysters from southern estuaries but we sell good numbers right through to February and March. “There has been steady demand for Sydney Rocks; we can sell anything up to plate market standard, especially in Sydney and Wollongong where people go for the bigger oysters.” Tilligerry Creek and Port Stephens A similar whole of government and industry taskforce is also in operation for the oyster growing areas along Tilligerry Creek (AAM 21.4, November 2007, pages 11-15). John Stubbs undertaking QX work with a microscope.

Task Force members include Hunter Water Corporation, Hunter and Central Riv Rivers Catchment Management Authority, Port Stephens Council, NSW Lands Dep Department, NSW Food Authority, NSW Dep Department of Primary Industries, NSW Hea Health, NSW Department of Premiers and Cabinet and local oyster growers. NSW DPI Aquaculture Manager Ian Lyall say says that the establishment of Bellinger and Port Stephens taskforces were an imp important way to ensure that all the play players can be quickly brought together to jjointly mitigate or manage a problem or ccrisis. Bru Bruce Petersen is the Port Stephens Cou Council’s Environmental Services Manage ager. “What happened at the Great Lakes (see Wallis Lakes, page 36) is the best

Austasia A stasia ia Aq Aquac Aquaculture acultlture re | June June ne 2008 2008 34 Austas


example for us,” he explains. “That incident occurred ten years ago and it was a big mess with court cases and all that sort of thing. However, everyone decided the only way forward was not to make it a blame game; rather they all worked together to sort out problems and turned it around.”

Coba oyster harvest area, Hawkesbury River.

“There is no way a council could be held solely responsible for everything; there has to be some responsibility on land owners to do their bit. Like driving a car, you can’t always blame the RTA (Road Transport Authority) or the police if you have an accident. You need to take a high level of your own responsibility.” Bruce says that collaboration is vital. “I think we are making good progress. The 50 (out of a total of 560 units) non compliant septics tanks in Salt Ash and Bob’s Farm Rd have all now been upgraded or replaced. There had been lots of rainfall in 2005/06 when the inspections were carried out so high ground water levels contributed to the numbers of failures. Now we undertake random inspections not linked with rainfall or adverse conditions. This means that upgrade or replacement orders can be issued when necessary.”

Oyster punt with a load of oyster trays.

“These upgrades have resulted in a significant lessening of human sewage into Tilligerry Creek. We just got the third set of human virus checks from New Zealand, and they are clear. Also the work undertaken by the University of Newcastle on faecal steroids and ground water movement has shown that whilst contaminant movement can occur, minimal human contamination has been reported.” The big issue is now agricultural pollution. However, Bruce says that agricultural runoff was very difficult to control. “This is harder to address as there is diffuse runoff from horses, cows and other warm blooded animals. With point source discharge in an intensive diary, feedlot or chicken farm, it is easier to identify the source of the contamination or pollution. However, where there is diffuse pollution, there is no legislation for us to order a clean up, so the only course of action is co-operation with the land holder and for them to have some sympathy with the oyster farmers

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The work undertaken to achieve this excellent outcome is considerable and includes: • 130km of fence to protect the fragile but important riparian zone from grazing livestock • 150 off-stream water points for cattle or stock watering • Revegetation of thousands of native plants • Hundreds of hectares of wetland rehabilitation work to reduce acid sulphate run-off. Local oyster farmer Anthony Sciacca says it’s a great outcome showing what can be done when a whole community gets together. Port Stephens oyster trays.

Why do shellfish present a food safety risk? Oysters, like other bivalve molluscs are filter feeders, extracting phytoplankton, bacteria and suspended organic and inorganic particles from the surrounding water as their food supply. Growing waters from which bivalve molluscs are harvested may be subjected to pollution from a range of human activities, including discharges of untreated or poorly treated human waste, direct discharges of industrial wastes and run-off from urban and agricultural areas. As a consequence of their ability to bioaccumulate pathogens and toxins derived from contaminated growing waters, and because they are often eaten raw or only lightly cooked with the gastrointestinal tract intact, bivalve molluscs have been associated with numerous outbreaks of human disease. Reference: NSW Food Authority (2001), NSW Shellfish Program Operations Manual. NSW Food Authority phone number is 1300 552-406.

(and other users of the waterways). This can take a long time to foster, to get a plan, apply for funding and then have something on ground.” Bruce also says that the effective operation of the local drainage system and floodgates is another critical issue to ensure there is good flushing of waterways to remove pollutants. In December, the NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald reopened sections of Tilligerry Creek for direct harvesting of oysters. 36 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

Wallis Lakes Ten years after the devastating sewage contamination in the Great Lakes region (including Wallis Lake), the turn around is simply amazing. When the region was ripped apart by legal action and blame pointing, business suffered right across the community and times were very tough. However, through a concerted community effort the region now boasts some of the cleanest waters in the State, winning the 2004 National River prize for community engagement.

“The improved water quality in the Lake now means we can harvest more often. Closures due to rain events used to average ten days; now it is down to four days. We can now also harvest direct without purification, a huge cost saving.” Anthony points to the Great Lakes Council’s environmental levy (believed to be the first enacted by a local council). “What a show of community support. It raises some $300,000 per year from all our ratepayers, gives us a great lever for getting funding from State or Federal government and allows us to fund our Estuary Management Plan. “The result is sales in excess of $12million from more than 2.5 million dozen oysters, around one-third of the state’s total oyster harvest.” Anthony said that they aren’t stopping there. “The oyster farmers, council and community are all working together but we have heaps more to do. Most of the agricultural farmers are onside and other stakeholders are getting involved. But we can do better as only 10% of our catchment has fencing on the sensitive and important riparian zones. It is well known that stopping stock from grazing in those areas results in a significant improvement in water quality.” The approach undertaken by the oyster growers, Great Lakes Council, other stakeholders and the community has been examined closely and the approach – called the Clean Waters Model - is being repeated in other areas.


Hawkesbury River In June 2004 the QX parasite killed all of the Sydney Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) at the top end of the Hawkesbury River oyster farming area around Cobar. “This area had been our best fattening leases, you could sell oysters out of it 12 months of the year,” says local oyster grower Robbie Moxham. “Some of the farms there had been going for more than 100 years. Yet in a couple of weeks all of our stock were dead. It was devastating for the industry which had 23 lease holders employing 50 people full time. In the end there were only 1-2 people able to make a slim living from oysters.” Fortunately the NSW State government stepped in and offered the oyster growers a cleanup package where they would be paid $150/tonne for the removal of shell, racks, sticks and other oyster farm debris. According to Robbie with the costs of transport and landfill, more than 7,000 tonnes of rubbish were removed by the oyster growers at a total cost of $2.3 million (including disposal). “We were so cost efficient because we wanted to stay on the river and get it cleaned up.” Robbie said that in addition to cleaning up their working farms, farmers were also able to clear out many redundant leases which had been abandoned with old culture technology (eg. car tyres), or ones that had silted up. “The river is many times cleaner now and we have been able to upgrade our culture technology with floating culture for the growout followed by a four month period of finishing in plastic trays on intertidal racks. We have totally removed all oyster sticks from the river and we have stopped using tar. All our plastics are recycled. We are very aware of the need for sustainability.” The growers estimate that around 400 ha of leases can be redeveloped, giving the area the potential to be the largest oyster production region in Australia. “We had quite a few hurdles but we were able to get approval to stock triploid Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) produced by Shellfish Culture in Tasmania. Unlike our native Sydney Rock oyster, the Pacifics are immune to the

QX parasite and with the warmer temperatures and higher food levels, we are getting very fast growth compared to the traditional Pacific oyster production in Tassie or South Australia.” There are around 5million triploid Pacifics currently in the water and Robbie believes that around $2million worth will be harvested over the 2007/08 summer. “This is just brilliant for our cash flow as we needed to get the oysters through quickly – in less than 18 months (the Sydney Rocks would take 4 years and still result in a smaller harvest size).” However, these growers aren’t moving away from their beloved Sydney Rocks! “Through the Select Oyster Company (SOCO) we’re already stocking Sydney Rocks that have been selectively bred by Dr John Nell of NSW DPI for resistance to QX as well as faster growth. We have at least 20 people on the river right now (early December 2007) and the numbers will expand as more leases are developed and stocked.” SOCO director Tony Troup said that the selectively bred disease resistant oysters were also faster growing than normal oysters. “We have produced over 30 million seed, this is probably around a quarter to a third of all the Sydney Rock seed requirements for the state.” “This great recovery would not have been possible without the Government support as well as through the assistance of the Hornsby Council, the Hawkesbury Nepean CMA, Landcare, OceanWatch and the tenacity of the growers,” Robbie continues. “Everyone has been great and now we have a much greener and efficient industry. We even have a grower John Stubbs who has learnt how to use a microscope and he is doing our monitoring for early signs of QX to check on the window of infection. “We believe that we have earnt the job we love most – being stewards of our beautiful river! With the drought and then the QX kill, I was beginning to wonder if any of my kids could be an oyster farmer. Now I know that my grand kids could do it. The health of the river is the best it has been for a long long time and we are oyster farm-

ing in a sustainable way. It’s just perfect!” Many thanks to Tim Gippel (Senior Policy Officer, Aquaculture, Port Stephens Fisheries Centre) for providing background information and industry/government contacts for this story. By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact: Mark Bulley (NSWFA Oyster Section, c/- PO Box 443, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444) 02 6583-2444, 0419 832-444, Tony Troup (Camden Haven and SOCO) 02 6559-6678 Anthony Sciacca (Wallis Lake) 02 6555-6678, Robbie Moxham (Hawkesbury River) 0405 328-784 Ian Lyall Manager Aquaculture (NSW DPI) 02 4982-1232, Bruce Peterson (Env Services Manager, Port Stephens Council) 0408 490-602, bruce. Brett Peterkin (Clean Water Model consultant) 0414 389-519,

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Clean Waters Model for progressive councils T

he Clean Waters Model is all about community engagement,” explains Brett Peterkin, the front man appointed by the Great Lakes Council to undertake community liaison and seek government assistance for water quality improvement works following the oyster contamination incident at Wallis Lake. “The foundation of the process is engaging people and landholders for a common vision; in our case cleaning up the water quality in our lakes. Borne out of adversity, with all the big law suits, we have turned things right around.”

“Our first step is the direct engagement with landholders – direct meaningful engagement. It is not rocket science – we are passionate about clean water – we are not propeller heads or boffins.” “Today’s water quality problems need different thinking to solve. A large river/ estuary system water quality problems won’t be addressed by a few kilometres of riparian fencing – a combination of large scale riparian management, better vegetation management across the catchment, engineering works and so on driven by landholders is needed for

results. If we think small we won’t solve water quality problems; we must think big and think outside the square to get the terrific results like those we achieved at Wallis Lake. “Most landholders want to do the right thing. And it is simple as and managing your riparian zone and stock sensibly: significantly less nutrients are then lost the water. This is how we get good results and quick!” Brett said that a local council environmental levy is critical to his team being able to chase funding from Canberra and state government. “An example is where we work with Councils in the Hunter and Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority area, seeking funds additional to those the CMA already receives. This partnership has seen millions of dollars of funding for onground works. “The result is that Wallis Lake is probably the only estuary on the east coast with improving water quality. The $300 million per year tourism sector is back in full swing and once again we are

producing around one third of the state’s oyster harvest. Through everyone pulling together over the past 10 years have a vibrant community again.” “A relationship with Canberra and Sydney is crucial – funding for water quality improvement works is competitive and you need to put yourself in the best position to access the money. Funding bodies want results and that’s what the Clean Waters Model is about – results. “The oysters are certainly the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ and for years they have been squawking loudly up and down the east coast,” Brett continues. “Oyster farmers are now working with progressive councils to implement the Clean Waters Model with some Councils realising that water quality improvement must be core business. Their economic wellbeing depends on it. By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Brett Peterkin (Clean Water Model consultant) 0414 389-519,

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F E AT U R E Happy and fat cows in rich food filled paddocks losing no nutrients to the neighbouring waters. Photo: Steve Attkins.

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high sales prices show how he is building a great reputation for the ‘best beef’.

During this process he met environmental consultant Brett Peterkin and Steve soon found he had some good ideas of his which he has been spreading up and down the coast with Brett as part of his community engagement projects. As a member of the Mid North Coast area Consultative Committee he was keen to share this knowledge.

“My property is small, just over 116 acres (almost 47ha) with over 4km of river or dam frontage,” Steve says. “The problem was when it rained you just couldn’t get into the paddocks they were so muddy. I spoke to a lot of people and was told about paddock rotation so now I have fenced my property into a twelve smaller paddocks (approx 3ha) and I move the cattle between maximise feed them. They might only stay in a paddock for between 2 and 7 days, after which I go in and clean out any weeds and then mulch in the cowpats and other nutrients so they are not wasted. I also have a smart fertiliser regime with a buffer zone of 40m from any waterway.”

A series of corrugated iron and wooden shade ‘camps’ means that the cows also don’t need to get into the water to cool down. “With fencing we keep the cattle away from the river and dam and we can even catch rainwater from the shade camps that are placed to allow cool spots.”

Steve’s cattle ‘know him’ and will come over when he calls and they feel comfortable when being handled and transported to market. Happy cattle are less stressed and mean better meat quality. Steve knows he is producing better beef that many people in the district and his

Steve has also spent a lot of money (including many part funded by grants from a number of government environmental funds) to maintain his property and he knows this means good water quality in the river. “Even Blind Freddy would be able to see the problem with

The results are impressive, according to Steve he can grow his calves to 300-320kg in under 12 months (with a meat yield of 65%). “I call them milk and grass fed and growth rates like that are practically unheard of along the coast. I work with a butcher and sell them direct to the

hat lessons has an ex-Manly ‘city boy’ who is now cattle farming and making wines got for oyster farmers? Steve Attkins purchased a degraded property at Wootton on the mid-north coast some 8 years ago. By a lot of conversations with people and some courses through Department of Agriculture he learnt a lot in a short time. He also found out he was an environmentalist.

letting cattle into the water. The first thing they do in a water course or creek when drinking is urinate and defecate and before you know it the next cow is drinking putrid water. Cattle aren’t stupid and would prefer to drink clean water. So we now have off-stream watering system (troughs) which are supplied from a tank so the cattle can get a drink without eroding the bank and polluting the water and they are not constantly fighting internal issues due to poor water.”

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 39


consumer, getting much higher prices than I would if I let my beef go to the auction markets where prices can be controlled by the bigger food chains. I get around $9/kg (butchered and delivered) and some of my neighbours are only getting $1.50-1.60/kg for their beef at the market. Once eaten, people definitely ask for my beef again.”

easy it is to do the right thing. We can get them having good grass cover in their paddocks even in winter. That means faster growing calves.”

Steve you really have to wonder why it is not standard cattle management. “Our better beef comes from well managed properties and that in turns means less discharge into the river. The spin off is improved water quality for the river and we are rapt that the oyster farmers are getting better and better oysters.”

By locking up and managing his nutrients, Steve has been able to significantly reduce the amount of nutrients and turbidity runoff from his property. “My discharge levels are all around 25-30% lower than the neighbouring properties (see Table 1 below).”

“I am now working with 5-6 other cattle producers so we can sell together. I’m showing them how to source funds from the various government programs. With Brett we are working with various Councils to let land holders know how

By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Steve Attkins (Great Lakes Wines) 0414 994-788, 02 4997-7255,

“The old win/win is really true when you look at these results. Clean water, better grass and ground cover, all add up to better quality animals.” After talking to

Table 1: Concentration of various nutrients found in water samples from property sites and the average for all sites.

Sample ID

Ammonia (ug/L)

Phosphate (ug/L)

Nitrate (ug/L)

Nitrite (ug/L)

TDS (ug/L)

Total Phosphorus (ug/L)

Total Nitrogen (ug/L)

All sites average








Attkins’ property








Attkins’ % of avg








Source: Dept of Environment & Climate Change NSW

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Sometimes you have to get right inside your fish to find out what’s wrong with them.

Inset: Don’t let this happen to you. Photo courtesy of Grafton Aquaculture Centre

NSW’s health management strategy for silver perch T

here’s an old saying in aquaculture; if you can’t keep ‘em alive you can’t get ‘em to grow. Nevertheless, much of the focus over the years, particularly the new industries such as Australian native species, has been directed at production and not at the important issue of fish health management, preventative practices and treatment of disease. At last a report has been published that addresses these fundamental health issues. Development of a Health Management Strategy for the Silver Perch Aquaculture Industry is the rather long-winded title for what should become a basic tool on freshwater fish farms throughout Australia. Called the Health Management Strategy (HMS) for short, it is an output

of a major research project that was funded by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). Led by the veteran of NSW silver perch aquaculture, Dr Stuart Rowland, the project team consisted of aquatic health veterinarians Drs Matthew Landos and Dick Callinan, researcher Dr Geoff Allan, Aquaculture Extension Officer Phil Read and Fisheries Technicians Charlie Mifsud, Mark Nixon and Peter Boyd. The experimental work in the project was done at DPI facilities, the Grafton Aquaculture Centre and the Aquatic Animal Health Unit. Much of the project’s worth comes from collaboration with industry and on-

farm extension. Individual growers made their farms and stock available and worked co-operatively with the research team through the Silver Perch Growers’ Association (SPGA). The project had its genesis with the onset of winter disease which caused so much hardship on some silver perch farms in NSW from the late 1990s. The research project also addressed other important diseases of silver perch such as ichthyophthiriosis or white spot and gill flukes, and identified cost-effective control and preventative measures for most diseases. However, it is the project objective – “To develop, validate and extend a generic Health Management Plan (HMP) which can be modified to Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 41


suit the needs of individual farms”, that gives the handbook so much value to growers. The amount of work that has gone into the research and the report can be seen from flipping through its 219 professionally-assembled pages. In addition to the generic HMP, the report provides a review of all infectious diseases of silver perch, a study of the fungal disease, winter saprolegniosis and results of p experiments to evaluate the use of

chemicals to control the key diseases. There are photographs of pathogens and diseased fish, information on the effects of formalin on water quality, and recommendations for the treatment, management and prevention of the diseases. The role of well-designed facilities, good aquaculture practices, and routine monitoring of water quality and fish for diseases are discussed and emphasised. This publication is more than just a list of diseases and treatments. First of all

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it’s very readable, to experienced growers and new comers to aquaculture alike. It covers every conceivable health issue pertaining to silver perch, but more importantly, it is applicable to any freshwater fish raised in Australia, and possibly beyond. Most protozoan parasites are ubiquitous to aquaculture. In fact there are some who argue that the problems we have to deal with now were inadvertently introduced during the 19th and early 20th Centuries when the stocking of salmonids and coarse fish from the northern hemisphere occ occurred. Disease Diagnostic Manual Dis Ano Another output of the health management project is a manual entitled Diagme nosis, nos Treatment and Prevention of the Diseases of the Australian Freshwater Fish eas Silver Silv Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) by Phil Read, Matthew Landos, Stuart Rowland Rea and Charlie Mifsud. It contains photographs of pathogens and diseased fish, gra and is an easy-to-use, desk-top aid for the diagnosis and treatment of silver perch diseases. This manual in combiper nation with the HMS provides a comnat prehensive coverage of diseases and pre health management in silver perch. hea Chemicals Ch The use of chemicals in aquaculture has been problematic in the past. In the bee early days of Australian aquaculture in ear the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a limited understanding of fish farming, from both participants and farm regulators. State authorities did little reg more mo than regulate license conditions pertaining to the environment and per growers regularly used chemicals such gro as m malachite green and the antibiotic oxytetracylcline. With banning of malaoxy chite green, the industry lost its ‘penichi cillin’ and some alternative treatments cill developed overseas were not registered dev for use in Australia. The relatively small scale sca of the aquaculture industry and the extremely high costs of registration create cre difficulties in chemical use for industries. Fortunately various sectors ind have hav been issued with Minor Use Permits mit (MUP) for use of specific chemicals. cals These are issued by the Australian


Pesticides and Veterinarian Medicines Authority (APVMA). The silver perch health management project provided key data on chemical effectiveness, depletion rates and residues that have been used in applications to the APVMA for MUPs for the silver perch industry. Awareness of the situation on the farms brought about by the co-operative approach in this project led to industry and government combining to have widely used items as salt and formalin registered for use in the industry. The HMS provides a comprehensive list of effective treatments that can be used in Australia and how to access further information from APVMA. Stuart says: “The HMS and the Disease Diagnostic Manual provide a basis for improved health management across the silver perch industry, but success is dependent on the use of all components of the strategy, implementation of major recommendations by farmers, and cooperation between individual farmers, the industry, the associations and DPI”. SPGA President Ian Charles notes that many people entered the silver perch industry believing the species to be rela-

tively easy to grow. “However it is actually everything but and many farmers have left the industry due to the financial hardships brought on by mortalities caused in some cases by uncontrolled disease events. The health management strategy and the disease diagnostic manual are good tools to assist farmers and potential new entrants to the industry to overcome these events. “I guess the industry was hoping to find the aquaculture holy grail through this project but in all reality we still don’t have an effective treatment for winter saprolegniosis nor do we have a cost effective treatment for white spot that has been validated at low water temperatures. The NSW SPGA is also concerned at the lack of experienced extension available to the silver perch industry since the NSW DPI decided not to keep Phil Read in the position.” NSW Aquaculture Association President Rob McCormack also is very supportive of the new publication. “The Health Plan is great; it not only talks about the diseases but offers treatments and management practices. This is another bible that will be needed by every fish farmer

to constantly guide them through the trials and tribulations of fish aquaculture.” Without doubt the crux of the book is the Health Management Plan. It covers every contingency likely to be encountered in an aquaculture situation in warmwater ponds and not only deals with disease management but most importantly disease prevention and anticipation. While it could be argued that the publication is long overdue, it is now available and its well-thumbed pages should be on the bookshelf of every fish farmer in Australia. All those who contributed in so many ways should take a bow.

Copies of ‘Development of a Health Management Strategy for the Silver Perch Aquaculture Industry’, as well as ‘Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of the Diseases of the Australian Freshwater Fish Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus)’ can be obtained from Dr Stuart Rowland at the Grafton Aquaculture Centre by phone on (02) 6640 1691, mobile 0428 164 566, or by email on


Jeyco have been catapulted into the Aquaculture market over the last three years off the back of our Stingray Mooring Anchor.

Fusion Marine – suppliers of cage solutions

Jeyco have now been involved in the supply of equipment to Aquaculture operators that has seen us provide solutions in Mexico, Spain, Italy, Malaysia, Scotland, Japan, New Zealand and domestically to Fin Fish Farmers working with Tuna, Kingfish, Salmon, Sea Bass, Barramundi etc

What we have focused on is reducing the thinking on size and weight being the only way to looking at more efficient equipment offers that allow the operators to reduce boat and install times. An example is we recently supplied a Salmon farmer in the south of Tasmania, Huon Aquaculture, two grid systems of 30 cages and using 160 meter circumference cages. In the past they had used up to 1500kg anchors and some slump weights as well. Our system used Stingray Anchors of 375kg and 250kg, this cut their install time down by half.

We have been working to provide engineered Grid Systems to ensure that there is a responsibility on us to our client and to the insurers. In house we have the capability to provide detailed analysis that will show the loads on a single cage as well as a total system in the worst case scenario in storms and in high energy sites.

Given that we do full engineering and design around the known site conditions we are then matching equipment to a load requirement. We have worked with two manufacturers of ropes to produce higher strength Poly Olefin ropes that are less in size, again providing efficiency with out diluting the need for holding powers.

We work with a number of partners to allow us to bring to the table a turnkey solution if required, some of these partners include:-

If we are supplying a total grid we supply these pre made with a complete Vendor Data Book and drawings on assembly with an install methodology, this way there is no splicing or fabricating needed at site only putting the system together as the grid is installed.

We are also working with a large engineering firm to provide rock substrate securing methods where the bottom does not allow use of our Stingray.

Australian Marine and Offshore Group – specialize in deep sea and high energy mooring analysis, they are well respected in the Offshore Oil and Gas Sector.

Universal Nets – a supplier of netting and system solutions for over 20 years to the Aquaculture Markets. Aquaculture Engineering Group – specialise in Feed Barge Systems.

We also have access to a Marine Scientist that has a lot of experience in determining site suitability for the various species. Our strength is in working with local partners and providing turn key solutions by involving people that are experts in particular parts of the fish farm process.

Austasia A usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | JJune 200 2008 8 43



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Giant Kokopu exported in world first Adult giant kokopu

Giant kokopu from New Zealand one week after delivery in Canada. Photo by Oliver Lucanos.


n Tuesday 20th November 2007 a group of live Giant Kokopu, Galaxias argenteus, where packed up and shipped off to Canada for assessment as ornamental fish in the North American and Japanese aquarium market. These captive bred fish were exported by the team at Mahurangi Technical Institute in Warkworth north of Auckland.

The fish are being imported in to Canada by Oliver Lucanos of the company Oliver is well known amoung international aquarists as a supplier of rare and unusual species of ornamental fish and he will over the coming months be keeping these Kokopu, assessing their merit as aquarium fish, photographing them and writing about them in a number of international aquarium industry publications. If all goes well it is hoped to begin shipping significant quantities in 2008 and to follow with other captive bred species of NZ native freshwater fish soon after. Giant Kokopu are one of the whitebait species of fish and grow to around 500mm long although 300 is a more commonly found size. These individuals were bred on the innovative Raglan fish farm owned and operated by Charles Mitchell who is the only person in the world to have bred and successfully raised this species as well as several other NZ native species of fish. MTI are distributing the fish to the ornamental

trade. They have for the last year been sold in to New Zealand aquarium stores and now they have gone international. MTI Director Paul Decker says: “Not only does having Giant Kokopu available for keeping as pets raise their profile and increase awareness about the conservation issues surrounding them but by selling increasing numbers hopefully it will provide Charles with a better cash flow and allow him to continue or even increase the valuable work he does breeding native freshwater fish. This kind of synergy between commercial exploitation of a fish species and the related conservation values is something especially dear to our heart at MTI.” Giant Kokopu are the largest of the New Zealand native freshwater fish and were the first species described for science. They live in a range of habitats naturally ranging from coastal swamps to bush streams and breed in the riparian plants that line the adult habitat during wet weather in autum. The eggs are attached to the plant matter where it remains (somewhat precariously exposed to predation and desiccation) until the next inundation at which point they hatch and the larvae are swept out to sea. Like some other closely related galaxiid species the larvae spend around three months at sea feeding on the rich food source available there before returning in the spring to migrate back upstream

to the adult habitat where they grow on to adult fish. This migration of the juveniles (at this point transparent and called whitebait) is known as the “whitebait run” and is of considerable interest to fishermen, gourmets and predatory wildlife alike. A partially sea-run lifecycle is known as “diadromy” and is one of the reasons that breeding these species in captivity is such a challenge. There is however an upside in that it also means that diadromous fish are generally very tolerant of a wide range of water conditions and in particular, of course, salinity. This is very useful for aquarists who may want to use salt as a treatment. In the aquarium Giant Kokopu grow rapidly on a diet of pellet food supplemented with frozen foods, live food such as garden worms, flies, moths and, if one is not wary about tank mates, other fish. They become very ‘tame’ and will interact readily with humans by rushing to the tank front in an attempt to ‘bully’ them in to producing food and will readily take food from the fingers. The attractive chocolate brown body coloration speckled with gold markings adds to the appeal of this fish as an aquarium specimen. Incidentally every individual Giant Kokopu has unique markings and no two are alike. These characteristics, along with the interesting biological ‘story’, bode well for the Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 45


future popularity of Giant Kokopu as ornamental fish. The shipment of fish was packed in accordance with IATA (International Air Transport Association) guidelines for packing ornamental fish being air freighted. That means they were packed in plastic bags with added oxygen then placed in to polystyrene boxes that were sealed and appropriately labelled. The packing water used was previously buffered to prevent pH crash during the 36 hour journey and an ammonia removing product, a slime bandage product and methylene blue were also added to the packing water. Close up of Temperature Logger

Temperature logger being placed in shipping box full of Giant Kokopu

A frozen cooler gel pack (similar to the common ‘slikka pad’) was added to help keep the temperature down and a 3M computerised temperature logger was placed inside the box to record the temperature every minute throughout the trip. MTI has used these gadgets previously on ‘long haul’ shipments of live fish and fish eggs and found the data they give to be invaluable. When the data is downloaded on to a computer and compared to a flight schedule it is easy to see if the shipment has been left on the tarmac in full sun at Honolulu or not (and other possible indignities) despite what the airline may claim. All fish arrived in Canada in good condition and are now happily ensconced in aquaria. The arrival temperature was 17°C and the temperature logger indicated a temperature range of 14 to 18°C throughout the journey. So far so good!

Quentin O’Brien (left) and David Cooper of MTI packing Giant Kokopu.

As previously mentioned it is intended to follow the (hopefully) successful introduction of Giant Kokopu in to the international aquarium trade with other captive bred species of NZ native freshwater fish. Currently MTI has under production Freshwater Crayfish or Koura, Paranephrops planifrons, Banded Kokopu, Galaxias fasciatus and Inanga, Galaxias maculatus. Species earmarked for future production and sale are, Red finned Bully, Gobiomorphus huttoni, Common Bully, G. cotidianus, Crans Bully, G. basalis and Torrentfish, Cheimarichthys forsteri. By David Cooper

46 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


Australis wins Australian Sustainability Award for Environment After less than four years in operation, ASX listed Australis Aquaculture Ltd has taken out a prestigious Environment Award. Although Australis is currently based in the USA as well as a new venture in Vietnam, the barramundi producer is keen to promote sustainability in aquaculture production process, especially recirculation systems, right around the world.


he Australian Seafood Industry does not boast many companies on the Australian Stock Exchange but the ones that it does have are proving to be leaders in environmental excellence. This reputation has been confirmed with two companies being nominated for Awards at the “Ethical Investor” 7th Australian Sustainability Awards in Melbourne last November (2007) and one scooping the prized “Special Award for Environment”. The awards recognise excellence in Australian Stock Exchange Listed companies across corporate sustainability factors.

Against strong competition from Corporate Express, Westpac, Mirvac, ANZ Banking Group, Energy Developments, The GPT Group, Stockland, IAG Insurance Group, Transpacific Industries Group and Transurban the winner of the Environmental Award was announced by sponsor Tony Cooper, Managing Director of Energetics, as Australis Aquaculture Ltd (AAQ). In the Sustainable Small Business category both Australis and Tassal Group Ltd (TGR) were finalists but were beaten to the award by Regional Express.

Main photo: Dos O’Sullivan accepting the Environment Award on behalf of Australis. Inset: Frozen Lemon Butter barramundi

Dos O’Sullivan, Director of Australis, accepted the Environment Award on behalf of the company: “This is a great honour for our company and one that puts Australian Seafood in the limelight for environmental sustainability stewardship. “Australis has committed to the highest standards of sustainable aquaculture and made a significant investment in marketing its Barramundi as ‘The Better Fish: Better Tasting, Better For You, Better For Our Environment’. In this way we are not only expanding the marketAustasia Aquaculture | June 2008 47





1. Overview of nursery cages at Australis’ Vietnamese operation 2. Australis’ Managing Director, Josh Goldman 3. Whole Australis Barramundi Steamed Chinese Style With Scallion, Ginger & Bacon 4. Josh Goldman discussing plans with Vietnamese government officials

place for sustainable and healthy fish but proving that sustainable aquaculture can be a commercially successful venture.” The presenters of this prestigious award cited Australis for addressing a large and challenging issue with a combination of technical care and marketing savvy: “It is one thing for a new environmental technology to show promise, and yet another to prove itself to be commercially desirable, scalable and environmentally sustainable.” Dos praised the efforts of Managing Director Josh Goldman and Founder and Chairman Stewart Graham for their vision for the company that has ensured 48 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

that environmental aspects are considered in all facets of Australis’ business.

strating success in these areas at a very large-scale,” Dos added.

“The Australis team all shared in the excitement of winning such a prestigious award and they looked forward to continued expansion in the years to come. We have made commitment in all facets of our business to ensure that all environmental aspects are considered during our processes. We are also spreading our knowledge to our suppliers to ensure that the issues are considered throughout the entire production and marketing chain.”

Sustainable farming system Australis, a member of the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, has pioneered new territory with its sustainable farming system by totally isolating their fish stock from the surrounding environment. According to Josh Goldman (who designed and built the system) this eliminates the issues of interactions between wild and farmed stocks and predator control. Australis’ indoor farming facility prevents fish escapes via the use of five sequential physical barriers, plus continuous ozonation of the effluent.

“Operating a 10,000m2 facility in the US with output capacity of 1,000 metric tonnes per annum, Australis’ is demon-

“These measures also prevent possible


pathogens from leaving the facility,” he said. “Australis’ facility is the only commercial aquaculture facility in the US to have undergone a successful review by an international scientific body, ICES Working Group on Introductions and Transfers of Marine Organisms.” Josh added that Australis’ emphasis on sustainability extended to their fish feed. “Australis achieves food conversion ratios of less than 1:1 and we are able to produce a high-quality marine grade product with less than 1 unit of marine derived feed content/unit of fish produced – fully 80% less than the typical salmon farm. “Additionally, the company goes out of its way to use by-products of human food fisheries and sustainably-harvested meals. No therapeutants are used in the production process – save for good old fashioned salt – and no land animal byproducts or poultry are used in the feed. This proprietary blend of vegetable oils, coupled with the short growth cycle and low feed conversion ratio, allows Australis to produce a product that is free of mercury, PCB’s and other contaminants.”

Josh said that Australis has been awarded multiple patents for its innovative water filtration and re-use system. “The system filters, sterilizes and recycles 99.9% of all the water the plant uses. The small amount of water that is discharged is purified exceeds US EPA standards. Because the system is so clean, Australis never has to use antibiotics to control disease. “Indeed, Australis’ facility, which is closing in on production of 1,000tpa, discharges just 350M3/day containing an average of under 10kg of solids; equivalent to the loading of three typical households. This is in stark contrast to the oft cited (and obviously inflated) figure that a conventional 1,000 tonne marine fish farm discharges wastewater equivalent to a city of 20,000. The majority of the production facilities waste products are beneficially reused as fertilizer by local farmers.” Reduced energy use is another area where the Australis farming system excels. “We conserve energy through the use of highly efficient systems and heat recovery technology. This makes it

possible to produce tropical barramundi in close proximity to major world markets, dramatically reducing transport costs and as well as the ‘CO2 footprint’ associated with ‘food miles’ – an issue that consumers and retailers are increasing concerned with in making their purchase decisions.” Asian expansion Recognizing the burgeoning demand for barramundi in world markets, Australis initiated an extensive search for additional sources of supply. “In 2007, the Company entered into two agreements in Vietnam that will form the basis for production relationships offering the potential to produce 3,000tpa of saltwater Barramundi within two years, and more than 10,000tpa within 5-7 years,” said Josh. “We have been able to secure a beautiful protected site of 110ha of ocean lease for our state of the art seacage systems which will ensure our environmentally sustainable culture of Barramundi. In addition we have 5ha of onshore land for our hatchery, nursery, laboratory and fish handling facilities.”

Austasia A usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | JJune 200 2008 8 49


Australis Aquaculture, Ltd. (ASX: AAQ) is North America’s first and only significant producer of Australian barramundi. It owns and operates one of the world’s largest indoor aquaculture facilities, located in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. The Company established barramundi as a growing seafood trend in the US, and is successfully marketing its barramundi as ‘The Better Fish’: Better Tasting, Better For You, Better for our Environment. Australis’ expertise in controlled-environment aquaculture has earned it the reputation as ‘the gold standard’ in sustainable aquaculture. The Company’s low-cost production system, patented technology and experienced management are propelling Australis to expand more quickly, and at significantly lower cost, than potential competition.

Australis’ commitment to sustainable production also extends to its sourcing activities. “We require all processing facilities we use to comply with a series of environmental and social conditions, including third party Social Auditing. “For farmed product, we will only purchase fish that are indigenous to the area in which it is farmed. We are also planning an innovative program to educate and improve the environmental performance of its cooperating producers via Best Management Practices. This program will include cooperative sourcing, education and training on the use of lower fishmeal, higher digestibility feeds, fallowing, etc.” Good labour relations will also be a key to the seacage farming operations as most of the staff will be locally trained people. “We are already using Vietnamese fisheries engineers to assist with our work with the local farmers to ensure that the highest standards of quality and safety are consistently achieved. The development of a highly controlled supply chain has allowed us to initiate our first shipment of frozen product from our Vietnam operation during the quarter, with delivery to a large North American retailer in November (2007).” As the local barramundi farmers upgrade their production and improve their sustainable performance, Josh is confident Australis will provide a profitable mechanism for local farmers to access to international markets with high quality fish.” Australis’ efforts to produce and market 50 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

sustainable seafood was recognized in 2007 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s prestigious Seafood Watch Program. The program is amongst the most influential consumer guide with more than three million copies being distributed via zoos, aquariums, restaurants, retailers, universities, and seafood suppliers this year. Only about 20 seafood products have been ranked as “Best Choice” on the national guide. A commitment to excellence The Boston Globe, a leading US newspaper, published a cover story calling Australis barramundi ‘The Next Big Fish’ (November 26, 2006). This is a significant claim but one that Australis is committed to realizing. “With a strong foundation in place, fiscal 2008 is expected to be a year of robust growth which benefits from our expanded US production capacity, the development of production in Southeast Asia and the establishment of a diversified network of qualified third-party suppliers,” Josh explained. “Together, these sources will significantly boost product availability as the Company enters its next phase of growth. Each of these supply initiatives has the potential for considerable long-term expansion, resulting in profitable sales and value creation for our shareholders.” As increasing volumes of product become available, Australis’ sales initiatives are being expanded to address a wide spectrum of channels – traditional seafood distributors, restaurants, retailers and foodservice buyers. In parallel,

Australis is introducing a broader range of product formats – fresh, frozen and pre-packaged for consumer consumption. “At Australis we believe that its unyielding commitment to quality and purity will be an increasingly important asset as the global food system suffers from mounting pressure to keep food supplies safe. For Australis, nothing less than achieving excellence in every step of the process will be accepted – from the food our barramundi eat, to the water they grow in, to our processing facilities, the speed and quality of our distribution, and of course, the support which we provide to our customers. Finally, in addition to its sustainably-focused production and marketing activities, Australis is involved in broader efforts to shift global seafood markets toward more sustainable procurement. Australis is an active member of the Seafood Choices Alliance, a new global trade group dedicated to promoting sustainable seafood. The company has also played a key role in establishing a number of dialogues between the aquaculture industry, major buyers and environmental NGO’s in an effort to develop rigorous performance standards that will help reshape the industry at large over the next five years. In closing his acceptance speech, Dos said “The company has also played a key role in establishing a number of dialogues between the aquaculture industry, major buyers and environmental NGO’s in an effort to develop rigorous performance standards that will help reshape the industry at large over the next five years. We look forward to further enhancing the seafood industries credibility in this important area.” By Roy Palmer For more information on Australis, go to: Josh Goldman, Managing Director Tel: +1-413-863-2040 ext. 112, Email: For additional Information regarding the Sustainability Awards, see


$140 million Innovative CRC to reinvigorate seafood industry H

igh fuel prices and wages, lack of skilled labour, cheap imports, high Aussie dollar making exports too expensive, the drought, biosecurity and import restrictions, increased regulations and compliance costs ... the list of problems for the seafood industry goes on and on. Aquaculturists, fishers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and importers all suggest that the past few years have been their hardest. So it is with much fanfare and expectations that the Seafood CRC was launched in early August 2007 at the Australian Fisheries Academy (Port Adelaide) by the Hon Senator Eric Abetz. More than 150 industry, education and research representatives, collectively described as ‘doyens’ by CRC Chair Peter Dundas Smith, attended the launch which featured high quality seafood products from around Australia. Peter commented on the more than 2.5 years of work by an ‘army’ of industry and government people, to form what would possibly be the 3rd largest ever Co-operative Research Centre. His list of ‘thankyous’ included many of the 1

movers and shakers in our industry – people who have the foresight to understand that working together can ensure a great future for our industry. Taking centre stage, Dr Len Stephens, Managing Director, stated that the Seafood CRC Company Ltd (incorporated on 20 June 2007) would be industry driven. “The aim is to drive dollars into industry pockets,” he said, “through innovative collaborative research across the whole of the seafood value chain. The focus of the research will be on production efficiency and profitability, as well as lifting the quality and integrity of products from this multi-sector group.” Collectively, the CRC’s industry participants represent more than 90 per cent of the seafood industry’s gross value of production. “In an environment of increased pressures on resources and rising costs, the CRC provides the method for industry and science to work together,” Len said. “The 39 participants represent a major cross section of the Australian seafood industry and include fishing and aquac2

ulture companies, industry associations and consortiums, research institutions and government agencies.” For anyone wondering how such a diverse group could work beneficially, Len pointed out that the highly successful Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) was managing the R&D on behalf of more than 150 fisher companies and hundreds of aquaculture businesses and associations. Scott Parkinson, speaking on behalf of the Oyster Consortium members, said that the funding model was such that every dollar invested by industry could be leveraged up to $6 into the CRC R&D funding programs. “On the suggestion of the FRDC we formed the Oyster Consortium and in March this year we released the first R&D plan for the industry. We need progress on selective breeding, innovations in marketing, 1. Managing Director Dr Len Stephens 2. Senator the Hon Eric Abetz with Scott Walter from the Australian Prawn Farmers Assoc 3. Gilbert Hanson from Tasmanian Seafoods Pty Ltd proudly shows off his Sea Cucumbers 3

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 51


packaging and branding. We need education and training for workers and managers. All of the CRC’s programs will focus on the end user needs to have the best quality product

Seafood CRC Company Members:

Sydney Fish Market Pty Ltd

Abalone Council Australia Ltd

University of Tasmania

Australian Barramundi Farmers Association

WA Fishing Industry Council Inc.

Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries Ltd Australian Prawn Farmers Association Clean Seas Tuna Ltd Curtin University of Technology Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Flinders University Lonsec Limited Oyster Consortium members: • • • •

Australian Seafood Industries Pty Ltd Select Oyster Company Pty Ltd Shellfish Culture Ltd South Australian Oyster Research Council Pty Ltd • TASEA Enterprises Limited • Tasmanian Oyster Research Council Limited Seafood Services Australia Ltd Simplot Australia Pty Ltd South Australian Research and Development Institute Southern Rocklobster Ltd

Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association Limited Tasmanian Seafoods Pty Ltd University of South Australia

WA Government (agencies participating as core participants are the Chemistry Centre and the Department of Fisheries)

Supporting participants: Australian Abalone Growers Association Inc. CSIRO Clear Water Marine Farms Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Qld Marine Scale Pilchard Fishermen’s Association Mures Fishing Pty Ltd NSW Department of Primary Industries Ridley AgriProducts Pty Ltd Southern Adelaide Health Service Inc. Southland Fish Supplies Pty Ltd University of Adelaide University of the Sunshine Coast



Aquatic Health Professionals • Disease diagnosis & management – all species • Sole agent for AQUI-S NZ, Syndel Ltd & Aquafauna Bio-Marine Inc. • APVMA registered anaesthetics & spawning products • Feed additive – Beta Glucans • Hatchery diets & Brine shrimp Dr Stephen B. Pyecroft BVSc (Hons)

Dr Darryl A. Hudson BAppSc PhD

6 Commodore Court, Banora Point, NSW 2486 Mobile: 0409 727 853 • Fax: 07 5513 1113 Website: • Email: Austasia usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | June June 2008 2008 52 A

This ‘modus operandi’ was also highlighted by FRDC chair Dr Patrick Hone who said that the CRC would examine consumer requirements, both domestic and international. Senator Abetz noted the ‘Historic Agreement’ meant that considerable resources were being contributed by industry. He said that their investment would drive R&D that would contain costs, improve product quality, reduce wastage throughout the value chain, increase productivity and develop new markets. The hallmark result would be safe, high quality, nutritious and sustainably managed seafood products. $2.4 billion of benefits The strength of support by the seafood industry for the CRC initiative has been outstanding. In August 2006, every major Australian wild-harvest and aquaculture sector, and key post-harvest organisations made firm commitments to invest in the initiative. In December 2006 the Australian Government agreed to invest $35.5 million in the CRC over seven years, to which will be added more than $100 million by the industry, research providers and other funding sources. Peter described the level of Australian sea seafood industry commitment as “un “unprecedented in the history of the ind industry”. “Th “This extraordinary level of commitment, at a time when many sectors of the ind industry are under extreme pressure, sho shows how much industry leaders want to gget on the front foot and ensure a stro strong financial base into the future.” Ind Independent economic modelling has pre predicted that during the 10 years from July 2007, the CRC will directly and ind indirectly add $2.4 billion to the Austral tralian economy and will add a significan cant amount of new jobs, two-thirds of the them in rural and regional areas.


“The CRC is concentrating on two things,” Peter said. “The first is research that’s tightly focused on the needs of CRC investors. The second is bang for buck. It is a very commercial organisation, with industry in the majority on the board, and is backed by top researchers around Australia.” Strategic breakfast A CRC-hosted breakfast for CRC members was held the next day which gave them the opportunity to put questions to the CRC Board (Peter Dundas-Smith, Dr Len Stephens, Dr Patrick Hone, Erica Starling, Roger Cotton, Nick Moore, Prof Colin Buxton, Bob Cox and Callum Elder) as well as Seafood CRC Program Leaders. Len said that the CRC couldn’t have poor science, or ‘quick fix’ programs. The focus had to be on ‘best available’ science – credible, replicable, publishable science. Importantly a matrix of capacity within industry, R&D and other participants was mooted to identify opportunities for interaction, collaboration or co-operation between the members. The quality aspects and health benefits of Australian seafood would be reinstated in conjunction with the generic promotions of Australian seafoods through SEA (Seafood Experience Australia) which was being chaired by Dr Ron Edwards.

Patrick stressed the importance of building capacity of the industry – the ‘D side of the R&D’ – through the well resourced Education and Training program of the CRC. This program would include mentoring, PhDs, Post-Doctorates, industry member bursaries and other training activities, all of which will be part of a competitive funds process. Industry was reminded that they must recognise that academic outcomes (eg. researcher obtaining his/her PhD) were as important as the commercial outcomes. Industry consortiums (eg. oysters, barramundi, and both fishers and culturists from the prawn and abalone sectors) were encouraged to identify their R&D priorities including goals and the endusers of the developments or innovations. This needed to be summarised into a maximum of 20 words. The CRC Management Team could then match those R&D goals with the best scientific teams to get those specified outcomes. This means that the industry groups didn’t need to spend the large amount of resources usually required for funds through other sources, such as FRDC or even SSA.

“It is vital that the business within the consortiums speak with one voice,” explained Len. “And that all members are onside with that opinion. As the program proceeds, there should also be the opportunity for the consortiums to have input if the R&D needs to be changed or even halted.” Patrick said that the CRC will be judged by its outcomes – both academic and commercial ; there will be a mid-term review process throughout the seven year period. The financial benefits and other flow-on benefits of the R&D were particularly important to identify and quantify as was the monitoring process (eg. key performance indicators) to achieve this. By Dos O’Sullivan For more information: Managing Director Len Stephens 0418 454-726; Programs Coordinator Jayne Gallagher 0438 336-712; Communication Manager Emily Downes 0400 571-201; Web:

Whilst advocacy for tariff reduction (eg. EU) was not seen as a primary business for the CRC, it was recognised that there is a short fall of technical capacity and advocacy skills within industry – for example the meat industry (a previous industry in which Len Stephens worked) had a much better technical capacity to undertake negotiation through AQIS with export destination regulators. The board agreed it important to get the CRC to undertake high class appropriate science to address trade barriers / tariffs and to have an elected person at trade negotiations – along with Trade Ministers and other Government officials – and to ensure a well resourced executive was behind them. The CRC would also work in collaboration with SSA (Seafood Services Australia) on this problem. Austasia A usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | JJune 200 2008 8 53


INVE Aquaculture launches new logo N

o the INVE Owl has not been replaced just moved sideways to make way for an entirely new logo and style which has been developed for INVE’s business unit active in the aquaculture industry. The aim is to develop a more coherent and recognizable image in the numerous markets INVE Aquaculture serves world-wide. The business Unit INVE Aquaculture targets three segments of marine aquaculture:

ucts, microencapsulated diets, dry larval feeds, premixes and concentrates for grower feeds and a new series of health products”, explains Liz Evans of Primo Aquaculture, INVE’s representative in Australia. Up until now, INVE’s numerous products were marketed with an equal amount of styles, shapes and logo’s. Sometimes this was confusing for customers, and sometimes certain products were not recognized as being part of INVE Aquaculture’s product portfolio. Time had come to evaluate and bring everything together under one umbrella for supporting and enhancing the INVE image in the market, but more importantly for bringing clarity to INVE customers.

• hatcheries producing the baby fish and shellfish • farms producing the on grown fish and shellfish • feed mills producing the feed for on growing fish and shellfish

The new Business Unit Image has been designed to illustrate INVE’s activities in the fish and shellfish aquaculture industry and their strong R&D basis.

“Over the years the INVE product range has become quite diversified : it contains Artemia cysts, enrichment prod-

The new, abstract logo, designed by a Belgian design agency, is a symbiosis of these 3 elements.

The blue parts of the oval structure represent the bodies of shrimps. They encircle the white body of a fish, and the two curves underneath symbolize the protected environment in which these animals are cultured. The combination with the typical green INVE colour is a reference to INVE Technologies, INVE’s corporate Research and Development Unit, symbolising the strong science based approach for conducting INVE’s business. Based on this logo, a whole communication style was developed. The curves are used as main, graphical elements throughout the style and each customer segment has its own colour variation. Of course, the well-known INVE-owl, symbol of the INVE group, is also integrated in the style. A new look web site completes the fresh new look for INVE. For details on INVE products available in Australia contact Primo Aquaculture P/L email or Free Call 1800 024850

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Sea cucumber aquaculture in far north Queensland Background The production of bêche-de-mer from the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra or sandfish (Fig. 1) is one of Queensland’s oldest fishing industries. More recently, escalating demand from Chinese and other Asian markets for bêche-de-mer has resulted in an increase in the fishing effort. This increased fishing pressure on sea cucumber populations in northern Australia has led to tougher management measures for the Queensland industry. Since 1998 there has been a zero allowable catch for sandfish in Torres Strait and management of catches along the East Coast are now controlled under a strict rotational quota system. For many decades, China has given high priority to aquaculture development in order to address the issues of diminishing wild resources coupled with increasing demand for their highly valued sea cucumber, Apostichopus japonicus. China is now the world’s largest producer of sea cucumber: in 2002, more than half its production (almost 6,000 T) was provided through farming, mostly in ponds (Chen 2004). Progress in aquaculture for tropical sea cucumber species is more recent but there has been increased interest in sandfish culture since the development of seed production techniques in India in the late 1980s (James et al. 1994). Wild sandfish are becoming less common in most countries where they occur and there are now strong incentives to develop sea ranching, restocking, stock enhancement or land-based aquaculture technologies. Sandfish hatcheries and research programs have been initiated in Maldives, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and Madagascar, to name a few. Research into this species in the Pacific region is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) through the World-

Figure 1. Sea cucumber, Holothuria scabra (Jaeger) or sandfish

Figure 2. Sea cucumber hatchery at Northern Fisheries Centre, Cairns, Queensland.

Fish Center in New Caledonia, following on from its research in Solomon Islands and Vietnam. WorldFish has previously investigated optimal release strategies for sandfish and is currently focussed on sea ranching and stock enhancement (Purcell 2005). From early 2004 to mid 2007, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F), in collaboration with WorldFish, received ACIAR funding to transfer sandfish pro-

duction technology to far north Queensland. As a result, a hatchery facility was established at the DPI&F Northern Fisheries Centre (NFC) in Cairns. From here, NFC hatchery staff received training from WorldFish and then extended this technology within the region. Here, we briefly summarise the sea cucumber research carried out by NFC staff during this project and describe an ongoing study that may produce benefits for prawn and fish farmers in Queensland. Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 55


Figure 3. Sandfish with Vibrio bacterial ulceration.

Sandfish production at NFC Sandfish were induced to spawn and larvae/juveniles reared using methods described by Agudo (2006). The sea cucumber hatchery facilities at NFC consisted of a 500 L spawning tank, four one-tonne conical larval rearing tanks and two four-tonne raceways for juvenile rearing (Fig. 2). Chaetoceros muelleri, Isochrysis sp. (T. ISO) and Proteomonas sulcata were produced by NFCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Live Prey Unit and fed to larvae during the 10-day planktonic phase. The benthic diatom, Nitzschia closterium, was used to condition settlement plates and also to feed settled pentactula larvae and small juveniles. The study ran over three summer spawning seasons (November through to February). In the first year (2004), a hatchery run was carried out as a training exercise and to help identify any deficiencies in the hatchery design. The second and third spawning seasons were the summer months of 2005/2006

and 2006/2007, respectively. Production was low during the early runs (hundreds of juveniles), but this improved in the second year, and the third season was most successful with thousands of juveniles produced. Broodstock Sandfish broodstock were sourced from Moreton Bay, provided by the Nunukul Ngugi Cultural Heritage Foundation developmental sandfish fishery. Each spawning season, approximately 100 mature sandfish were packed individually in plastic bags with oxygen and flown to Cairns. Before and in-between hatchery runs, broodstock were kept in a DPI&F saltwater earthen pond (0.4 ha area, 1 m deep) in Townsville, previously used for fish culture. Generally, sandfish individuals grew well in the ponds and we noted improved synchrony of spawning after mature broodstock were held together for several months. However,

pond conditions were often substandard with highly variable salinity ranging from 45 ppt in winter (dry season) to 20 ppt in summer (wet season) and a water temperature often exceeding 35°C in mid-summer. We experienced total loss of broodstock every summer in the ponds, so after the second spawning season we retained a small number of broodstock in 2 tonne tanks at NFC. Although they lost condition in the tanks they were returned to the ponds in May 2006 for five months, and later spawned successfully in the third and final hatchery run. They were, in fact, more productive than non-synchronised groups collected directly from the wild. There are additional benefits to be gained from maintaining broodstock in ponds formerly used for prawn or fish culture due to the presence of a rich substratum (food source) at no additional expense. However, broodstock must be handled carefully in order to avoid disease in these ponds which may carry a high bacterial load. For example, if sandfish are damaged during collection (e.g. abraded by knotted mesh catch bags), and become stressed, this can lead to skin ulcerations caused by Vibrio bacteria (Fig. 3). We found that use of appropriate collecting gear and careful handling during collection and transport will limit this problem. Co-culture with prawn There has been much speculation g regarding the potential for co-culture of sea cucumber with prawns. Results from overseas studies are mixed. For exa example, some sizes of Penaeus monodon (tig (tiger prawn) co-cultured with sandfish cau caused death of sandfish in tank trials in Vietnam V (Pitt et al. 2004). In contrast, Vie Vietnamese aquaculture scientists claim suc successful co-culture of these two species in low intensity farming situations. New Caledonian tank trials with juvenile sandfish and Litopenaeus stylirostris (blu (blue shrimp) appeared promising (Purcell et al. 2006) but later experiments in pon ponds showed co-culture to be non-viable (Bell et al. 2007). In tthe first year of this project, sandfish bro broodstock were released into a north

Austasia usttasiia A Aquaculture quacultlture | June June 2008 2008 56 A


Queensland prawn pond as it was being stocked with P. monodon postlarvae. Only 10 of the 60 broodstock survived after four months in the pond. Furthermore, the surviving sandfish were in very poor condition. We suggest that the highly intensive prawn farming practices in Australia do not produce suitable pond floor conditions for sandfish. In particular, the formation of a hard feeding zone around the edge of the pond with a deep, anoxic waste pile in the centre is not amenable for their feeding and burrowing habits. In Queensland, we found that adults grew well in marine earthen ponds but not in an operational prawn farm environment. Juvenile grow-out The grow-out trials using juveniles produced in Cairns closely followed studies conducted in New Caledonia by WorldFish. As one of our aims was to assess the usefulness of sea cucumbers for pond bioremediation, grow-out trials were done on prawn farms. WorldFish developed a system of hapas (400700 µm mesh) and bag nets (1 mm mesh) (Fig. 4) to facilitate high density

Figure 4. Bag net for rearing juvenile sea cucumbers, located in a QLD prawn farm channel.

grow-out of 5-15 and 15-30 mm sandfish juveniles, respectively. In Cairns, we used similar bag nets to grow juveniles in three different situations: the intake channel at a prawn farm north of Cairns; the bioremediation channel of a farm south of Cairns; and in a DPI&F saltwater earthen pond in Townsville. Highest growth was achieved in the intake channel where water quality was

optimal and exchange frequent. The algal food source grew well on the mesh of the bag nets and juveniles quickly increased in size. Conversely, juveniles in the bioremediation channel all died within a fortnight and the bag was infested with barnacles and chironomid larvae (the latter are indicators of low oxygen levels). Juvenile sandfish in bag nets in the Townsville pond did not

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Figure 5a. Farm grow-out trial: prawn pond stocked with sandfish juveniles.

grow well and suffered high mortality, we believe this was due to inadequate water exchange and low algal growth on the bag net mesh. Juveniles of approximately 10 g mean size were taken out of the bag nets and released into the substratum of the Townsville pond. They reached a mean weight of 180 g in nine months but subsequently died in the following wet season. Although results were from limited and unreplicated trials, we concluded that bag nets could be used to scale up sandfish production in prawn farms in northern QLD, and that these would perform best in areas with good water supply and quality. These requirements suggest that the use of small juveniles as bio-remediators may be limited.

Figure 5b. Farm grow-out trial: juveniles ready for release.

Ongoing trials The final (currently in progress) project activity is to use the juvenile sandfish that were produced in the last hatchery run at NFC in a commercial one-year grow-out trial on a prawn farm. Sea cucumber grow-out in New Caledonia and Vietnam has demonstrated that rapid growth can be achieved in ponds (Bell et al. 2007). In New Caledonia, WorldFish has produced A-grade sized sandfish (~ 400 g each) in about a year in unused prawn ponds (Bell et al. 2007). Our aim is to see if there is similar potential in QLD for prawn farmers to diversify with sandfish or use them as an occasional alternate crop. Although sandfish value is much lower than prawn, input costs are also lower, (no feeding, less water exchange, reduced power costs). There is also the potential bonus of cleaner ponds in the end of the grow-out cycle. We selected a farm in the dry tropics, 400 km south of Cairns, with access to good salinity water in the wet season. In late March 2007, over 2,000 juveniles of between 10 and 40 g weight were transferred to a 0.4 ha pond (Fig. 5a, b), with the assumption that there were sufficient nutrients in the sediment to sustain the sandfish to commercial size. The simple management protocol for the pond and stocked sandfish was based

58 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008


sandfish pond, what management regime will provide best growth and survival, and some economic modelling with real growth and survival data. This final trial, being conducted with juveniles produced at the Northern Fisheries Centre in Cairns, will add to the baseline information on pond grow-out and may lead to benefits for Australian prawn or fish farmers.

Mean sandfish weight (g)

160 Benthic algal bloom




0 12 Apr

6 Jun

28 Aug

24 Oct

Figure 6. Growth data for stocked sandfish in both prawn ponds. The broken lines represent growth of sandfish in the first stocked pond, open circles are the very small individuals transferred on plastic sheets and open squares are the larger individuals. The solid line represents sandfish that were transferred to the second pond following the benthic algal bloom in the first pond.

on advice from WorldFish (N. Agudo pers. comm.). Water quality is monitored regularly, and every effort is made to keep temperatures below 35°C (above which mortality can occur) but high enough to promote rapid growth. Salinity is maintained in the range of 28-35 ppt, although sandfish will tolerate salinities out of this range for short periods. Water exchange is important (equivalent to at least 10% daily) and the water column must not stratify, particularly in times of heavy rain. A single paddlewheel was installed at one end of the pond to promote mixing and keep oxygen levels up. Predator management must be considered and the pond should be as free of potential predators (e.g. crabs) as possible before stocking and checked regularly during grow-out. WorldFish recommends maintaining density in ponds at below 200 g m2 to optimise growth, as growth has been shown to slow down once it reaches this level. Therefore, pond biomass should be monitored and pond density thinned once it reaches this level. Stocked sandfish are growing well, despite colder than average water temperatures during the 2007 winter months (Fig. 6). A potential problem arose when the pond floor became covered in a thick blanket of green algae. A similar event led to reduced growth of sandfish in ponds in New Caledonia (N. Agudo pers. comm.). When the algal

bloom occurred, we collected and transferred 900 sandfish to a second pond (0.6 ha in area). Unfortunately, this pond also developed benthic algae, although no animals were removed on this occasion. The effects of benthic algae on the growth and survival of sea cucumbers in a Queensland pond won’t be known until the conclusion of the trial. In an innovative attempt to bypass the time-consuming and labour-intensive nursery phase, we also transferred a group of recently settled juveniles spawned in January 2007 directly to a prawn pond. The tiny sea cucumbers, only 2-3 mm in length, were siphoned directly from larval rearing tanks onto a plastic sheet conditioned with diatoms. They readily attached to the plastic which was then spread out and secured on the floor of the pond. Since then, numerous small juveniles have been found in the sediment adjacent to the plastic sheets and this group have been measured separately during monitoring trips (Fig. 6). This could be an important area for future research because this early nursery period constitutes a bottleneck to scaling up production of sandfish. What next? Before the concept of land-based aquaculture of sandfish can be regarded as a serious proposition, there is still more information needed on optimum stocking density, what constitutes a good

ACIAR continues to support research into sea cucumber culture through the WorldFish Center and other Pacific Islands regional initiatives and more study will be done on this promising concept. In Australia, the farm trial is due to be completed by mid 2008, at which time, an economic assessment will indicate whether there is potential for sandfish as a commercial commodity in the Queensland pond aquaculture scene. By Cathy Hair and Anjanette Johnston References Agudo, N. (2006) Sandfish Hatchery Techniques. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the WorldFish Center, Noumea, 44 pp. Bell, J.D., Agudo, N.N., Purcell, S.W., Blazer, P., Simutoga, M., Pham, D. and Della Patrona, L. (2007) Grow-out of sandfish Holothuria scabra in ponds shows that co-culture with shrimp Litopenaeus stylirostris is not viable. Aquaculture, in press. Chen, J. (2004) Current status and prospects of sea cucumber industry in China. In: Lovatelli, A., Conand, C., Purcell, S., Uthicke, S., Hamel, J-F., Mercier, A. (Eds) Advances in sea cucumber aquaculture and management. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 463:25-38. James, D.B., Gandhi, A.D., Palaniswamy, N. and Rodrigo, J.X. (1994) Hatchery techniques and culture of the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra: Transfer of technology. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute. CMFRI Special Publication No 57. Pitt, R., Duy, N.D.Q., Duy, T.V. and Long, H.T.C. (2004) Sandfish (Holothuria scabra) with shrimp (Penaeus monodon) co-culture tank trials. SPC Bêche-de-mer Bulletin, 20:12-22. Purcell, S. (2005) Final stages of WorldFish-SPC sea cucumber project. SPC Fisheries Newsletter 112:37-39. Purcell, S.W., Patrois, J. and Fraisse, N. (2006) Experimental evaluation of co-culture of juvenile sea cucumbers, Holothuria scabra (Jaeger) with juvenile blue shrimp, Litopenaeus stylirostris (Stimpson). Aquaculture Research 37:515-522.

Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008 59


Murray cod: research quantifies a promising opportunity B

eing able to stock with juvenile fish all year round is a huge advantage to the aquaculture growout sector. Traditionally Australian native species have been bred when pond temperatures have triggered ova maturation. This covers a period between early spring to late summer, depending on the latitude on which the particular hatchery sits.


With Australia’s El Niño driven climatic system and the instability created by global warming, the industry sits on a knife edge waiting for seedstock. Any hiccup in hatchery production leaves gaps in production that costs the particular sector market credibility. It has also encouraged growers to hold uneconomical slow growing stock as insurance against seedstock shortfalls.



A team of research scientists based at Deakin University Warrnambool has turned that tradition on its head by conditioning Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) to breed in a closed system any time of the year.

1. A McRoberts inflatable fish grader in the inflated mode showing how the fish are moved from one situation to another without having to handle them. 2. Dr Paul Jones pointing to one of his deep sea trophy catches. 3. Part of the bio-filtration at Deakin.

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The aim is to stimulate the Murray cod industry. Cod are an iconic fish and have a market following. However the industry hasn’t taken off in the same way as the barramundi sector. Funded by a $2.06m grant from the Victorian Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development’s Sustainable Technologies Initiative (STI), as w well as in-kind contributions from Dea Deakin University and industry partners, the team is examining several key comme mercial aspects of Murray cod. As well as ccontinuous seedstock supply they are eva evaluating nutrition, closed production sys system design and performance and the eco economics of commercial production. Loc Local trout farmer, Peter Kavanagh, is also part of the research. A 20 tonne recirc circulation unit has been built on his farm and provides a real time commercial control for the project.

In order to move towards the eventual goal, Deakin has several interrelated projects underway. They include: • Diet development and optimisation (David Francis; Giovanni Turchini; Paul Jones; Sena De Silva); • Broodstock reproductive physiology and controlled breeding (Dane Newman; Paul Jones; Brett Ingram); • Organoleptic properties and product quality (Giorgio Palmeri; Giovanni Turchini; Sena De Silva); • Chronic erosive dermatography syndrome (CEDS, also known as hole in the head syndrome) characterisation and therapy (Aaron Schultz; Sarah Shigdar; Paul Jones; Tess Toop).; • Bioeconomics (Graeme Wines, Paul De Ionno, Paul Jones, Bob Collins), and • Water cycle management (Brad Mitchell and team). Dr Paul Jones (Research Coordinator), Dr Giovanni Turchini (Lipid Nutrition) and Mr Bob Collins (Systems Manager) are the on-site managers of the project. By developing these aspects of cod production it is envisaged that it will provide guidelines for industry to follow and remove uncertainty about some areas of production. Without doubt the most important of which is the provision of a year round supply of quality seedstock. The broad coverage of the initiative has brought into focus other research targets that would have an immense benefit to the industry. One that Paul is keen to see developed further is the whole of water cycle management. “Presently the wastewater is pumped to the sewer which bears a large cost and is a waste of good quality nutrient rich water. “We want to expand our research to look at alternative ways of disposal that may incorporate cost savings elsewhere ... such as hydroponics in the adjacent newly developed TAFE horticulture unit, broad acre fertilisation on adjacent


farmland, use of geotubes and waste water treatment in combination with wetland remediation and reuse back into the facility, watering public amenities such as the adjacent golf course, on the nearby agro-forestry plot and grape production. “We have all the necessary elements close at hand to develop an industry model for best practice water cycle management and to incorporate the research into how the waste water can be stripped of its nutrients and re-used.” Aquaponics is very much in vogue at the moment and Paul sees it as a way of economically marrying the high water exchange associated with high stocking densities to a commercial hydroponics operation. Situated on the banks of the Hopkins River at Warrnambool, the capital of Victoria’s Western Districts, the operation is housed in one large 36m x 36m building and consists of five independent systems; a 20 tonne grow-out system; three x 6 tonne systems (all have been used as broodstock conditioning rooms, but are multi-purpose flexible research and production facilities); and the hatchery and larval rearing system. Supporting the facility are a suite of analytical laboratories covering nutrition, sensory evaluation, histology, fish metabolism, chemistry and biology. Hybrid technology A very important part of the research is system evaluation and improvement. The re-circulation unit is a hybrid of some of the best technology available and comprises a combination of technology based on the European Hesy system (built by Australian Aquaculture Systems), technology developed in Australia by McRoberts Aquaculture Systems, and

modifications introduced by Prof Tom Losordo (in his advisory role to the Sustainable Aquaculture System Board) and by Bob Collins and Paul Jones. The growout system consists of 24 x 1,0005,000L growout tank. The water quality management system starts with a 60µm, 2000L/hr drum filter. Paul reckons that one of the most important modifications to be the use of micro bead filtration (on the advice of Prof. Losordo) – an Australian first. The bio-filtration system is sufficient to support stock loads from 80kg/m3 to 150kg/m3 and in the 20 tonne system a feed input of approximately 100kg/day. These loads would be impossible without oxygen generation and this is provided by an Oxair OA-160 model powered by a pair of Kaeser compressors. This supplies the whole facility. UV completes the water purification process. Paul is confident that re-circulation technology will evolve greatly from where it sits today. “The next generation will have improvements in energy efficiency and capability to the point that it will become a major method of seafood production and, most importantly, a crucial tool in food security.” Hatchery The hatchery/nursery has a range of tanks and all the necessary equipment you would expect to find in a state-ofthe-art hatchery. The laboratory is also state-of-the-art to match the level of technology being developed there. The broodstock holding areas have sixty 1,000L to 2,500 L broodstock conditioning tanks. Broodstock facilities are separate from the hatchery.



1. Researcher Dane Newman making sure everything’s ship shape in the hatchery. 2. Research Assistant Steve Ryan checking the control panel that keeps this vast conglomerate system on track. 3. The engine room. On the left is the 60µm Hydrotech drum filter, on the right the six bead filters. At the right rear there are two up welling filters outflow to the heat exchange and the UV tubes are housed in the block. The de-gassing tower is at the right rear.

Water comes from a bore at 16°C. Each room is isolated and water temperature can be manipulated to suit whichever

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part of the program is in progress. The growout water is between 22°C and 23°C. The water, as would be expected from the subterranean water under the basalt plains of Western Victoria, has a total hardness in excess of 400 mg/L. The pH is between 8 and 8.5. No buffering is required to stabilize the pH.

at DPI’s Snobs Creek facility – under the auspices of the Our Rural Landscape (ORL) program – is designed to identify genetic influence on growth and other performance characteristics. Once identified, gene lines will be selected to narrow the observed variability in these characteristics and improve them.

The highly efficient bead biofilter keeps ammonia to insignificant levels but, as expected with high stocking densities, the daily water exchange is at the higher end of the scale – as high as 25% a day in the production unit. This, Paul says, is one of the areas where improvements must still be made and gains made by integrating aquaponics with recirculation facilities.

Once the larvae have exhausted their yolk sacs they’re fed artemia for a week before being weaned onto a Skretting Gemma® larval crumble. They are held in the nursery until after they are completely weaned (3g to 10g), at which point they are moved to the growout section of the facility. Part of each cohort is sent to Peter Kavanagh’s farm, only 10 minutes away, for comparison with stock purchased from commercial hatcheries. The results from the commercial control suggests that fry from manipulated spawnings are the equal of seedstock bred seasonally on farms.

Aquaponics The science is simple. Like all animal production, the metabolic process generates organic waste. Recirculation technology concentrates phosphate, nitrate and carbon dioxide in solution in the waste water. (Bio-filtration/nitrification uses CO2 as a carbon source and results in lower levels. While some trickle filters have a degassing capacity, the mjicrobead filters don’t. At Deakin a dedicated degasser has been added to each system.) All three elements are vital to plant production. Using the by-products of one production process to drive another presents a scientifically practical and an economically elegant solution to what had previously been a cost of disposal. The organic solids can be separated and the rich residue can be dried and used in horticulture as fertilizer or used as a liquid application (where salt is not present in the production water).

1. The 60µm Hydrotech drum filter (L) and the bead filters (R) 2. Steve coaxing some of the Murray cod being grown at the facility to the surface. 3. You can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs. The spare parts storage area at the rear of the facility. 4. Deakin Warrnambool sits on the banks of the Hopkins River.

62 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

Production cycle Of course the most important aspect of manipulating the breeding cycle is the productivity of the offspring. Growth rates and feed conversion of cod grown from fry spawned ‘out of season’ hasn’t varied from those produced in seasonallytriggered spawnings. Fish are reaching 1kg in 12 to 14 months with the same growth rate spreads you would expect from fish that, while they have been farm bred, are intrinsically wild. Paul says the comprehensive selective breeding program

Funding The project has a three year operational period with a five year reporting period and is nearing its conclusion. The University has been underwriting some of the operational costs under its recurrent research budget but Paul says the operation will need to be become more selffunded in the future for items such as wages, stock and food. He sees this coming from a range of avenues including research grants, industry consultancies, contracted research and production generated by the research. Having a strong commercial leaning, the program thus far is able to produce 200kg to 300kg of Murray cod each week. Processed through a non-incorporated joint venture arrangement with Peter Kavanagh, the University’s fish is sold with his own. This way, the cod are introduced onto the market in an orderly way under normal commercial constraints. Out of Season Breeding Dane Newman is doing his PhD on the out of season breeding program. Success hasn’t come easily. Despite achieving up to 100% maturation of females and 100% ovulation, hatch rates have been variable. Why that’s the case is not yet certain. Dale’s hunch is that although


conditioning plays a major role, it’s likely that a suite of factors is involved. Currently he’s running two maturation cycles that culminate in separate breeding seasons in June and September. The breeders are conditioned to a regime that simulates the winter-summer cycle experienced in the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). The females, once maturation has been established, are anaesthetized and injected with 1,500i.u./kg of hormones. Although the accepted method of injecting males was originally followed, it has been found to be unnecessary. The eggs from females are stripped into a 0.4 % sodium chloride, 0.3 % urea solution making sure none of the water in which they were anaesthetized gets into the bowl. The males are anaesthetized and the milt is collected in a syringe, after which it is added to the eggs and mixed gently. Once fertilized, they are spread out on hatching screens for incubation. They hatch 6-10 days later. Compared to other commercial species such as barramundi – which can drop 100,000eggs/kg of body weight – Murray cod are not fecund. However, the 6,000 eggs per kilo of body weight the female does spawn are well guarded in the wild and they have a 10 day supply of yolk on which the newly hatched larvae develop. By the time this has been consumed they have a well developed gape and digestive system – zooplankton of 180µm to 450µm in length can be managed straight off the yolk sac – and are able to move onto large food such as artemia. 100% artificial food is being trialled in weaning experiments with promising results so far. Survival rates are higher than normal and it is quite common to get up to 90% of the hatched larvae through to the nursery stage. Dane says it is too early to make comparisons between broodstock reared in recirculation systems (RAS domesticated) to those reared in ponds. He’s run both types of broodstock on a nine month cycle and now has them on a 12 month cycle. While little difference in egg and larval quality has been evident, as a rule of thumb, the longer the fish were acclimatised to the conditions prior

to the cycles being modified, the more likely the fish were to mature according to the targeted schedule. “This pretty much sums up the differences we found between the pond reared and domesticated fish. The pond fish were stocked into the system only a couple of weeks before the modified cycles began, whereas the domesticated stock had four months to acclimatise to the conditions before the modifications began. As you would expect, the pond fish weren’t able to respond to the nine month cycle as effectively as the domesticated stock leading to fewer females maturing after the nine month period. But because of the different stocking dates, we can’t effectively compare between the two different groups until we’ve completed the second season which is upon us now.” Once the project got going and numbers were built up, the researchers were able to sacrifice a few mature fish to examine maturation levels and the effect that holding fish indoors had on the physiology of the broodstock. Each month half a dozen 4kg to 6kg mature broodstock were sacrificed and thoroughly examined morphometrically (GSI, visceral fat index, HIS, length weight, etc.), had blood removed for hormone analysis and gonads staged and stored for later histological examination.

diet he paid particular attention to the liver but found nothing of concern; the ration being used is a Skretting broodstock diet of 21.6MJ/kg energy and 45% protein (Skretting Vitalis SA). Ultrasound Using ultrasound to establish gender and stage of ovary development, the team at Deakin have been able to identify females as young as two years old. The usual age at which gender is clearly established for females from an external examination can be as old as five. Whilst male testes don’t show up, if a fish hasn’t developed ovaries by this age it is microchipped as a male. Ultrasound has also proven a useful tool in tracking the growth of ovaries; comparison of the ultrasound image with physical data from the monthly postmortems reveals close correspondence between the ultrasound image and the actual diameter. Given that, it is easy to track progress by referring the ultra-

Paul says the fish carried a lot of visceral fat but this is the nature of the species. The organs were in fine condition. Havingg the breeders on a salmon

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sound image to a chart (drawn up from the post mortem data) comparing ovary size to egg development. Dane says recent experiments have examined methods to block the natural ‘switch-off’ of gravid female broodstock whereby eggs are reabsorbed late in the season before they can be induced to spawn. Under investigation is ‘cold storing’ of ripe broodstock in abnormally low temperatures. Although similar methods have been used successfully on other fish species overseas, it is still too early to know whether Murray cod will respond in a similar advantageous way. Economics Economics have been an issue for Murray cod aquaculture as costs of production has kept the species at the (limited) top end of the market. A team from Deakin led by Dr Graeme Wines conducted a study based on three years of commercial data, analysing figures generated from the Warrnambool Trout Farm’s commercial facility extrapolated onto 50 and 100 tonne per annum models. The outcomes were revealing and may help explain the reason for the low financial success rate in the sector. A 20 tonne system is clearly not economically-viable based on assumptions underpinning the model. A 50 tonne system was marginally viable; over a 10 year period it would be expected to give an investor an internal rate of return (IRR) of 11.75%. Using the same data, the IRR of a 100 tonne system over the same period is 21.03%.

1. Injecting a female cod with hormone to induce ovulation at Deakin Warrnambool. Photo by Paul Jones

2. Checking the egg stage development of one of the manipulated breeders. Being able to condition broodstock out of season is a major breakthrough for the growout sector. Photo by Paul Jones

3. The iconic Murray cod can grow to over 100kg. Shown here is one of the more manageable sized females at Deakin University Warrnambool. Photo by Paul Jones 4. The oxygen reactor cylinder. The crane in the foreground is used to lift heavy gear from the pit in which the water cleaning equipment is mounted

64 Austasia Aquaculture | June 2008

Based on this information, the small systems promoted so eagerly in the pioneering days of recirculation technology were clearly doomed from the start. However, the next generation of investors now have economic guidelines to incorporate into SWOT analyses of investment strategies. Marketing One of the problems with the marketing has been the belief that the farmed fish don’t possess the same eating qualities as wild fish; a view Paul shared until he became involved in the program. As could be imagined from the monthly post mortems, there are plenty of opportunities

for taste testing. “They’re (the farmed fish) top quality eating. I’ve mainly eaten sea fish until now but I’ve been impressed with the flavour and texture. It’s a matter of getting the word out there,” he says. “The results of Giorgio’s PhD work on purging and product (organoleptic) quality certainly attest to these views.” Low key market research confirms this analysis. Although limited by the number of fish they have available, fish have been supplied to some of Melbourne’s top restaurants where they have been very well received. Price, or more accurately cost of production, and reliability of supply are seen as marketing obstacles that have to be overcome. Both are challenges that the industry needs to deal with if it is going to develop. The future Paul is very positive about the future. “There’s been a big investment made in this program. We’ve got through the construction period while simultaneously conducting some top quality applied and fundamental research. Five years of hard work has delivered some excellent, industry-scale data and technology and have provided the backdrop for five PhD students, ten honours research projects and many undergraduate student projects and international exchanges, mostly working on Murray cod. It is now up to the industry to take a lead role in moving the sector forward. Now that the STI program is nearing an end we are looking for other opportunities to continue working on this exciting area of production science. We have a research facility and team that is capable of generating some real benefits to the aquaculture industry. Presently we are looking at other species such as trout, eels and barramundi in a global context and invite industry to join us in developing an environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry that drives both food production and creates wealth based on scientifically proven technology. Paul Jones can be contacted at The School of Life and Environmental Sciences by phone on (03) 5563 3433, or by email on

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March 2008  

Austasia Aquaculture Magazine March 2008

March 2008  

Austasia Aquaculture Magazine March 2008