Volume 18 No. 5 â€“ October/November 2004
Farmed prawns survive tough markets Cover pic to come
Abalone sector sets its agenda Taking costs from selective breeding Floating raceways replace cages Redclaw pioneer's facts of life Cashing in on tourism dollars WA black pearl developments Flying ornamentals worldwide
EDITOR - IN - CHIEF
Dr Tim Walker REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS
David O'Sullivan John Mosig Dave Field SUBSCRIPTION / EDITORIAL
Austasia Aquaculture PO Box 658, Rosny, Tas. 7018 Ph: 03 6245 0064 Fax: 03 6245 0068 Email: AustasiaAquaculture@ netspace.net.au ADVERTISING
FA R M P R O F I L E Floating raceways provide viable alternative to small cages
Redclaw pioneer explains the facts of farming life
Archvale Trout cashes in on tourism dollars
WA black pearl industry developments
Cairns Marine Aquarium Fish flies fish worldwide
Megan Farrer GRAPHIC DESIGN
Graham Ristow PRINTING
NEWS Farmed prawns survive tough markets
Kick-start for Qld indigenous aquaculture
The Franklin Press 91 Albert Road, Moonah, Tas. 7009 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: Some of the huge growout tanks at Australis Aquaculture’s barramundi US growout facility. Photo courtesy of Australia Aquaculture Pty Ltd.
F E AT U R E S Abalone sector sets its agenda
Taking the costs out of selective breeding for abalone
Saving energy equals saving money (and the environment)
ENVIRONMENT Clean Bill Of Health for Tasmanian marine farming
Tasmanian oyster farmers initiate EMS
RESEARCH Stamina of shrimp postlarvae: measures and indicators needed for organic aquaculture
AB&S Solar AGK Technologies AllTanks Australia Ajay/Duraplas Aquaculture Services Australia Aquafauna Bio-Marine Ltd USA Aquahort Aquamesh Aquasonic Aqua Supplies WA Aquatic Diagnostic Services International AQUI-S Austasia Web Aust Monofil BST Oysters Davey Pumps FisheNews Hanna Instruments ICE Technologies Marketplace Classifieds MOS Plastics Murray Darling Fisheries New Edge Microbials Nth QLD TAFE Nylex Materials Oblomov Trading Oxygen Generators Quin Marine Radford Park Aqua Feeds Ready Dock Seafood Innovations Sealite Pty Ltd Shellfish Equipment Pty Ltd Silver Perch Culture Skretting Australia Superior Fibreglass Sydney Fish Market Tapex Technolab Marketing Tooltech Pty Ltd Uarah Fisheries Vic Mariculture VP Industries Waterco Wedeco AVP Pty Ltd World Aquaculture
10 26 39 35 52 27 43 Inside front cover 23 20 27 38 11 13 12 47 33 18 67 4 25 28 41 36 48 34 6 52 26 33 44 20 33 31 45 Outside back cover 34, 35 37 Inside back cover 17 23 Inside back cover 25 43 32
Floating raceways provide viable alternative to small cages A floating raceway aquaculture system has been developed by a Queensland cotton farmer as a cost effective way for growing fish in large waterbodies. It offers efficiencies in labour and feeding costs and increased stocking densities through airlifts and circulation.
When placed side-by-side two raceways can have a 25cm metal non slip catwalk bolted between them to provide a stable 1.2m wide walkway.
For many years aquaculture has been promoted as a diversification option for irrigators and other agricultural farmers with large water storage reservoirs or dams. However, of the culture systems promoted to this sector, few have proven to be cost effective even given the access these farmers have to existing infrastructure (machinery, water, pumps and pipes). Some farmers have tried tank-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) but these have often proven to be costly due to poor design or inexperienced management. Others have gone along the extensive culture pathway, simply stocking fry in their dams or reservoirs. Quickly, however, problems with predation and stock husbandry (feeding, grading and harvesting) became evident and again production levels have been disappointing. Cages, in a wide range of designs, have been promoted as an alternative to RAS or free-ranging stock for inland fish farmers. Unlike the huge cages (<500m3) used in the sea for tuna and salmon, cages in freshwater systems are usually small (<10m3) for ease of operation. Several barramundi farmers are
using this option, although it hasn’t proven to be that successful with lower priced fish as silver perch due to high operating costs. Paul McVeigh, owner and director of Dalby (Qld) cotton and grain producer McVeigh Bros Pty Ltd, offers a prime example. “We have 2,600ML of water held in five ring tanks (sometimes called turkey-nest dams or reservoirs). The ring tanks vary in size from 250ML up to 1,000ML. We wanted to utilise the water infrastructure we have rather than build new ponds on land presently used for cotton and grains production. “So we started out with floating cages to try and grow silver perch but with little success. Like others, we experienced a number of problems including the need for a lot of labour, loss of feeds through the meshes, fouling of the nets, net damage, bird predation and difficulties with stock treatment (medications).” Despite these difficulties Paul persisted with the concept of using his ring tanks for aquaculture. “It’s all about getting two incomes from the same water and infrastructure,” he explains. His solution was to construct a plastic
raceway that could be floated within the ring tank. Being a solid structure, he believed it would resolve many of the issues that he was facing with net cages. He had seen concrete raceways used on other farms in Australia and Israel but knew of no-one using plastic floating raceways. The result is the TAMCO system, produced through a joint venture between Bushman Tanks (a national rotomoulding business supplying a range of plastic tanks and other agricultural products) and McVeigh Bros. TAMCO is the acronym for Total Aquaculture Management Co Pty Ltd. The floating raceway system is specifically designed for inland waters. “We wanted a cost-effective and profitable way to produce fish,” Paul explains. “We needed to remove the uncertainty of fish production in our ring tank – which was not built with aquaculture in mind. The TAMCO system has the potential to give farmers a way to increase income from each megalitre of water. The system allows them to utilise their existing infrastructure to produce another crop ... fish.” A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
Clockwise from left: A series of TAMCO raceways complete with a service poonton jetty to allow easy access. Lifting up the anti-bird cover on one of the raceways. A crowding net is used to congregate all the fish into a smaller area for grading or harvest.
by a bank of air-lifts at one end of the raceway that continuously lifts large volumes of water into each unit. The entire volume is exchanged every 7-10 minutes depending on the design and length of the raceway. “To encourage thorough mixing of water (to keep dissolved oxygen levels high), we slot in a baffle at the surface of the raceway to push the flow down to the bottom and along the length of the raceway,” Paul adds.
While still facing many challenges associated with aquaculture in such a water body, Paul says that the floating raceways have made the activity a lot easier. “It has overcome many of the management difficulties we experienced. We now have ready access to the fish and, with the improved water flows, have been able to increase stocking densities whilst improve our husbandry practices at the same time.” The TAMCO raceways consists of a large floating plastic (polypropylene) box with screens at each end to stop the escape of fish but still allow water movement. This water movement is driven
Components The system is modular and consists of a 1.5m long airlift section and up to four 3m long culture sections. Thus the
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TAMCO system can be installed in configurations of between 4.5m and 13.5m long (ie. 1 airlift plus 4 culture sections). The raceway is 1.4m high (1.1m internal water depth when floating) and can operate in waters greater than 1.7m deep. The sections are 1.8m across plus 35cm walkways on each side. When aligned side by side, a 25cm metal nonslip catwalk can be bolted between two raceways to provide a stable walkway 1.2m wide. The system uses a number of accessories to further improve production efficiency: • Crowding boards to reduce the water available for the fish so they can be easily observed, sampled or harvested (using dip nets or fish pumps); • Grading screens which are used to segregate larger stock from small for harvesting or to reduce cannibalism; • Solid isolation boards for containing the raceway water during medication of the stock (so less medication is used and treatment is quicker); and • Bird proof mesh to cover the whole raceway and exclude birds, these can also be locked down to prevent unauthorised removal of stock. An optional extra is a modular pontoon jetty. These are extremely stable, strong and can be slotted together for easy access for a variety of raceway configurations. Each piece is roto-moulded, 1.2m x 2.4m, with locking pins to allow easy
installation and are easy to move from one location to the other. “We haven’t done specific tests on how much they can hold, but we know they can support lots of people moving around the raceways.” The patent-pending raceways and pontoons are all made from UV stabilised roto-moulded plastic, come with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty against UV degradation and are quite light and easy to transport. The product has already been sold to other farms in Queensland and interstate (see Box Insert). Cost effective fish production According to Paul, the TAMCO offers real management and efficiency benefits. “There are major cost savings,” he says. “We demonstrated this in a series of trials overseen by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F). TAMCO supplied raceways to Mark Fantin of Sugarland Barramundi (located at Edmunton near Cairns) to compare the raceways with 8m3 floating cages.” Results from these barramundi trials are summarised in Table 1. Dr Adrian Collins, Fisheries Biologist, Profitable Aquaculture Systems, DPI&F presented these results at the 2003 barramundi farmers’ conference in Darwin. He said that more recent data is currently being analysed but the results appear to support previous trials in terms of improved production efficiencies in raceways compared to small net cages. “The benefit of the floating raceways is in allowing units to be stocked at higher rates than is often practical in net cages,” he said. “One small raceway can hold the equivalent of up to a half dozen net cages. Along with the high biomass yields the other standout results from the trials have been the improved FCRs (Food Conversion Ratios) and survival compared to cages. However, we observed if you stock intensively but don’t have a disease management plan then growth can suffer. This explained some of the less favourable results earlier on in the raceways but these issues have been overcome through regular stock inspection, maintenance and cleaning.” “The work is ongoing at the moment
and we are continually improving on the design and management,” Paul continues. “The benefits include reducing labour costs, ease of feeding, ease in application of medication and lower mortality rates. The ability to identify over-feeding and feed wastage has resulted in lower FCRs and therefore feed costs. Another saving for us has been in the time taken to complete a medication. In the cages, it would require six man hours to prepare and treat just a few cages. It takes only 15 minutes to prepare a raceway for a treatment.” Barramundi Mark Fantin is the owner operator of Sugarland Barramundi which harvests 20-30t tonnes per year. He has traditionally used floating cages (2m x 2m x 2m, for a total of 8m3) for rearing juvenile barramundi (20g+) through to a maxi-
mum of 500g. Once large enough, the caged fish are released into ponds for grow out. Enclosures like net cages are used to reduce predation by birds, cannibalism of stock and enable improved disease management. Mark was approached by TAMCO to compare his cages with the floating raceways to examine if there were any cost or production efficiencies. “We have been using the TAMCO raceways for around 18 months,” he reports. “We have found that our FCR has improved by up to 30% as less feed is able to escape and so it is more available for the fish. Our labour costs are also reduced for activities like grading and disease treatments which is also beneficial to the fish due to reduced disturbance, handling and stress.” Mark says the raceways are very secure. “We use 2m x 2m lids, the same as
Tamco Raceways for Victoria Two of the TAMCO raceways will be utilised in a $1.6 million, four year project being run by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries’ Our Rural Landscapes initiative. Principal Investigator Geoff Gooley said that the primary objective is to demonstrate innovative integrated agri-aquaculture systems (IAAS) applications designed to facilitate increased multiple water use practices on farms. Other systems to be utilised include the semi-intensive floating tank system developed in WA by McRobert Aquaculture Systems and the Aqua-Tunnel System developed by Dellburg P/L in Victoria. “We have systems from Victoria, WA and Queensland,” he said. “We will be establishing regional demonstration sites for farmers to show what pilot scale commercial systems can look like and how they might work, technically, economically and environmentally. We would like to see annual production levels of between 2 and 5 tonnes from each system in the pilot.” One of the TAMCO systems will be established at Red Cliffs, near Mildura, along with other experimental systems. Murray cod will be grown in all systems over at least one full production cycle, with customised management practices designed to best suit each system. “We will quantify the performance of each system in its own right, and hopefully give farmers a choice of what best suits their own properties should they wish to diversify and expand to fully commercial operations.” An initial trial using conventional floating cages is presently underway at one of the Red Cliffs sites. “It is being used for the over wintering of Atlantic salmon, primarily destined caviar production. Ambient winter water temperatures up there are around 5oC greater on average than in the major Victorian salmonid growing region (Goulburn Valley).” Geoff said that floating cages would be used in the longer term as an indicative, semiintensive production ‘benchmark’ for evaluation purposes for the innovative integrated agri-aquaculture systems. However, there would be no attempt to do a direct comparison between the systems as such, rather provision of key quantitative performance data to allow farmers to make their own choices. For more information contact Geoff Gooley. Phone: 03 52580111 A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
Table 1: Summary of trial results comparing TAMCO floating raceways with 8m3 net cages.
Average Survival Average FCR
Average yield (kg per m )
Estimated cost per tonne of fish produced
* Results to date at Sugarland Barramundi. The results presented are average figures from a series of stocking events using small barramundi ranging from 5g – 150g. Used mostly for juvenile fish production (up to 150g) the raceways yielded up to 80kg/m3 when fish were grown to small plate size (400g). The average cost of production is given as a tonne of fish, regardless of size, with feed costs of $1,500/t, labour $15/hr and fingerlings 1c/mm. Capital costs are not included. These costs are not representative of the actual cost of production of table-sized fish but provide an indication of the relative difference in cost of production for each system.
A 1.5m air lift section is at the start of the raceway to allow strong aeration and water moment through the raceway.
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we use on the cages. We don’t lose any fish to predation or escape through broken nets. Husbandry is a lot easier, particularly handling, grading and harvesting.” Mark will start raceway trials with mangrove jack and eels in the next few months. “Hopefully we can achieve the same positive results as with the barra. We would like to carry on working closely with TAMCO to continue the systems ongoing development.” In the short term Mark’s farm will use
the raceways predominantly as a postnursery system for fish below 100g rather than for grow out. Adrian suggests that this may be the best use for the raceways at this time for many aquaculture operators. As for farmers like Paul who are looking to get into aquaculture, the TAMCO floating raceway system appears capable of transforming water bodies like irrigation storages into intensive fish culture operations. The challenge is now for these farmers to successfully manage the needs of their irrigation activities with those of aquaculture in order to significantly boost Australia’s freshwater fish production. By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Paul McVeigh, McVeigh Bros Pty Ltd, ‘Lock Eaton’, M.S. 35, Dalby QLD 4405, Tel: 07 4663-3547, Fax: 07 4663-3573, Mobile: 0408 700-392, Email: email@example.com. Also, TAMCO, PO Box 1459, Mooloobalar QLD 4557, Tel: 07 5452-6049, Fax: 07 5452-6022.
Redclaw pioneer explains the facts of farming life
Buyers look for reliable supply. Robin feels it is easier to supply a reasonable size than lock the ponds up for 18 months to two years to grow extra large. The market is quite happy with a graded line of medium size redclaw as shown here, as long as it is available when their orders come through.
Redclaw pioneer Robin Hutchings began his association with freshwater crayfish in 1977. As a technical assistant at the University of Queensland, he and fellow researcher – and later business partner – Dallas Baker investigated the commercial feasibility of spiny crayfish and other freshwater crustaceans. In 1986 their business – Freshwater Australian Crayfish Traders (FACT) – became the first grower to commercially produce redclaw. Looking back on it now, Robin says they were driven by boundless enthusiasm and faith in the animal. “Not unlike the industry today,” he adds. These days he can be found on the family property at Kalbar, in Queensland’s South East where he operates a stand alone commercial aquaculture operation. The spiny crayfish species proved too slow growing for commercial exploitation. After a year in the ponds they were still short of market size. Not so the redclaw.
The markets were very happy with the sizes reached during a 12-month cycle so that species became the mainstay of their aquaculture operation. “It all comes down to economics,” Robin says. “I can grow a 250g crayfish but the return I need on those crayfish is so much more than a 50g crayfish. People aren’t prepared to pay that price. Smaller crayfish are the way to go. Whilst buyers will pay more per kilo for a 100g crayfish, it’s not much more. Yet the cost of that extra 50g is significant. Then there’s the risk factor; the longer you’ve got that crop the more things can go wrong.” The farm has also grown freshwater prawns (Macrobrachium spp) found on the East Coast with mixed success. The species will grow OK but proved very sensitive to handling. That and the small market available compromised its commercial viability.
The farm The production area covers 10ha plus recycling dams. The average size of the ponds is 0.25ha – 120m x 25m and 1.5-2m deep. Cover is essential in a clear water pond. Tyres are used in the ponds as predator control. In a high stocking density pond they cover the whole pond floor; in a low density pond the tyres are placed around the edge of the pond. All water is sourced from bores but towards the end of the recent prolonged El Niño water was severely rationed to make ends meet. Timely rains alleviated the situation but Robin says water availability, as it is throughout Australia, is an issue. Water temperature is 20°C at the bore head and the 100mg/L carbonate hardness provides a good pH buffer. Pond temperatures range from 12°C to 32°C with extremes of 10°C and 33°C. Once the temperature gets above 32°C the productivity of the ponds falls away noticeably. At the other end of the scale, at temperatures below 15°C – three months a year – pond activity ceases. Winter kills do occur but not so much from the actual cold. If the onset of the cooler weather is gradual the crayfish can acclimatise but every three years or so there’ll be a cold snap that creates thermal trauma in the ponds. One day it can be a pleasant 22°C followed by freezing winds that pull the ponds down several degrees in 24 hours. Production cycle An orthodox production cycle is followed at FACT. Juvenile crayfish are harvested from brood ponds, graded and stocked in growout ponds. The cycle is dependant on market demand for a particular size and the season. For a small crayfish around 50g to 60g the summer growing time would be three months, whereas larger stock (around 90g) carried through the winter could be in the ponds as long as 12 months. Robin says that the climate bestows three months of optimum growth, six months of good to poor growth and three months of no growth. Rather than leaving the crayfish until they reach premium size, harvesting is A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
well,” he continues. “Much of the year is not optimal for juvenile production but is great for adult growth. Most of the time in North Queensland conditions are optimal for breeding. And while they’re breeding they’re not growing; hence the need to grade juveniles into all male ponds. This is costly and time consuming.” Juvenile production depends on the number of adults per square meter. Robin counts on harvesting 50-100 3g to 5g juveniles per female. Juveniles are collected at the central outlet point of the drained pond.
Clockwise from top: The farm is easily assessable and Robin is always in communication with the office and the markets. This little beauty topped the scales at 125g. Robin feels this is the top end of the economic production range redclaw farmers should be aiming at. While the market readily accepts 50g to 150g at the moment, Robin said growers should be prepared for change. “The industry should always be market driven,” he said. The purging room is simple but efficient. Water exchange and aeration keep the crayfish healthy while they evacuate their digestive system and alimentary canal. Trevor Elliot is shown here with a dipper of FACT’s finest.
done on a cyclical basis. The ponds are drained, the redclaw scooped up and taken back to the holding facilities where they are washed and graded in preparation for market. Most crayfish leave the farm at between 50g to 90g with the usual proportion of shooters over 100g. No pond is left for more than 12 months without being harvested, 8
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drained and washed down. The optimum growing temperature range Robin looks for is 18°C to 28°C with an optimum temperature of 26°C. He feels the ponds are most productive for growth in the spring and autumn before and after breeding. “I think that’s one of the reasons South East Queensland performs so
High density v low density FACT has compared the benefits of different stocking densities. High density stocking rates took a lot of staff to handle the crop. The higher feeding rates meant higher water quality surveillance and management, as well as increased costs for items such as electricity. Handling large volumes put stress on management and the likelihood of a blowout in the farm’s schedule increased. This impacted on production. The attrition rate in the ponds was greater at higher density and any delays in harvesting timetables exposed the crop for longer than necessary. Bigger harvests meant marketing became more critical. One week’s harvest had to be cleared to make room for the next. Sometimes this meant compromising market strategies. “A few years ago that wasn’t a problem,” Robin explains. “But in today’s market it’s nowhere as easy to sell a large number of crayfish into the domestic market at the prices you want. So, at the moment, for us, it’s better to produce at low densities. That could change.” FACT call high density a production yield of between 3t/ha and 5t/ha. Robin says that if you can’t get at least 3t/ha high density production methods can’t be justified. “A lot of people aren’t getting it and I think that’s one of the problems. They’re putting in all the energy and effort and not getting the rewards.” Under the current market conditions FACT is getting a better return from a low density regime. Robin qualifies low density production as annual yields of up to 1t/ha to 1.5t/ha.
He regards it as a deliberate choice with greatly reduced production inputs. Budget items such aeration, food and labour are minimised but surveillance is still maintained at a high level. He says the only reason you’d incur the high density production costs is to get a lot more production. “You can’t go to the extra effort for just another 500kg/ha. You’ve got to get a lot more to cover the costs.” Under a low density regime FACT has economised on staff, with just two full time and three casual workers – plus the input of the two owners. The high density stocking regime required eight fulltime employees working nearly seven days a week under stressed circumstances. At the lower output the place is a much happier working environment. Pond Cover Tyres are the preferred cover in the ponds. Robin says onion bags make the best shelters but are problematic on a large scale. “They tend to silt up and disintegrate in the ponds after a while.” Under high density loads FACT ran 1hp of paddlewheel aeration per 0.25ha pond, simply because that was what was available at the time. Any replacement aerators are likely to be aspirators for reasons of maintenance. Feeding Feeding rates at the peak of the season are between 1% and 2% of biomass per day. During the winter a week may go by without feeding. Kinta feeds were used until that operation closed down. John Harsant’s Radford Park Crayfish feed is now being trialed. Robin says it’s too early to make a definitive judgement but regards supplementary rations as just that. Natural feeds are the primary nutrient source. But he’s at variance with the mainstream thinking on this point. “I think the philosophy of natural production in most freshwater crayfish cultures is flawed,” he says. “Fertilized ponds produce a planktonic food chain but most of that production doesn’t end in something the crayfish can eat. In our clear ponds we have a habitat that encourages the production of animals the crayfish can eat, such as oligochaetes
(aquatic worms) and chironomid larvae. It also becomes an environmental issue. If you tested our water you’d find it had a low level of nutrient: discharge is not a problem.” Whilst the philosophy was the same under high density stocking, the ponds couldn’t produce enough natural food and the reliance on the supplementary ration was greater. Robin says it’s all to do with habitat. “If you compare the habitat of a gravel lined pond with a clay bottomed pond the difference is amazing. We noticed this in Ecuador when we built some redclaw ponds next to some (freshwater) prawn ponds. You could go down in the morning and the gravel lined ponds would have a sea of emerging insects rising from them. The clay lined prawn ponds had just the odd one, nowhere near the production.” Disease After an initial burst in the 1980s, annual redclaw production has stabilised at around 76 tonnes for the past four years (according to DPI figures). Robin puts this down to low, but consistent, levels of attrition from pathogenic organisms in the ponds. “Historically we think of disease as something that kills off everything. In the freshwater crayfish populations I’ve worked with, most of the pathogens
have an impact over time: reduced growth, reduced breeding and reduced survival. You rarely see the classic die-off. Someone who starts with a new pond and throws in a few healthy crayfish has a terrific first harvest. After that they have a higher level of bacteria in the bottom of the pond and future crops are often nowhere near as good. When the industry was new the ponds were new and the yields encouraged other growers. Now some of those ponds are twenty years old and still used to produce crayfish.” One such pathogen is the intracellular bacteria rickettsia spp. It proliferates in the crayfish under stress (high density situations) and is one of the major causes of attrition. In low density situations it is far less of an obvious problem. Symptoms are poor growth and breeding. Disconcertingly the crayfish appear normal so the grower instead suspects under-feeding, insufficient aeration or cannibalism (a problem Robin feels is over-rated and easily controlled by good management). Whilst trials have shown that viruses were also present in crayfish ponds, they don’t appear to be a clinical problem. Isolating the reason for slow growth is particularly important when designing a breeding program. “A selection program that doesn’t consider diseases often simply selects disease free crayfish,” Robin explains. “And that’s not an
Tyre configuration for low density ponds. Note the gravely substrate. For a high density stocking rate the entire pond bottom would be covered in tyres.
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inheritable feature. When these crayfish are stocked in low density ponds to build up the numbers the favourable results are replicated. But when the juveniles are stocked in medium to high density commercial ponds with normal levels of bacteria they don’t grow fast. “If programs to develop super strains of crayfish are to have any chance of success there has to be a lot done on the pathological side at the same time as the genetic aspect.” Markets He nominates consistency as the key to marketing. Buyers want regular supplies. “Ringing someone up and telling them you’ve got 50kg to sell won’t get you very far. You’ll usually only get a low price,” he says. “We tend to look at the markets as regional: the East Coast capitals and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts.” The markets are still piecemeal and buyers still see crayfish as a specialty product: they respond to orders. “Crayfish growers like to think their product is a wonderful product but the truth is people aren’t familiar with it. They know prawns and crab but they see crayfish as a novelty product to put on the menu at a wedding. It doesn’t fit into the general culture of seafood purchases,” he says. He also sees crayfish as a live product, restricting the way it can be presented. Reliable supply is a major challenge to the redclaw industry. “Seafood buyers
haven’t got time to be chasing product. They can always get a regular supply of crabs and prawns. So if they can’t get freshwater crayfish delivered with a couple of phone calls they’ll fill the order with what’s readily available.” Prices range from $14/kg to $20/kg. As Robin points out, 15-20 years ago FACT were getting more for their product and paying less to produce it. Investment To farm commercially, Robin insists there is a minimum size of operation necessary to justify the investment. And he feels that many are attracted to the industry for the wrong reasons. “Many people who get into the industry get into it for enthusiastic reasons: change of lifestyle or something they’ve always wanted to do. There’s not too many get into it by looking at the mathematics and saying this is a good business to be in. At the end of the day you can’t run a business on enthusiasm. You’ve got to look at the return for your effort and if you’ve put in more effort than you’re getting back you’ve got to give it some thought. “One of the challenges facing the crayfish industry is that there are a lot of things out of your control, particularly in the marketing. Whilst we can put together a business plan that will produce a vast quantity of crayfish, the influence of the extra product may affect the price. If you’re making an investment where you’ve got so many uncontrollables there’s a risk factor there. And it can
Systems for all types of aquaculture. Increased yields. No fuel costs. AB&S SOLAR INDUSTRIES PTY LTD 29 Shafton Street, Huntingdale, VIC, 3166, Australia Telephone: +61 3 9543 7249 Facsimile: +61 3 9562 9547 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 10
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change so rapidly. People who have been at it for a long time have got their debt levels under control and can weather the ups and downs. A new person in the industry can’t afford to do that. After the first 12 months he’s expecting a return. If it doesn’t happen, he’s in trouble.” Technology Aquaculture has often been described as a marriage between the sciences of biology, water chemistry and nutrition and the art form of animal husbandry and running a business. Yet Robin is concerned about the absence of science in many of the operations he comes across. He puts this down to the false sense of security given by qualifications from short courses. He reckons these don’t fully prepare new entrants for the challenges ahead. “There is a low level of expertise in the industry,” he says. “What they’re getting from the smaller courses might be all right if they’re just doing it for an interest but you need more than just the fundamentals for a professionally run operation. People don’t realize what they’ve being taught is way short of what they need. What they aren’t being given is the commercial perspective.” The Future The latest DPI Aquaculture Production Survey shows that 68% of the 197 licenseholders produced no redclaw. The other 63 growers produced 75.3 tonnes for a farm average of 1.2t. Only three farmers grew over three tonnes with ten growing between one and five tonnes. The figures for the previous three years showed a similar pattern. So where does this leave the industry? “The industry has just plodded along for the last 15 years,” Robin opinions. “It’s had no radical improvements; there’s been slow change. There have been big players come in but they haven’t survived. Most people don’t last long. I think that will continue.” By John Mosig Robin Hutchings can be contacted by phone on (07) 5463 8226, or by email on email@example.com
Archvale Trout cashes in on tourism dollars Although first established in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the current owners Brian and Jill Cutcliffe bought Archvale Rainbow Trout Farm 16 years ago that it began transforming from a small hobby farm to a busy tourist operation – attracting over ten thousand visitors a year. Located 2-2.5 hours drive west of Sydney off the Great Western Highway at Marrangaroo, it is nestled behind an 1869 railway sandstone viaduct that gives the farm its name. This 4.5ha property is fully landscaped and provides a beautiful backdrop for a relaxing day of fishing for both rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and the golden trout (a colour variety). The farm also has BBQ and picnic areas, light refreshment, fingerling sales, and door sales of fresh and smoked trout. Typically the farm opens two large ponds for the fishout, but can open up to four.
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Brian and Jill undertake much of the work themselves but do call upon one permanent employee and up to six casuals. Brian says the branching out into golden trout was “a quirk of nature”. “When we first started to breed our own fish, there must have been a couple of golden trout eggs in with the others. When we realised this we took out fingerlings and threw them in another tank. And when they grew to breeding size we thought ‘why not grow them too’? “From there our golden trout population in the farm has steadily increased.” Brian is now noticing that his stock are beginning to show signs of speckled colour. “They look similar to the Koi carp but the colour is mainly yellow and black,” he says. “This may be a case of a cross between the rainbow and the golden trout. In past years we had been getting a few (speckled trout) but last year we got probably over a hundred which we have kept to see if we could continue breeding the line.” He believes this could be advantageous as, although his golden fish have proven less aggressive and more efficient feeders compared to rainbow trout, they are light sensitive and easy to spot in the tanks. This makes them more prone to predation than the darker coloured rainbows. Flow through system The farm’s water source is the springfed Marrangaroo Creek, also known as Middle River. Given its exceptional quality no filtering process is required for the inlet water. The farm is primarily flow-through with the exception of the hatchery’s recirculation system. That hatchery system exchanges 10% of its water daily, minimising the possibility of problems with ammonia, pH or other water quality issues. Water quality testing is done on a weekly basis unless signs of adverse changes require a more frequent regime. Oxygen levels are
From top: Although the ponds have a high water flow through rate, in the summer months extra dissolved oxygen must be added using aerators. The Archvale Rainbow Trout Farm is nestled behind an old sandstone viaduct which enhances it's tourist appeal. The Farm is a popular place for people of any age to have a guaranteed first rate catch. These large cement ponds (250m2) are maintained with water supplied from the Middle River as part of the flow through system.
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always closely monitored with 6-7ppm (mg/L) considered safest. “Oxygen is one of the most difficult water quality parameters to control due to the huge influence temperature has on it,” Brian explains. “However we have found success in using a number of venturis and passing the water through dispersers (units that break up the water into smaller particles so that it can absorb more oxygen). This method is used not only in the hatchery but also out in the other tanks.” Archvale’s prevailing temperatures – 4-5°C in winter with a top of 22-23°C in summer – have proved ideal for the breeding and growout of rainbow and golden trout. So the farm can get by without any water chillers or heaters at any point in the system. The warmth of summer is managed by increasing
water flows and oxygenation and not feeding the fish. The 200 and 300 broodstock, maintained separately from the rest of the stock, are each kept for a maximum of four years to maintain the quality and high survival rates. This also assists in the ease of handling of the fish as the hook jaw on the 4-year old males make removal with any net difficult. Given so many broodstock to hand strip, the stripping season – which starts about mid July – usually goes for about six weeks. “This allows the job to be spread out which in turn means that the eggs hatch at different times,” Brian explains. “So we can have fish ready at different times and there’s a variety of sizes to catch in the ponds.” Fertilised egg incubation takes place in the hatchery with the eggs placed in
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trays kept cool with water of between 8-10°C. After 37 or 38 days the yolk sac fry are transferred to larger tanks. Another month sees them reach the swim up stage when first feeding with artificial diet – in a fine powder form – occurs. The hatchery is monitored by a computer system that allows different water variables such as pH and temperature to be seen at a glance. While this system does have obvious advantages, Brian still prefers to do much of the monitoring himself using thermometers and test kits to minimise any error. Concrete raceways, tanks and ponds From the hatchery the fish are transferred into one of four flow-through raceways, each 20m long and 1.5-2.0m wide and built of brick and concrete. The fry are kept here for up to six months by which time they have reached 10 to 15cm long. The facility uses 24 tanks ranging from 100,000L to 500,000L for growing the fish to a size sufficient for the fishout. The tanks, made of either concrete or metal, are easily cleaned and maintained. The large growout ponds (approx 250m2) were originally mud-based ponds which were then sprayed with concrete, again to allow for easy cleaning. Given the isolation from other fish farms, disease has not been a problem. “Occasionally formalin treatments are used for fungal problems in the hatchery,” says Brian “but not in summer as formalin strips much of the oxygen from the water. Even salt baths, commonly used in other operations, aren’t required.” The hatchery produces not only sufficient stock for the fishout but also enough for the sale of 50,000-100,000 fingerlings to other farms or people stocking their own dams. Rainbows are preferred for stocking dams because of their lower visibility (less predation). At Archvale, the cormorants are kept at bay by covering the tanks with netting. The farm maintains a good survival rate of between 50 to 90%. “There is no general rule when it comes to the survival
rate,” Brian says. “Sometimes you can have over 90% survive; other times a pump will break and you’ll lose half the stock.” However, the farm has fitted the pumps with an audible alarm system. After hours this is remotely monitored by a security firm who can then alert the appropriate person. “Ninety percent of the alarms are associated with electrical storms,” Brian continues. “Fortunately we haven’t actually had any problems yet this year. The farm also has a back up generator system (50KVA) for when the power does fail.” After flowing through the tanks effluent is passed through settlement ponds (approximately 50 by 20m) and a fine screen (5mm) to minimise the outlow of particulates into the Middle River. Brian says this has proved very effective as the river is one of the few in the region never to show any green blue algae blooms.
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All feeding is done by one of the staff members. “Not installing automatic feeders guarantees that the fish will be checked on at least three or four times a day. This ensures that the tanks are working well and that any problems are picked up and dealt with promptly. We use Skretting’s commercial feed starting with the fine powder in the hatchery and gradually increasing feed size up to large pellets for the broodstock.” With that kind of hands on approach it’s no surprise that Archvale Rainbow Trout farm is the kind of tourist attraction well known for its wonderful produce, beautiful setting and the friendly welcome. By Dos O’Sullivan For Further information contact Brian or Jill Cutcliffe, Archvale Rainbow Trout Farm, Hughes Lane, Marrangaroo, NSW 2790. Tel/fax: 02 6352-1341, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To allow inter-farm comparisons, each AAM farm profile details a number of system performance criteria. Except for the comments under ‘Key Management Decisions’ which are prepared by Dos, the information has been supplied by the farmer: Key Management Decisions include: • Fishout operations have proven to provide a higher market price than with plate-size fish for the wholesale market. It also opens the potential for other sales of trout products and other merchandise. • Use of venturi to increase aeration in the hatchery and tanks. • Sales of excess fry to other farmers. • Using the golden trout as a novelty item, should prove more popular with the Asian visitors who believe that golden things bring good luck. • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <varies with size caught (usually >12 months) • Survival rate: 50-90% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: varies considerably • Production rate: not applicable • Water use: not calculated • Power use: not calculated • FCR: not calculated • Productivity: not calculated • Production cost: not calculated
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WA black pearl industry developments
Black pearls have been produced in the Pacific’s Tahiti and Cook Islands for many years. In recent times an industry culturing the local black lipped pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera has been developing in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia, particularly in the Midwest and Gascoyne regions. A new training program is resulting in major benefits for these fledgling enterprises. 14
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The silver or golden-lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima) contributes much to the value of aquaculture production in Australia. Even given a recent decline in WA production, it still remains at $120-190 million. The industry is mostly located in Western Australia (north from Exmouth Gulf) and the Northern Territory with a couple of small operations in Far North Queensland. In more temperate regions experimental culture has been undertaken with a number of non-maxima pearl oysters, including the black-lip (Pinctada margaritifera), the Japanese or Akoya (Pinctada fucata), the New South Wales (Pinctada imbricata) – which some taxonomists consider the same species as the Akoya – and the winged pearl oyster (Pteria penguin). In 2001/02 some $0.5 million worth of
From top: Cutting pieces of mantle tissue from sacrificial oysters. Photo courtesy of Berni Aquilina. A harvest of high quality pearls from Western Australia. Photo courtesy of Don Hancock, Abrolhos Pearls.
product was sold, however, it was reported in the AAM Trade Directory that commercial harvest of pearls, shell (mother-of-pearl) or meat were yet to be consistently achieved. Production has increased since then, particularly in the Abrolhos Islands (off Geraldton), Shark Bay, Exmouth Gulf and even up near Broome. The individual oysters – called ‘shell’
– are produced in a number of hatcheries using wild-caught or farm-grown broodstock. Spat for the WA farms come from Trevor Sweetman’s Bealwood Pearl hatchery at Carnarvon and the Geraldton-based Elmwood Holdings hatchery. Wild shell are collected by licensees with an ‘Oyster Fishing Licence’ which permits collection of a limited number of adult pearl oysters for use as hatchery broodstock. Eight of the 40 or so non-maxima licensees are authorised to conduct hatchery operations including several TAFE colleges. Although 7,000ha is currently licensed for non-maxima pearl culture, a fraction of that is actually under culture with a number of farms still under-developed stages or awaiting capital injection. WA Department of Fisheries’ Aquaculture Policy and Industry Relations Officer, Andrew Beer, believes that black pearl production may be the third most valuable aquaculture industry in the State – after P. maxima pearling and the marine algae industry – within two years. Around 5,000 black pearls were harvested in WA during 2002/03 and over 35,000 shell seeded in that same period. Harvests of 50,000 pearls per year are predicted in the next two years. That will allow growers to build market value through access to enough pearls for building the well-matched parcels of product necessary for necklace strands and other jewellery. Whilst a pearl on its own is limited in value, alongside 20-30 others of the same colour and grade, the whole is significantly more valuable than the sum of the parts.
An added bonus is the hues of the Abrolhos black pearls – silver, green, peacock and aubergine – quite distinct from the greys, greens and blacks of the Pacificproduct. The bigger the batch the more noticeable the variation. This has boosted demand for the WA black pearls with finished jewellery being snapped up by eager buyers, both in Australia and overseas. “One European buyer is rapt with the aubergine colour of our pearls,” explains Don Woodcock, owner of Abrolhos Pearls with his father Alf and partner Murray Davidson. “The buyer said that our pearls were ‘absolutely fabulous’ and is coming over this October to visit the farm.” Culture techniques are basically the same as for P. maxima. Surface longlines (100 to 250m long) are strung some 20 to 40m apart in around 10 to 33m of water. Around the Abrolhos Islands there are many coral bommies which rear up from deep water to the surface. The farmers can use these to attach their longlines so long as the net panels do not snag on or damage the coral. These net panels hang down from the longlines 2.5-3m below the surface. The culture cycle starts with the juvenile spat being held in cages of 4” x 4” square metal mesh covered with 1mm plastic mesh; the box looks a lot like a suit case. A net panel is inserted containing 1m of Christmas tree rope supplied from the hatchery. Around 2,000 spat are attached to the rope and grown for a couple of months in the cages. The farmers take the bigger individuals (10 to 15mm) by cutting the byssus
thread. These older juveniles are held in 45 pocket net panels. As they get larger they are held in 15 pocket net panels. Adult shell are considered ready for seeding when they are over 100mm in length. Industry concerns Many of the black pearl farmers have diversified from rock lobster or scale fish fishing allowing the use of existing infrastructure – specifically million dollar, state-of-the-art workboats (often up to 25m in length) as well as the many island ‘camps’ (complete with access jetties, accommodation, refrigeration, power) scattered throughout the Abrolhos Islands. Given little or no expertise in pearls and the consequent need to develop techniques by ‘trial and error’, progress of these farmers has been slow and a burden on cash flow. Being a small and close-knit community, members of Geraldton’s Central West TAFE Marine Industry Advisory Committee heard of the industry’s challenges. This resulted in a mid-2003 review of the industry that showed that the local farmers had the basic knowledge and skills to establish their farm and grow the shell for seeding. But they did rely on highly skilled interstate and overseas technicians brought in to seed the shell for a period of two to three weeks before moving onto another pearl farm. The farmers then had to nurture the seeded shell and await the return of the technicians some 18 to 24 months later for the harvesting of the pearls. The review also found farmers lacked
From left: Pia Boschetti practising the cutting of small pieces of mantle tissue for use in seeding. This net panel shows some of the fouling organism that can attach to the net and the shell. Bernie Aquilina (seated) demonstrating the aspects of the seeding process, using a television monitor via the endoscopic camera probe. Photographs courtesy of Berni Aquilina.
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From top: Master Class and Murray Davidson’s vessel Reef Seeker tied up at Alf Woodcock’s jetty during workshop. The class discussing issues of water quality with Bernie Aquilina (left). Photographs courtesy of Berni Aquilina.
adequate expertise to monitor the oyster’s health and well-being over that waiting time. Nor was much known about water quality and even less about the basic biology and life cycle of the pearl oysters. Clearly, such gaps in knowledge and expertise were holding back the industry’s development. So the Central West TAFE (CWT) approached several practicing pearl technicians. They were told that it took years of practice plus an informal mentoring program to achieve the necessary proficiency. A wide range shell husbandry skills were also identified that were critical for the farm success. Subsequently, the CWT successfully applied for a grant of $240,000 for a pearl training project from the Regional Assistance Program (run by the Department of Transport and Regional Assistance [DOTARS], and now called the Regional Partnership Program). A further $20,000 was injected into the program by the WA Department of 16
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Education and Training. Two pearling experts have been recruited to run the formal training program – Derek Cropp, a consultant from Tasmanian-based Aquatech Australia Pty Ltd and Berni Aquilina, a 20-year pearling veteran from Nelson on New Zealand’s south island. “We do not intend to produce a large number of pearl technicians, as this would not be possible within the time frame,” says CWT Academic Director Steve Webster. “Rather, we are aiming to produce farm hands and managers with a thorough understanding of the biology of the shell, environmental parameters, quality analysis, pest and predator control, and the ability to manage seeding, care of stock and harvesting aspects of round pearls.” The training is to be delivered within the framework of Certificates II and III in Seafood Industry (Aquaculture). The Certificate II course, of six months duration, includes basic maritime com-
petencies and biological aspects of the pearl oyster. Certificate III will take 12 months and include water quality and pearling operations. Pearl technicians Seeding pearls is a complicated process. “We take a 2 to 3 year old pearl oyster and implant a polished shell bead into the area in which its gonad develops,” Berni says. “Along with this bead we insert a small piece of nacre producing tissue from the mantle of a sacrificed pearl shell (the technical term for this is a sibo shell). This mantle should form the pearl sac around the nucleus where it is hoped a pearl will develop.” She says a technician needs to be delicate and be very focussed. “Small
things can have a very big impact upon the pearl. For example, if you place the graft tissue upside down then you will merely produce a bare nucleus; you won’t produce a cultured pearl.” Once the nucleus has been inserted, the seeded shell is enclosed in a fine mesh bag, known as a ‘catch-bag’ because it will hold any nucleus rejected by the oyster, and the oyster is then returned to the farm for a period of convalescence. After approximately six weeks the catch-bags are removed and the shell sorted into either the successful operations where pearls are growing, and ‘vomits’ where the shells have rejected the nucleus. To keep the shells clean of fouling organisms while the pearls are growing, they are cleaned every 2-5 weeks using high pressure hand-held water sprays. “We don’t get the amount of fouling that you see with the maxima shell up north,” Steve explains. “The closer you get to Broome, the higher the fouling. This is due to warmer water temperatures and different types of fouling organisms in the water.” After almost two years the pearls are harvested. As the oysters don’t need to be killed during pearl removal, a healthy shell can be re-seeded with another nucleus to grow a second pearl. And the process can be repeated to produce a third, although some of the shell are culled at each stage. Shell not considered suitable to be re-seeded for round pearls may be used to grow mabe (also known as “blister” or “half” pearls). “Anyone who is dedicated and committed can learn to do this job but it does take a long time to become proficient,” Bernie continues. “Over this two year course (with CWC) the emphasis is on learning about things like water quality and the biology of the shell, not specifically pearl seeding. Students will only seed approximately 200 oysters. That is just the beginning; they will not be able to seed consistently at that point. A technician usually needs to seed about 10,000 oysters before they are working consistently and effectively.” And means farmers have to provide a
The training often took place on the pearl work boat. Photo courtesy of Berni Aquilina.
huge amount of shell for training. Given such ‘wastage’ of time and money, Berni says its no wonder that comparatively few become good pearl technicians. Short courses The detailed two-year program will beigin in early 2005. In the interim, two six-day workshops (October 2003 and February 2004) on seeding and stock care were run by CWT for sixteen farmers and farm hands. FarmBis paid 75% of the training costs, the participants paid the remainder. Abrolhos Pearls (owned by Alf, Don and Murray) has been running for more than ten years and employs three full time workers as well as several
casuals (including TAFE students). Over 180ha of the 227ha farm has been developed; the remainder can’t be used due to the presence of coral bommies. Murray is very excited about improvements seen since the workshops. “The workshop was very good and I’m able to communicate with the technicians much better. Our nucleus retention results have improved – for first seeds it has lifted from as low as 62% up to 89% whilst in the second seeds the retention has improved from 74% up to 94%.” Murray suggests these improvements result from better shell conditioning for seeding as well as the timing of the seeding. “The roe and gonad size is important. The gonad skin must be
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hard (not soft from a recent spawning) so you can put in a bigger nucleus.” Pia Boschetti has been farming pearls for almost six years. Her operation (397ha lease area) is part of the Latitude Fisheries Group which runs rock lobster and prawn fishing boats and is also establishing a yellowfin tuna seacage fattening farm at the Abrolhos. “Berni’s workshop has been very good for me as a farm manager,” she says. “I was able to learn what is happening with the seeding and can talk more knowledgably with the technicians. It is inevitable that we need more on-farm technicians but we know that it will take a long time and lots of trial and error to become expert. Berni has explained the science behind the process so it is easier to understand what needs to be done.”
In addition to improved seeding results, Pia also says she is able to manage the farm better. “I know what is in the water and how environmental conditions can change. To get good pearls, you have to have everything right before, during and after the seeding.” Martin Jurat’s Pelsaert Pearls has been in operation for 3.5 years and all of the 79ha of lease area has been stocked with longlines. After attending the first short course, he was so impressed that he attended the next one. “There was time to explore special interests (of the participants) so there was some new stuff in both workshops. There is also the group expertise which was great for networking. One guy was experienced with nuclei, so he could tell us about skinning pearls (the pearl nacre matrix is made up of layers of
aragonite, which can be peeled away, not unlike an onion, to obtain the best surface and shine). Another participant was an akoya pearl oyster seeder which we might look at doing next year.” Another very useful skill Martin picked up was how to examine the shell for health. “We have no red-arse (damage to the shell caused by boring sponges) and lower fouling than what the maxima guys have but we still can get sick oysters. Bernie showed us how to look inside an oyster to see where the mantle lip is located, how the gill filaments are sitting and then how to fold them back with a spatula to determine gonad development and spawn levels. I can also identify misshaped gonads so we don’t offer these to the seeders.” Future training “We will follow up with a series of on-the-job training and block sessions utilising the experts, starting in early 2005,” Steve says. “We want the 10 to 12 participants to develop the appropriate skills and knowledge for pear seeding operations. Thus they will all need to be working on a black pearl farm to take full advantage of the training we will provide.” Don, who handles a lot of the marketing for Abrolhos Pearls, already sees real improvements pearl quality. “The secret to a top quality pearl is to start with a healthy sibo (sacrificial shell) and use that mantle tissue on a healthy shell. We are getting the time frames and the distinction between too much and too little handling of the shell. A good ‘barometer’ for correct handling is the presence of the shell fingers. If you are being careful then the handling and washing won’t knock these off.” So, given the success of the early workshops, industry is predicting that the CWT training next year will be rapidly filled with eager participants. By Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Steve Webster, Central West TAFE, Fitzgerald St, Geraldton, WA 6530 Tel: 08 9956-6170, fax: 08 9956-6169, email:email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cairns Marine Aquarium Fish flies fish worldwide
Lyle jnr. & Cadel Squire in front of one of the display tanks at CMAF.
Cairns Marine Aquarium Fish has expanded from a small home- based business to a world leader in the collection of marine fauna and flora for the public aquarium and marine aquarium hobbyist markets. They have the distinction of transporting the single largest live shipment of fish by air – chartering a Boeing 747 freighter to send 200 large specimens that weighed 64 tonnes when packed to Shanghai Ocean Aquarium in 2002. The Squire family’s Cairns Marine Aquarium Fish (CMAF) works out of a purpose-built warehouse in the industrial area near Cairns airport. The Squires are all well educated in marine studies through a lifetime of experience. Lyle Snr and wife Bev worked for many years in fisheries research for the Department of Primary Industries. And Bev also spent time with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. But it was sons Lyle Jnr and Cadel, who had both worked for the previous owner, that were the driving force behind the family’s decision to
purchase the company in 1994. A total of 24 family and staff – including two marine biologists, a parasitologist and several qualified aquaculture technicians – are now employed by the vibrant and growing business. CMAF is well equipped to handle the international export of large, live marine creatures sourcing much of their stock under permit from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). CMAF can also stockpile these animals for the purpose of the initial stocking of new large-scale public aquaria, one of just three such companies in the world.
According to the company’s Senior Aquarist and resident parasitologist, Julian Baggio, this capacity has allowed completion of five prestigious projects where planes were chartered to transport an entire collection of animals to a new aquarium. The Shanghai shipment was the largest, requiring a collection assembled over seven months to be transported in a single day on the one plane. “This is an enormous challenge and something that is exciting to be part of,” he says. “It comes down to everything going right on that one day. To
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give an example of how intensive the shipping process is, it took nearly 40 people 18 hours to pack up the shipment for Shanghai. After the twelve hour flight an additional 24 hours was needed to un-pack the animals. We have to guarantee live arrival of all stock and there is certainly no shortage of variables that have to be addressed to ensure it all goes to plan. It really is a logistical nightmare!” Julian has a real passion for his work. “We are fortunate to work with such a variety of animals and you never really know what is around the corner. Whilst the animals do not have to be big to be interesting it’s hard not to have a soft spot for some of the larger iconic animals such as the protected Maori Wrasse.
“These amazing fish are one of the smartest in the ocean. We liken them to ‘aquatic puppy dogs’ and on exhibit are always the stars of the show. We had one that was with us for nearly six months. This fish loved to be scratched; if you didn’t and walked past his tank without giving him a pat, he would literally spit litres at you. “Consequently it became second nature as you walked past to give 'Leroy', as we called him, a scratch to prevent the otherwise inevitable downpour. We had to stop naming them after a while, it became too difficult for everyone involved to ship them on!” Environmental Sustainability A cornerstone to the success of CMAF is their drive towards an ecologically
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sustainable industry. The marine ornamental fish industry is primarily based on the wild capture fisheries and considerable ecological damage has been made in some Asian waters where unethical capture practices are used. Julian explains: “Sodium cyanide is still used throughout Indonesia and the Philippines to collect fish for sale to aquariums and through markets for display. There is no challenge involved in this type of collection so unskilled fishermen can be used to make the whole process more lucrative. It makes the fish easy to catch and there’s a very real danger of over-exploiting the fishery. “The most significant problem associated with this form of fishing is the destruction of habitat caused by the cyanide settling on the sea bottom. It kills everything leaving behind a desolate wasteland that may never fully recover.” The health of the captured fish is also compromised. “Whilst appearing healthy at the time of sale they later die because the poison destroys their digestive bacteria. They literally starve to death because they can’t absorb the nutrients from their food.” By contrast, CMAF’s fish are collected by experienced divers. And, says Julian, such environmentally sensitive methods deserve credit not ire from conservation groups. He believes that public education about how the industry operates and the proper management of this fishery will ensure its long-term sustainability. “Removing collectors from the GBR for its long-term protection has been compared to taking bicycles off the roads to save wear and tear while allowing trucks and buses to continue using them!” Julian says. “Studies conducted worldwide have supported the sustainability of our industry and CMAF works closely with the Queensland Fisheries Department and the scientific community both in Australia and overseas.” To this end CMAF is considering undergoing Marine Aquarium Council (an international NGO that monitors the marine ornamental fish industry) accreditation. This is similar to ISO accreditation and recognised as the peak accreditation system for the industry.
Capturing Fish CMAF currently operates a dive boat, with one in reserve, and employs six divers to capture the prized specimens according to two basic principles – don’t damage the fish and minimise stress. While methods vary depending on the species and size, most small fish are caught by herding them into barrier or fence nets. These are very fine monofilament nets of 3/8 of an inch mesh size with a total length of 5-8 meters and a height of around a meter. Placed strategically on the bottom to take advantage of the terrain, these nets are not designed to immobilise or gill the fish; rather they provide a barrier preventing their escape. The fish are then carefully caught using a soft knitted nylon scoop net and placed into weighted collection buckets. The collection buckets are taken to the surface and the contents transferred into 200L holding drums for transport back to the warehouse. Each fish transferred is individually containerised – to prevent them damaging each other.
Water kept continually flowing through the drums. “The onus is on the diver to collect fish in perfect condition,” Julian says. “A wide area of the reef is used to prevent localised depletion and ensure the collection of a diverse range of saleable species.” Divers are only paid on what is sold. Holding Facilities After transport back to the Cairns facility the fish are settled in and adapted to captive life, a process that can take several months for larger specimens. They are held in varying sized tanks depending on their size and temperament. Smaller specimens, mainly destined for the domestic hobby market, are kept in standard 3-foot (100 L) or 4-foot (150 L) tanks. Small plastic containers with screw-top lids are used to separately hold individuals which may be aggressive within the species and/or aggressive with other species. Holes are drilled into the containers to allow water to flow through.
One of three aquariums in the foyer of CMAF where the staff can practice their aquaristic skills and to experiment as they wish.
Bottom from left: Some of the sharks and rays being held at CMAF for the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium shipment in 2002. Unloading some of the 64 tonnes of cargo from the nose-loading Boeing 747 on the ground in Shanghai. Staff and friends at CMAF struggling to place a giant grouper into a holding tank. Lyle Squire Jnr holding a Maori Wrasse named ‘Leroy’ who loved to be patted. Photo courtesy of Brian Cassey. Chemically marking vertebrae of sawfish for research.
“Containerising fish allows us to keep much higher numbers in the holding tanks and allows us to keep several species in a tank without them damaging or killing each other,” Julian explains. Water flows into glass aquaria are regulated via 25mm black poly ball valves, with water being removed via a central stand-pipe that directs effluent water to the filtration system. The larger public aquarium fish are held in fibreglass tanks of 500-12,000L. Water flow there is regulated with ball valves and introduced to the tanks in a way that creates circular flow. During the hottest months water is also sprayed into the tanks via shower nozzles to drop the temperature – in some tanks by up to 4oC – via evaporative cooling. Aeration is provided primarily as a back-up in case of pump failure. Flow rates are very important to fish health. A turnover rate of 6-7 times per hour is used for systems with large animals, whilst small fish systems have higher turnover rates (8-12 times an hour). Water quality is maintained by the use of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). There are 13 RAS, all designed and built by CMAF staff using ‘off the shelf’ technology and custom made components. While the volumes for the systems vary – 2,000 to 22,000 litres – the design principles remain the same. Removal of solids is, though, problematic. “Solids are removed with mesh
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To allow inter-farm comparisons, each AAM farm profile details a number of ‘Key Management Decisions’: • Focus on sustainability of the source (wild) stocks. • Emphasis on the quality and health of the fish being caught, so that collectors are paid on what is actually sold, not what is caught. • Range of tanks and holding systems for different species. • Excellent water quality source, pretreatment and then disease management (UV and ozone) in the RAS. • Strong emphasis on skilled staff with strict protocols. • Backup systems in place to prevent losses due to mechanical equipment or power failure. • After sale service with excellent ongoing information and advice on various aspects of husbandry offered to all of their customers. Note: The usual performance criteria (eg. FCR, growth rates, etc.) were not provided due to the large range of species held for only short periods of time.
bags but we have had problems with them becoming blocked too quickly and then tearing due to the weight of water moving through them,” Julian says, adding that alternative methods are being examined. The water subsequently flows into the main sump, is pumped up to an overhead trickle filter and thence back to the tanks. Venturi-
driven foam fractionators, ultra-violet sterilisers and ozone are also incorporated to maintain water quality. With large numbers of fish in the RAS, back-up generators are a must, especially given occasional unreliablilty of power supplies during the wet season. The most frequently watched water quality parameters are salinity, temperature, pH and nitrate. Water changes are made when nitrate levels exceed 10 to 100 ppm (0.01 to 0.1 mg/L) depending on the species of fish being held. “As well as nitrates, we use fish behaviour (or health) and water clarity to indicate when the water should be changed,” Julian continues. “This generally occurs every two weeks depending on stock levels.” Such water changes tend to be large – up to 75% – and use natural seawater trucked in by contractor from the Northern Beaches area. The pre-filtered (by the contractor) seawater, kept in one of five 10,000L-storage tanks, is constantly circulated through sand filters via a circuit that runs right around the entire building with an access tap at every RAS sump. This ensures that not only is there no ‘dead’ water in supply lines but well-filtered, pristine water is available to any system at any given time. The monsoon season does present its own challenges, however, with high rainfall capable of diluting salinity of the trucked-in seawater. Feeding The feeding habits of the fish need to be modified to accommodate life in
From left: Sawfish from CMAF on display at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach Los Angeles. Feeding the many varieties of fish is a time consuming process as each must be individually hand feed.
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captivity. "We can’t even think of sending the fish anywhere until it is feeding well,” says Julian. “It is a great indicator of the animal’s health and stress levels.” A range of different foods, reflecting the diverse range of species held, are used. Such diets include natural foods like prawns, squid, fish and green vegetables, which are an important part of the weaning process. "It’s a matter of weaning them onto dead food. How long it takes the fish to adjust depends on a variety of factors, capture stress being the most critical.” A premium grade marine fish flake food is used as a staple diet for most of the small fish. “Flake food is often used by hobbyists and we feel it is important to wean our fish onto this as soon as possible to help their transition to captive life.” Julian says most fish are fed 3-4 times per day. “However, some species may be fed more as they tend to graze all day in the wild and our feeding regime must reflect this. This means that staff may be busy feeding fish all day; it can be painstaking work.” To make things even more difficult and time-consuming, some species must be individually hand fed. “Some species have a very poor feeding response and are just plain lazy. These need to be caught and fed to ensure that all the fish receive their share. Other fish kept in the holding jars also need to be fed.” There is also a lot of emphasis put on watching the feeding response. Fish are fed as much as they want. This is
especially important for the larger fish destined for export given that the stress of transport can stop them from feeding properly for weeks afterwards. “Nowadays we measure our shipping success not by whether or not an animal gets there alive, rather by how long it takes to resume feeding in its new home,” Julian says. “If we have shipped a shark halfway around the world and it is feeding the day after its arrival, we know we have done something right. Conversely, if it takes a long time, refinements are needed.” Marketing CMAF currently supplies live fish for three separate markets – public aquaria, international wholesale and domestic retail markets. Whilst international sales have grown dramatically over in recent years, sales to public aquaria are limited in number with animals caught to order. Thus it can take several months to get a large shipment together for a customer. The sale of smaller specimens for the Australian hobbyist is the company’s ‘bread and butter’ market, with thousands
of fish shipped around the country each year. CMAF supplies retail outlets around Australia with around 1,000 species of marine fish and invertebrates. “As with the export markets, educating customers on the best way to maintain the fish in captivity is important. It results in much higher survivals ... and much better repeat sales. “Operators with poor fish generally don’t stay in the industry long.” Research Projects CMAF is actively involved in a variety of research programs with local and international researchers. These include tagging programs with Queensland Department of Primary Industries and supply of tissue samples from selected species for genetic work by CSIRO. CMAF staff also liaise with a range of local and international academics who seek them out due to a reputation for practical knowledge on the capture, handling, shipping and husbandry of marine fish. CMAF hopes to continue its push into supplying large specimens for public
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aquaria. But Julian stresses that their efforts must be ecologically sound. “Obviously the reef is a finite resource and it is vital that we conserve it. So any growth that CMAF undergoes will have to be sustainable.” And he notes strong public benefits from this trade. “The animals we collect and ship enable prestigious public aquariums to educate millions of people every year. Over the next twelve months it is expected that approximately 1.7 million people will visit the Great Barrier Reef. During this same period over 50 million people across the globe are visiting and learning about animals we have collected. “The iconic ambassadors we provide are enhancing eco-tourism on the Great Barrier Reef and a tribute to a wellmanaged fishery.” By Shane Willis and Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Julian Baggio, Cairns Marine Aquarium Fish, PO Box 5N, North Cairns, 4870, Queensland. Tel: 07 4058 1711. Fax: 07 4058 1707. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Farmed prawns survive tough markets Last summer, prawn prices were the lowest for many years costing farmers dearly. Unfortunately, oversupply will again depress prices this summer. How farmers react right now will likely determine their ultimate survival in a cut throat market. Yet the experts believe that the situation can be turned around.
Promotion poster showing a plate of cooked Crystal Bay prawns. Photo courtesy of Seafarm.
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More than for most seafoods, peak time for prawn sales is summer – from pre-Christmas to Easter. With such a concentrated selling season and reliance on a single product – whole cooked prawns – oversupply can have a devastating effect on the market. And last summer Australian prawn farmers faced their ‘Perfect Storm’ – boom harvests from farmers and wild-catch fishers plus record imports of frozen product. The strong Aussie dollar too played a critical role. As the dollar rose demand for prawn exports fell. So too did the price of imported farmed prawns (particularly Penaeus vannamei) as their volumes soared. Indeed, some individual importers brought in huge consignments – 600-800 tonnes – of frozen whole vannamei. The oversupply and resultant low prices burned not only some of them but also local farmers of black tiger prawn (P. monodon). Having to harvest ponds and sell below cost, just to keep up the cashflow, certainly caused heartache for a number of operations. Prices seen at the Sydney Fish Market (www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au/trade) generally reflected the general mood of the Australian wholesale market. Supply Manager Gus Dannoun says that seafood is sold at SFM both on the auction floor and through direct sales at prices negotiated between the farm and buyer. And his reading of the market is that
things have been tough for prawn farmers for the past two years. “This year I have had to turn back a lot of farmers who wanted to sell product through us. I need to look after our loyal producers first. “This financial year the total volume of farmed prawns (put through the auction and in direct sales) was up 70 tonnes over the previous financial year. In previous years it was common for the auction floor to sell without difficulty – and at a good price – 10 tonnes or more each week during the main harvest period. This year the main shipments were in February, March and April at a time when most prawn farms were trying to sell their prawns into the same markets in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.” So prices over those three months were depressed by 15-20% compared with the same period in previous years. “We had medium prawns (i.e. 21-30 prawns per pound) going for around $12 to $13/kg, compared to the $16 these fresh whole prawns generally get at auction. The larger prawns (16-20s) got $14-15/kg, down from a usual $1718.50/kg.
“The low price of the larger prawn was of particular concern given that many prawn farms had focused on growing their prawns to a larger size so as not to compete with the smaller vannamei. Our sales figures this year showed an overall drop in small and medium prawns and a large rise in the volume of large and extra large black tiger prawn.” The farmers’ own marketing activities didn’t help either. Warren Lewis, a prawn marketer who represents 25 prawn producers, says that a lot of Australian growers flooded the market during the February to May period. “They need to learn that sometimes even a shipment of 50 boxes (each generally of 15-20kg depending on prawn size) can create a problem on the (SFM auction) floor. “Quality and timing are important and there are many other factors involved; for example poor weather could mean people aren't buying. “Vannamei imports certainly affected market prices last year and marginally this year. But many farmers just didn’t have marketing plans to address all the influences on the market.”
$1/kg For Prawns Some prices plummeted to frightening levels with Gus confirming a reported return of just $1/kg for one small consignment of farmed school prawns (Metapenaeus spp). “We have been developing a relationship with a NT prawn farmer to grow schoolies. It has been a good product but, in early December (2003), a small shipment (10 boxes) landed on the floor unexpectedly and received prices of $1.00 to $1.50/kg. That wasn’t good for the farmer or for us.” Fortunately Gus says this was a ‘oneoff’ occurrence with prices for fresh school prawns back to $8 to $10/kg. However one wholesaler at the SFM (who wishes to remain unidentified) says that consumer preferences also played a role. A decade or two ago school prawns were a favourite, with customers willing to put in the effort to peel the small – but sweet and juicy – prawns. Now, he explains, it’s the larger prawns that people want. Indeed, Gus says that the Clarence Fisherman’s Co-op has reported that its ocean caught ‘schoolies’ had been selling
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From left: This 10kg pack of frozen farmed prawns is typical of how the product is presented when it can’t be sold fresh. Succulent fresh farmed prawns can be made even more desirable if peeled and ready to eat. Photo courtesy of Seafarm. Part of Seafarm’s quality assurance processing line. Photo courtesy of Seafarm.
for almost 50% lower than the previous year. Poor production timing Ex-fisherman Norm Grant, editor and publisher of Seafood Australia, sums up the situation this way: “Local wild and farmed prawn production was definitely up – southeast Queensland had extraordinary catches with fishers and farmers having probably their best season for a long while. And some product normally earmarked for export was held back because of the unfavourable currency situation. So prices were already in trouble.
“On top of that, the market here for prawns (mainly cooked fresh or cooked frozen) was quite flat between Christmas and Easter this year. Very cheap prices for local and imported fish and other crustaceans was a factor; for instance local lobsters haven’t been that cheap for a decade. However, it was also partly because of bad publicity about prawns – antibiotics and mislabelling.” Poor production timing is another concern. Many prawn farmers miss the first part of this because their main harvests are not until February or later. According to Norm, after Easter demand always steps down a big notch
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so any big consignments subsequent to that will find a tough market. “It was also the debut year for vannamei,” he continues. “Some big volumes came in for Christmas and because consumers accepted the product from day one it filled an entire category across that mid-price range. Prices were initially low due to the high Aussie dollar; many importers didn’t make as much money as you might expect but retailers had a boom time.” Norm believes that this year vannamei prices will be up as world demand for the product increases. Our dollar is also 20% weaker than last summer. “The US anti-dumping action against vannamei producers may affect the situation ... but not dramatically, I think. However local producers will have to target outside the medium size, mid-price category in future or have some very powerful branding behind them.” The winners last summer were the buying public with prawn prices the lowest they’ve been for years – a far cry from previous Christmas/Easter returns towards $40/kg. However, prawn sales seem not to have increased dramatically despite the low prices. Farmers must look for other products than just the normal fresh cooked prawns.
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Sydney-based seafood consultant Nick Ruello says that per capita consumption of cooked prawns (ie. boiled) has been dropping for some years, describing the product as ‘mature’ and virtually unchanged for fifty years. “Something needs to be done as it has lost its market share to uncooked prawns and other seafood product – for example swordfish and sushi in Sydney. Nick researched the Australian prawn market in 2002 for the Australian Prawn Farmers Association. “We reported two main things. First there was a definite preference for fresh product over frozen prawns (for more information on consumer trends refer to the FRDC website for the Ruello report on seafood consumption and retail sales – www.frdc.com.au/reports). Second, the prevailing practice of freezing the crop, which is later thawed and sold as fresh, was undermining the industry. It goes against consumer preference and puts Australian prawns into stiff price competition from cheaper imports. “Now is the time for fishers and farmers to act. They need to strengthen demand when the prices are low. Specifically each business needs to look at its own operations and practices, develop new products and new markets and then proudly promote their industry.” (That’s virtually the same advice as he offered in 1990 via two articles in Austasia Aquaculture in 1990.) More marketing and promotion Norm Grant agrees that the industry needs to do more to ensure its market success. He points to Seafarm, the Cardwell (North Queensland) company now farming banana prawns (P. merguiensis) instead of the black tigers. Several other growers have followed this lead. Given an extended spawning cycle, banana prawn seedstock is available for longer periods than for black tigers, allowing more stocking options. Potentially, the northern farmers can harvest product year-round providing huge market advantage as consumers prefer the fresh product over frozen prawns. “But Seafarm didn’t stop there,” Norm continues. “They branded their
product – Crystal Bay Prawns – and promoted it, setting up new markets and outlets rather than dump product on existing ones. They created brand loyalty, not just with consumers but with resellers and slowly repositioned the product further upmarket. With the brand loyalty they have created it seems their sales haven’t dropped off as much as for other producers.” Sam Gordon, Marketing Manager for Seafarm, has been at the cutting edge of this effort. “We have an advantage in that we sell fresh every week of the year,” he says. “We sell between 15 and 45 tonnes per week through a network of 31 wholesalers nationwide. Around 80% of our product is fresh. The remaining 20% is frozen, increasingly destined for export rather than domestic markets.”
Sam says that Seafarm has been avoiding the smaller grades (25-35’s) which would compete directly with the vannamei. “We live in a global economy, so there is no doubt that more shipments of good quality vannamei will be imported into Australia. It will become even more competitive in the small prawn market.” Other producers too are targeting larger prawns. Southern Queensland farmer Warren Truloff has slightly reduced his stocking densities and worked on producing a larger prawn. To some benefit too. "We managed to sell most of our crop last season but it was tight.” However the future is too uncertain to proceed with future developments. “We will be stocking all our ponds again for next summer but at present will not go ahead with our 10ha expansion.”
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Others will combat the challenges by cost-reduction. Noel Herbst, another south Queensland prawn farmer says that 70% of their frozen product had been sold by the end of July. The farm will try to keep its tonnage up but will also look at ways of lowering the cost of production. “We will target 10 to 12 tonnes per pond (1 ha) but will thin out earlier to enable us to grow a larger size prawn,” Noel says. “But we have to accept that the imported product will be around for the next 2-3 years and prices won’t be high. We have to realise that putting two tonnes or more at one time into a market will saturate it. We need to develop new markets and be more orderly in harvesting and marketing.” Negativity slashes demand Another vital consideration is maintaining positive press. Nick Ruello and Norm Grant both suggest that negative press about any sector – farming, fishing or importing – can adversely affect demand right across the board. Thus publicity about the possible presence of antibiotics (particularly Nitrofurans) in important vannamei is of particular concern. Nick says that media reports on this issue frightened customers and depressed sales. Although FSANZ, the federal government’s food safety authority, has since reported that the imported prawns are safe, the damage to the Christmas/Easter trade had already been done. In this instance, the handling of the antibiotic issue by the Australian Prawn
Farmers Association (APFA), the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS), other sections of the seafood industry and individual farmers could probably have been improved. Certainly, there’s some disagreement between the various sectors as to where the ‘fault’ for alarmist media coverage lies. However the fact remains that it introduced uncertainty into the mind of the buying public. Similarly, the debate on labelling product to indicate country of origin needs to be sensitively handled. That’s hard for these are pressing issues for farmers watching their margins being squeezed on every front. APFA Chairman Nick Moore says that the Association has identified a number of instances where imported product had been labelled as Australian product. “This is unacceptable,” he says. “We should also not be exposed to producers who use antibiotics or have tariffs or subsidiaries to help them. We are basically after a level playing field.” Seafarm’s Sam Gordon says labelling is a core issue. “Don’t get me wrong, some of the vannamei was good. However, it is important that the customer knows exactly what they’re buying – local or imported, farmed or wild caught, fresh or frozen. They can then make the decision as to what they want.” But the vannamei is not going to go away with increasing evidence it’s an excellent, fast-growing culture species. In some countries three crops a year can be produced (contrast that to the two tiger crops possible in northern
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Australia and the one/year in one southern Qld and northern NSW). Being sweet and easy to peel most consumers like them, especially given reports that it can be landed here at $10/kg for 2125s or 25-30s. Nick Ruello suggests that the local industry needs to acknowledge the merits of the imported product in order to combat it. “Consumers are voting with their feet. Woolworths and other outlets are having good sales. With 40% of local production going into the cooked and frozen product, there needs to be a change.” Nick Moore agrees. He says the farming sector is now realising that marketing is an activity that has not been done well since day one. “A few farmers have tried hard,” he says, “But everyone needs to invest more time, dollars and effort into promoting a truly Australian high quality that can stand against the imported product.” Recent positive signs Whilst the economics were very tight for prawn farmers earlier in the year, Norm Grant believes that the market is picking up. “The price of vannamei has gone up a bit with more world demand and lower stocking rates in a couple of countries. Our dollar’s fall below US$0.70 has also bumped up local vannamei prices. And there has been a drop off in wild catches.” According to Gus, there will always be demand for fresh prawns. “The preference is for fresh whole prawns in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The buyer can still see the value in these as long as the volumes are well managed.” Both Nick Ruello and Norm point to the need for prawn producers to study global patterns of supply given a global shift in the species farmed and a range of new products. However if farmers were to take home just one message, it was that they need to produce large, fresh, quality prawns year-round. As Norm says: “Other than Seafarm‘s Crystal Bay product, there’s a ‘black hole’ with regard to fresh farmed prawns at this time of year.” By Dos O’Sullivan with Tim Walker
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Kick-start for Qld indigenous aquaculture
Bruce Gibson, Chair of North QLD Indigenous Aquaculture Working Group; unknown; Joe Henaway, Burdekin; Manuel Namoa, Badu Island, Torres Straits.
North Queensland’s indigenous communities fished the rivers and seas for time immemorial. But there are records of traditional aquaculture too. Thus, for example, on Mer Island (birth place of Eddie Mabo) local islanders farmed giant clams in ‘clam gardens’ close to their houses on the beach. Interest in more commercial aquaculture enterprises is strong too. That’s why the Queensland Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries initiated an indigenous representative group – the North Queensland Indigenous Aquaculture Working Group (NQIAWG) – to examine ways to kick-start indigenous involvement. Commercial aquaculture interests are also interested in joint ventures with indigenous groups. Indigenous aquaculture in north Queensland has had a chequered past. A number of projects have come and gone. One of those was the topical oyster farm set up on Palm Island (near Townsville) in the mid-70s. A cyclone and the need for improved oyster culture technology saw that project fail. There have also been several consultants reports and investigations over several years for potential aquaculture projects
at theYarrabah community near Cairns, but nothing has yet eventuated. Yet a recent survey of indigenous communities through the Torres Straits, Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria recently revealed: • extensive indigenous interest in aquaculture; • traditional ownership of significant tracts of land and sea well suited to aquaculture development;
• an advanced state of readiness in some communities; • receptiveness to the notion of joint venture partnerships or other commercial arrangements, and • an understanding of the comunity benefits of aquaculture development. These and other opportunities were identified through a recent consultancy funded for the NQIAWG by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
Fisheries and Forestry, and Queenslands Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries (QDPI&F) and Department of Education and Training. The consultants’ report ‘Scoping study into oppurtunities for indigenous aquaculture in North Queensland’ was prepared by Minniecon & Burke P/L in association with Mark Oliver of Australian Aquaculture Support Services and Aquaculture Consultant Stuart Whitney. Requirements for success Many of the factors hindering aquaculture developments elsewhere are also, it seems, a problem for indigenous proponents. But they also face additional hurdles. For example unresolved Native Title issues can stall projects indefinitely and minimise community commitment. Indeed, the consultants concluded that approval processes for indigenous aquaculture development are overtly complex and extremely protracted. And for those communities considering aquaculture within The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 severely limits the available opportunities. Minniecon & Burke also stressed the need for indigenous proponents to understand the potentially high commercial risks associated with aquaculture. A consideration of triple bottom line outcomes was needed to inform funding
agencies and government about project planning, development; and decisionmaking. The need for comprehensive feasibility studies, business and marketing plans during project planning and development was highlighted. Certainty of funding was another success factor. Finally it was recommended that project staff have the skills and expertise to successfully manage and operate an aquaculture project. Not withstanding these problems, opportunities exist within existing frameworks to undertake aquaculture development within communities. Joint ventures and industry/community linkages with the existing aquaculture industry and or investment groups were canvassed. These and other commercial arrangements could potentially provide indigenous aquaculture developers with the opportunity to acquire access to capital, expertise, technology, products, facilities, talent, customers or distribution channels to enable it to be commercially viable and self sustainable. The Consultants contacted all major industry groups or associations throughout Queensland to seek their interest in supporting or assisting indigenous aquaculture development, as well as, called for expressions of interest for potential joint venture partners through the:
Attending the North Queensland Indigenous Aquaculture Forum – Chris Robertson, QLD DPI&F; Fred Pascoe, Morr Pastoral Company, Gulf of Carpentaria; and George Ropeyarn, Injinoo Community Council, Cape York.
• FISHeNEWS, 22 December 2003, email service of Austasia Aquaculture; and • Feb/March 2004 issue of Austasia Aquaculture Magazine. The Consultants received five expressions of interest from potential joint venture partners seeking to explore joint ventures with indigenous communities in species such as pearls, sea cucumber, barramundi, redclaw crayfish and tropical lobster grow-out. The Pasminco Mining Company affirmed its commitment to support the Wanyii Nation to undertake aquaculture development on existing infrastructure at Century Mine under the company’s ILUA with the Wanyii Nation traditional owner group. The consultants found that the species with the most potential for indigenous aquaculture in each biogeographical region in light of the above assessment were: • Bowen, Townsville regions: marine prawns, redclaw crayfish, barramundi and sea sponges; • Cairns, Cooktown regions: marine prawns, redclaw crayfish and barramundi; • North Eastern Cape: oysters, pearls and ornamentals; • Southern Gulf, Mount Isa regions: redclaw, crocodile, sea cucumber, and marine prawns; • Western Cape: redclaw, crocodile and mudcrab; • Inner Torres Strait: trochus, a hatchery facility and tropical lobster grow out, marine prawns, and fish cage culture; • Outer Torres Strait: pearl, sea cucumber and sea sponges; and • Northern Torres Strait: barramundi, marine prawns (broodstock supply) and mudcrab fattening Multi-species hatchery and other facilities The Consultant concluded that the three indigenous aquaculture projects currently at the planning stage that are potentially most likely to succeed are: • The Badu Island Prawn farm (subject to future prawn market conditions); • The Palm Island Sponge farm; and • The Yarrabah Barramundi Farm.
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According to NQIAWG co-ordinator Chris Robertson, one of the main recommendations of the report was for the establishment of a multi species hatchery (MSH). “This was seen as an integral part of an integrated long-term indigenous aquaculture development strategy for the region. Horn Island, in Torres Strait has already been identified as a location with the required infrastructure. It has an airport, very clean water and a ready workforce. It is at the tip of Cape York and would assist in development of aquaculture industries in the wide regions of Torres Straits and Cape York. Currently aquaculture in the area is limited to one significantly sized pearl farm and a few other small ones, none of which are indigenous owned. However, the consultants recommendation for a multi-species hatchery needs to be
investigated thoroughly in terms of economics and viability for government to support it, as detailed in the report.” It was also recommended that indigenous owned and operated demonstration farms should be encouraged and developed with the support of government. One suggestion that was well received was that the DPI&F Walkamin Freshwater Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Centre facility be used either as a demonstration farm or training facility. Training Support Appropriate training was identified as the singlemost important success factor for long-term development of indigenous aquaculture. It needed to be: • accredited and industry-based, providing tangible outcomes in terms of skills acquisition and knowledge transfer;
• flexible enough to accommodate the potentially low literacy and numeracy levels of indigenous people from this region, and • be ‘hands-on’ and vocationally-based. The anticipated demand for such training is high, perhaps a five year program for as many as 100 indigenous persons. It was suggested that the Queensland Government look at founding an indigenous aquaculture centre for learning excellence in Cairns. And that the QPDI&F appoint an Indigenous Aquaculture Extension Officer to proactively support those seeking to undertake an aquaculture project in North Queensland. Chris Robertson says this is already underway through funding with the CRC Torres Straits. Indigenous Aquaculture Development Implementation Plan Minniecon & Burke proposed a 7-year implementation plan based on a nonprofit organisation or business entity owned and operated by indigenous interests. This would take over as the peak body for indigenous aquaculture development in North Queensland, responsible for promoting and supporting aquaculture development and selecting viable projects. It could also have a responsibility for the management of an MSH if that was developed. The wider industry is supportive but cautious. Graham Dalton – speaking at the recent Indigenous Aquaculture Workshop in Cairns – emphasised the very long lead times, difficulties in obtaining necessary environmental approvals and the high costs and associated risks. But balancing those concerns, Mr Dalton said that the large tracts of suitable lands and water under indigenous stewardship had substantial potential for development. Joint venture projects were one option for providing the necessary capital and expertise. Industry could also assist by providing employment, experience, associated work skills and commercial access to management and operational expertise. By Dos O’Sullivan
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Abalone sector sets its agenda Abalone aquaculture has seen an exciting twelve months according to Shane McLinden, interim chair of the newly formed Australian Abalone Growers Association (AAGA), with a number of farms producing profitable volumes and an increasing focus on co-operation. Shane himself caught the abalone ‘bug’ after seeking a career change in the late nineties. With technical guidance from aquaculture movers and shakers at Fremantle’s Challenger TAFE, he took
the plunge in 2000 and established Southseas Abalone. The company initially operated a sales and marketing consultancy for a number of abalone farms including SA Mariculture (SAM). But the aim was always to run a farm of its own. “We raised the money to do our own project here in Perth,” Shane continues, “but then decided to join up with SAM in a partnership called SAM Abalone Pty Ltd.” As Executive Director he needs to not
only direct company development but be aware of, and concerned in, the health of the whole sector. And he’s noticed a welcome new trend. “The collective thoughts on how to grow abalone are converging. There are fewer secrets and an emerging recognition that competition is not over the fence – it’s overseas.” Given this understanding that the industry can best thrive if farmers pool knowledge, product and markets, five
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industry members got together after 2003’s Annual Abalone Conference to plan a national association. “We developed and agreed to a constitution and presented it to the growers at the next conference in Hobart (August 2004),” Shane continues. That’s not all. The five also penned a proposal that growers fund a voluntary research and development levy and industry began developing rules on how it could co-operatively market and sell its product. Those efforts have now been applauded by the wider industry. The Hobart gathering – attended by 75% of all growers – agreed to the R&D levy, ratified the Association’s constitution and decided to explore marketing initiatives on a national basis. Such a stunning report card speaks volumes about the sector’s burgeoning maturity. Perhaps that’s not surprising. The farms are expected to harvest 300 tonnes this year with that expected to rise 20% per year from here on. There’s potential for lucrative returns given continual investment in R&D and marketing. Shane says much has changed over the past few years. “Farmers know a lot more about how to grow abalone commercially. With more openness between farms there’s a greater ability to benchmark to work out the best flow rates, pumping costs, staff costs, growout methods and so on. “That confidence has been significantly reinforced with the adoption of co-operative selling, enabling farms of all sizes to consolidate their product and participate in major deals. So, for example, there’s a container of frozen
in-shell product going to Japan every couple of months and we need two or three farms to fill that order.” What’s behind this overall industry progress? Shane nominates a number of factors. One is broodstock selection. He says that in earlier times some farms selected broodstock for fast growth with little regard given to the temperature profile of the waters where those fish came from. “The selective breeding program needs to be carried out on abalone from waters near the farm – or at the very least from waters with the same or higher temperature profile,” he continues. “You wouldn’t want to take fish from
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south of Hobart and grow their progeny out in South Australia. “You need to match broodstock to the site.” Husbandry has also markedly improved with the twin benefits of increased stocking densities and reduced staffing requirements. “Probably 75% of the farmed harvest is produced from long (20m x 2.5m) flat ‘slab’ tanks,” Shane explains. “At one end is a tipper; it’s like the bucket on a front end loader and when it fills it simply spills over and sends a wave down the shallow tank. This cleans the tank in a very labour-efficient manner.” Water depth is just 40mm and
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because of continuous flow does not need aerating. Some farms do use deeper tanks but these need aerating and appear to require more labour-intensive cleaning procedures. “But, at the end of the day, such techniques may suit a particular style of operation,” Shane says.. Slab tanks are allowing farms to produce up to 50 tonnes with 10-12 people compared to the 30 that SAM had onsite in its early days. Perhaps the secret is a greater understanding of production risk. “In the old days you committed lots of people and lots of husbandry because everyone was conscious of the potential for under-performance or high mortalities. “Nowadays there’s a far more businesslike approach. There is an understanding that there might be some reduction in growth or increase in mortality if we pull 500 kilos out of a tank instead of 200. But the overall payoff from that piece of infrastructure is much better so that’s where the industry is heading.” Hatchery improvements show the
same pragmatism. “With the benefit of hindsight I’d say that spawnings from our own hatchery have been too successful. We’ve always produced too many and settled too many on our nursery infrastructure. “So in the past couple of years we’ve culled heavily and been able to quadruple the size of the abs leaving the nursery.” Another industry improvement is the introduction of a new, faster growing algae, improving the density of ‘food’ on each nursery plate. So there’s not only less ‘mouths’ but more food as well. No wonder growth is quicker. Fish leaving the nursery are also genetically programmed to grow faster. “Within industry there’s been a ‘family lines’ program supported by FRDC. The results of that selective breeding are beginning to show and we expect upwards of 10% improvement per generation.” As for nutrition, there’s been considerable R&D in the past but Shane believes much work remains to be done. “Two main feed companies pro-
duce a pressed pellet feed. Each farm does its own trials to select which diet is better for them. “But I think that many farmers have primarily been looking at feed as a cost. With the emphasis on minimising that cost, the message to feed companies has been simply to produce a cheaper feed. “There needs to be a more sophisticated analysis of the cost:benefit equation. It may be that a more expensive diet will produce better growth per dollar of feed. And because you’ll be using fewer tanks to produce the same tonnage, capital and husbandry costs will be lower too.” The traditional product produced by abalone farmers is baby greenlip (divers of the wild stocks predominantly harvest large blacklip). “To begin with the product was canned and sold into Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Shane recalls. “However we weren’t too happy with the ‘recoveries’ we were getting from cans and there was a feeling that we should address different product forms and other markets. “At that time Japan was primarily seen as a blacklip market. But we’ve been able to turn that around and now there’s a container leaving for Japan every couple of months with eight tonnes of frozen in-shell product inside. “The main challenge is getting the price up.” The first step in that equation is to understand the market and work with the best market intelligence. That’s why the moves at the Hobart conference to explore marketing initiatives on a national basis are so vital. Indeed, Shane is very heartened by the decisions of that Hobart gathering. “Previous conferences have tended to be dominated by technical papers. This time there was a much stronger focus on industry and how farmers can advance the business case. So the Australian Abalone Growers Association, R&D levies, branding and co-operative marketing all got a good hearing. It seems abalone culture in this country is getting ready to really kick on. By Tim Walker
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Taking the costs out of selective breeding for abalone Aquaculture researcher and enthusiast Ben Maynard reckons he’s developed the ideal tool to drive abalone culture’s next big leap. “Husbandry, diet and system design have all improved greatly over the past few years,” he says. “But the pace of innovation has begun to plateau. Selective breeding is where the biggest gains will come from in the coming years. “Selective breeding has the real potential to improve growth, disease resistance and meat yield.” Working out of Professor Peter Hanna’s laboratory at Deakin University (Geelong), Ben is finetuning DNA ‘fingerprinting’ tests for greenlip, blacklip and tiger (greenlip/blacklip hybrid) abalone. Just as this technique is commonly used by police to identify the bad guys – for a primer on the technique watch CSI on TV – it can be used to identify individuals of any species. It’s that powerful. The standard process used in selective
breeding begins with the establishment of a certain number of breeding pairs, known crosses between a single male and a single female. Ben says the offspring of those crosses – or family lines – must then be segregated through the whole production system. So if there are 25 breeding pairs, that means 25 sets of fertilisation, settlement, nursery and growout systems. As Ben notes: “Very capital and labour intensive.” At the end of the growout the performance of each family line is evaluated. The farmer may then either: • continue breeding from the best performing breeding pairs, or • interbreed those offspring with desirable characteristics, or • set up another range of family lines for the next generation. Ben proposes a better, simpler, lessexpensive solution. “My method will allow for all the family lines to be grown together. There’ll be no need to duplicate facilities to ensure segregation
between family lines.” As part of his studies Ben has achieved a first: the sequencing of the mitochondrial genome of blacklip abalone. “Most people will remember the excitement when the human genome was sequenced a few years ago. I’ve done the same for blacklip mitochondria, a section of the abalone cell that contains many useful genetic markers.” Ben’s DNA tests can trace sections of this genome that pass unchanged from mother to offspring. So he can trace an individual back to its mother – and by association to its father too. And all by just clipping a single tentacle from an abalone. “We don’t harm the animal in any way,” he says. “We don’t even have to take them out of the tank.” The benefits of such genetic profiling go beyond simply saving labour and capital costs (by not having to build and run duplicate facilities). Given that all the family lines are being grown
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together, they are being trailed under identical conditions. Under the traditional system, better performing family lines may be reflecting subtle differences in culture conditions rather than commercially superior genes. And Ben’s method also precludes inbreeding. “It’s all very well to breed from the two best animals on the farm, but if they are close relatives there’s going to be problems. You’ll get decreased genetic diversity – and reduced performance – down the track. “My technique will stop that happening.” Having developed the genetic ‘fingerprinting’ process, Ben now wants to finetune its application to selective breeding by working with a number of farms. “I want to first fingerprint all the mothers in a farm’s family lines and then go back after growout to do the same on their offspring. We expect that we can identify a unique genetic barcode for each of the mothers and find that same barcode in all its sons and daughters. “That’s our expectation but we have to prove it. To improve the chances of success we’re looking at the most variable section of the mitochondrial genome called the control region.” Each farm that works with Ben will gain therefore access to profit-boosting, cutting-edge technology. Farmers will get valuable insights into their own stock and a better understanding of how to improve the outcomes of genetic selection. Indeed, such commercially-focussed research is a hallmark of Prof. Hanna’s laboratory. It built and ran the first abalone hatchery in Victoria (one of only two at the time in Australia) back in the 1980s and has since produced valuable insights in fields as diverse as prawn breeding, abalone ranching and disease diagnosis in cultured fish. Ben’s work carries on this proud tradition ... but he now needs industry’s help. “These DNA tests need to be evaluated within the controlled environment of a number of abalone farms,” he explains.
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Deakin University’s Ben Maynard is keen to use his research on abalone genetics to reduce the costs of selective breeding.
“I’m offering to do genetic profiles of farm stock for free. It will not only give me important baseline data but will provide farmers with valuable genetic information for improving stock performance and farm profitability.” By Tim Walker Ben Maynard can be contacted at Deakin University on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mobile: 0439 844 649; Lab Ph: (03) 5227 2934; Home Ph: (03) 5244 2797 A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
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Saving energy equals saving money (and the environment) Energy is a major operating costs for many aquaculture systems. Generally the more intensive (higher stocking densities and other inputs), the more energy is required. Thus some pump ashore abalone farms and large-scale recirculation facilities have energy bills in excess of $0.5 million per year. Yet implementing an energy management plan to improve your bottom line, save money and the environment is a relatively easy step. Anwar Mohammed is passionate about renewable energy sources and ensuring the environment is protected. Every year he assists as an official in the Darwin to Adelaide solar car challenge, and he has established a consulting company Sun Wind Water Energy Solutions (email@example.com). Based in Adelaide, Anwar has worked on a number of alternative energy projects in southern Australia, including the preparation of a major report examining the energy use of aquaculture businesses on the Eyre Peninsula in 2002. With an annual harvest of more than $500 million, the Eyre Peninsula is the most valuable aquaculture region in Australia. With the industry forecast to grow in production and value by at least 15% annually for the next decade and energy requirements (electricity, petroleum fuels such ULP and diesel, gas or LPG, coal or briquettes) also tipped to boom, industry members had expressed concerns about rising energy costs and the adequacy of the existing supply infrastructure. Commissioned by the SA Marine Finfish Farmers Association on behalf of the whole industry, Anwar’s report detailed energy use patterns (current and forecast) for a variety of sea cage (tuna and yellowtail kingfish), shellfish (abalone, oysters and mussels) and 40
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support sector (processing, bio-waste recovery) companies. Opportunities for the use of renewable energy were also examined (for a copy of the report contact MFFASA executive officer Martin Herman on firstname.lastname@example.org). The report found that whilst some operations may explore displacement options (eg. using electricity rather than diesel, replacing coal and briquettes with LPG), it was expected that in the future most existing aquaculture operations would not change their current source of energy. Citing high costs for ‘retrofits’ of new technology on existing farms and long pay-back periods, the report found that new aquaculture operations were most the likely to explore alternative energy options. Of those options, wind turbines (several wind farms were being established around the Eyre Peninsula) were deemed the most promising, followed by grid connected fixed-plane photovoltaic solar arrays (solar panels). Other options, such as solar thermal systems, hydro-power and solar ponds, were also discussed. However, it was recommended that existing businesses could directly reduce their energy usage and energy costs by developing an effective Energy Management Plan (EMP).
In many regional areas there are questions as to the continued regular maintenance of the power supply infrastructure.
Energy Management Planning “One way for an organisation to grow sustainably is to address how the business currently manages and uses energy, be it electricity, gas, diesel, petrol and so on.,” explains Anwar. “Effective energy management is the process of reducing both the energy costs and the production of greenhouse gases at the same time. An effective energy management plan saves you money while benefiting the environment.” An energy management program involves six steps: 1. Commitment – Both financial and organisational commitments should be made to achieving more efficient energy use. 2. Survey and Forecast – Collecting information or data on energy use (the energy audit) – both current and future. 3. Reduction Goals – Setting targets and priorities for reductions. 4. Business Action Plan - A plan is developed to achieve the goals that were set. 5. Implementation – Organising resources to implement changes that were set in the business action plan. 6. Monitor and Evaluate - Monitoring the effect that the changes have made on the organisation and evaluating the results.
Whilst this might sound like a lot of work, the benefits can be considerable. The Energy SA web site www.sustainable. energy.sa.gov.au suggests that savings on the energy bill of up to 20% are achievable for most industrial and commercial organisations. Assuming the commitment to more efficient energy use has already made, the next step is to conduct an energy audit. Australian/New Zealand Standard TM Energy Audits, AS/NZS 3598:2000, has been developed in order to help energy users decide what the appropriate level of energy audit is for them (www.standards.com.au). It also provides information to assist when commissioning an energy audit or preparing and comparing energy audit proposals. Energy Audit Anwar says that an energy audit is essential for effective energy cost control. “It allows assessment of how much energy is being consumed, where it is being used and what can be done to make the facility more energy-efficient.” A simple ‘walk through’ energy survey is the best way to start. This requires
you identify and measure each of the energy types used in your business. It can begin with noting down the power consumption of all electrical (kW) plant and equipment inventory – as found on nameplates, in instruction manuals or obtained from the suppliers or manufacturers. Hours of operation (check monthly totals for evidence of seasonal variations) should be checked. Power consumption figures can then be compared to the monthly costs, printed on your monthly electricity, fuel or gas bills. You should be able to establish a general trend or pattern in energy use over a number of years. This survey should identify areas of excessive energy usage. Getting other people involved will often identify areas in the business where energy savings can be made immediately at little to no cost. Charts to record the monthly energy consumption and costs can be obtained from government Energy Information Centres around Australia. This makes it easier to identify opportunities for saving energy and reducing costs – either by reducing operating hours of the equipment
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From top: This small solar collector provides the power for an alarm system checking for power dropouts. Electricity is used to run these reverse cycle air conditioners to maintain temperatures in a fish hatchery. Gas is being used for heating on many facilities that require temperature control.
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From Top: Diesel generators are used on many aquaculture facilities as a backup power supply. In this case the generators provided the main source of power for a shore-based abalone farm. Airblowers are generally a ‘must have’ on any aquaculture facility holding stock in tanks or ponds. A typical bank of pumps from an aquaculture facility. Their power requirements can be found on the name plates. Even oyster farms require power to run plant and equipment such as the grading and bagging system pictured here.
or by using more efficient equipment. You should also look for opportunities to utilise off-peak tariffs. The same examination should be done for fuel (Litres) and gas (in MJ/h) use. So that they can be compared easily, the quantities of these should be converted to a common unit of energy, normally Megajoules, MJ (this can also be expressed as GJ = 1,000 MJ, see Table 1 for conversion factors). You can now calculate the Megajoules per tonne production of your facility (MJ/tonne). Determining the Energy Dollars per tonne production of your facility (energy $/tonne) is also a useful benchmarking figure for use between years or production runs, and also to compare with similar businesses. Anwar says that a simple but diligent ‘walk-through’ can spot many of the problems in any type of facility. “When auditing your facility, keep a checklist of areas and equipment you have inspected and problems found. This will help you prioritise your energy efficiency upgrades.” Last year, whilst undertaking an audit of a South Australian aquaculture farm, Anwar found errors on one monthly electricity bill of over $15,000 (which was eventually credited by the electricity retailer back to the owner). In summary, the things that you should cover at this stage of your energy management plan include: • determination of energy costs and consumption levels; • identification of seasonal patterns; • review of purchasing arrangements, and
Energy units Electrical power is measured in kilowatts (kW). Electrical energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) – this is what you are charged for by the electricity retailer. One kWh is the amount of energy a 1-bar radiator uses in 1 hour, or the amount of energy a 100 Watt light globes uses in 10 hours of operation. Gas energy consumption is measured in megajoules (MJ). The rate of gas consumption is measured in megajoules per hour (MJ/h). Oil/fuel energy is measured in litres. The rate of oil consumption is measured in litres per hour (L/h).
• comparison of energy consumption with output. As many aquaculture operations are large energy consumers or have fairly complex needs, it might be worthwhile employing an energy consultant to conduct the energy audit. For a fee, energy auditing companies will conduct a ‘walk through’ or detailed energy audit and prepare a report identifying and costing opportunities for energy savings. Again contact your state or territory Energy Information Centre for details. The next step is to prioritise the areas for improvements and set efficiency targets. According to Energy SA, most people go for the best payback items within the amount of capital they have
Table 1: Conversion factors for energy use on an aquaculture facility as well as greenhouse gas emmissions. Energy Form
Greenhouse Gas Emission
To obtain GJ from base unit
To obtain Tonnes of CO2 from base unit
3.6MJ per kWh or 0.0036GJ per kWh
1.186kg CO2 per kWh
Multiply number of kWh by 0.0036
Multiply number of kWh by 1.186 then divide by 1,000
Natural (Mains) Gas
1,000MJ per GJ
51.7kg CO2 per GJ
Divide MJ by 1,000
First convert to GJ then multiply by 0.0517
LPG (Bottled Gas)
25.7MJ per Litre
67.1kg CO2 per GJ
Multiply Litres by 0.0257
First convert to GJ then multiply by 0.0671
37.3 GJ/KL 37.3 MJ/L
77.4kg CO2 per GJ
Multiply Litres by 0.0373
First convert to GJ then multiply by 0.0774
* 1 Gigajoule (GJ) = 1,000 Megajoules (MJ). Source: These conversion factors are taken from the AGO Factors and Methods Workbook Version 3 – March 2003 produced by the Australian Greenhouse Office.
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A typical 3-phase power supply line.
to spend. An energy action plan for your business is now needed. Sections or headings for your action plan could include: • immediate energy savings achievable; • further investigations required for identifying savings which could be achieved through larger scale energy efficiency projects; • problems in the control of energy costs and in collecting and reporting energy data, and • an estimate of the costs of the ‘business as usual’ scenario (what potential savings will be lost if no action is taken). The implementation, monitoring and evaluating steps revolve around making changes and improvements and then checking the results. The process should loop back into routine (eg. twice yearly) self-audits or reviews. An insight into the financial evaluation of your energy efficiency project can be found in: Australian Standard AS3595 Energy management programs – Guidelines for financial evaluation of a project, and Australian Standard AS3596 Energy
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management programs – Guidelines for definition and analysis of energy and cost savings. According to Anwar, experience has shown that where an effective energy management program has been instituted for the first time, savings of at least 5% of annual energy costs are normal. “Savings in excess of 30% are not uncommon and in the long term energy use can be halved when sufficient resolve and resources are directed to such program. “The resources devoted to carrying out a plan of action should be assessed in terms of the expected savings, both financial and environmental.” By Dos O’Sullivan In the next issue of AAM, advice will be provided on how to choose the correct pumps and other engines for your operation. Source: Much of the information on energy management plans was sourced from: http://www.sustainable.energy.sa.gov.au/d html/ss/section.php?sectID=50&tempID=7 Thanks also to Daniel Rossetto of Energy SA for assistance with this article.
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Clean Bill Of Health for Tasmanian marine farming A report on Tasmanian fin-fish farming has given the industry a tick for its environmental performance. Released by the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, Steve Kons, on August 26, the report “Tasmanian Marine Farming Environmental Monitoring Report: Benthic Monitoring (1997-2002)” monitored all fin-fish lease areas, research permit sites and emergency lease areas in the State over the six year period. The monitoring information presented relates specifically to benthic management controls and monitoring requirements detailed in each Marine Farming Development Plan (MFDP) area. These particular controls focus on sediment health and specify that there shall be no unacceptable visual, chemical or biological impacts detectable on the benthos 35 m beyond the boundaries of the lease area.
In coastal and estuarine sites the condition of the sediment is a strong indicator of the health of the surrounding marine environment, since it provides an integrated history of organic loading in the area. Sources of solid organic waste from finfish farming operations include waste feed pellets and fish faecal material. This material can settle on the sediment under pens and have an effect on sediment health. Various physical, chemical, biological and visual measures can be used to determine the effects of organic loading to sediments in and around marine farming leases. For this reason a monitoring program incorporating these parameters was developed in 1996/7 through Government consultation with the, local Government (LGAT), community (Tasmanian Conservation Trust), industry, scientific experts (TAFI, CSIRO) and a consul-
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tant specialising in salmonid benthic monitoring techniques from Maine, USA. The TAFI was also engaged at this time to undertake research specific to Tasmanian conditions and provide an evaluation of techniques for environmental monitoring of salmon farms in Tasmania. Ongoing Monitoring A total of 240 underwater video surveys have since been performed by consultants and individual lessees on finfish lease and research permit sites, 88 of which involved benthic sampling. This sampling has resulted in the compilation of perhaps the most extensive database of spatial benthic data in the State, with over 2200 benthic samples obtained and analysed across finfish MFDP areas. At the outset of the monitoring program all farms were subject to a baseline survey, where physical, chemical and biological data were obtained through sediment sampling at farm, compliance and control sites. Underwater video footage of sediments was also obtained at each sampling location and current flow information was obtained in order to determine the most likely settlement pattern(s) of solid organic waste material. Specific parameters assessed for baseline surveys included: • Bathymetry and Habitat profiling • Physico-Chemical parameters (core profiles, sediment particle size, organic carbon, redox and stable isotope analysis); • Underwater video assessment; and • Biological assessment (infaunal analysis) Following the baseline survey, farms were required to perform routine 6 monthly video surveys with underwater video footage obtained from pen sites and at 35m compliance points positioned in line with the predominant current
flow(s). These compliance sites were positioned in such a way as to target the most likely areas of solid waste settlement from stocked cages. Results from these video surveys indicated that visible impacts were highly localised and appeared as ‘footprint’ zones under stocked cages within the confines of the lease area. In most cases these footprint zones were characterised by dark organic sediments, Beggiatoa (bacterial) mats, the presence of waste feed pellets and capitellid worms visible on the sediment surface. At the outset of the program concerns were raised that the settlement of low levels of farm-derived organic material outside lease areas could potentially result in minor but detectable shifts in benthic community structure that are not evident through underwater video assessment. In order to determine whether such non-visible effects were present in the benthos at 35m compliance points each farm undertook further biological, physical and chemical sampling two years after performing the baseline survey. These benthic sampling events failed to detect any significant non-visible impacts to the sediment at compliance points outside lease areas. General environmental information gathered through the course of monitoring revealed that: • the majority of finfish farm sites are in low flow, depositional sites, with flows averaging 3.34 cm s-1; • particle size analysis indicated that sediments in most lease areas contain high levels of silt and clay and are indicative of depositional conditions; • Depths on finfish marine farming lease areas ranged from 14 – 25 metres with a mean depth of 18.6 metres; • Habitat mapping and core descriptions revealed that the majority of finfish farms operate over muddy/ silty sediments devoid of any significant vegetative cover. Small patches of intermittent algae, seagrass and unconsolidated reef were identified within several lease areas; • Considerable impacts were visible directly under and in close proximity
to stocked cages (usually within 30m), however the extent of the impact diminished relatively quickly with distance from stocked cages and the length of time each site was rested from farming pressure; and • The majority of fallowing practices appear sufficient to allow sediment recovery, with initial visible recovery from polluted to transitional conditions occurring in a relatively short period of time (ie 3 – 6 months depending on the individual lease area). Adaptive Management & Future Monitoring Findings show that industry compliance has been encouraging overall, with unacceptable visual, chemical and biological impacts only detected in cases where stocked cages had been incorrectly positioned outside marine farming lease areas or where there was evidence of remnant farming operations in old lease areas. The Government made a commitment to the industry at the outset of the benthic monitoring program to undertake a review of benthic monitoring following at least 4 years of data collection. This review will form part of the Department’s adaptive management system for environmental monitoring, with any changes being subject to future review and modification, as relevant information becomes available. The review process will involve consultation with industry in relation
to adjustments to the frequency and intensity of monitoring in light of TAFI and CSIRO research recommendations and the results of the benthic monitoring program to date. In addition to monitoring for the presence on benthic impacts, DPIWE recognises that future monitoring should also target the effects of soluble waste emissions from finfish culture. The development of techniques and possible threshold levels for the monitoring of any ‘broadscale’ effects associated with soluble waste emissions from finfish culture sites is now being investigated by the Aquafin CRC (Environment Program), a collaborative research program involving TAFI, CSIRO, industry and the DPIWE. The DPIWE hopes to utilise the recommendations made through this research to assist in the development of an effective broadscale monitoring program. Electronic copies of the monitoring report are available on the DPIWE website (www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au) later this month. By Graham Woods, Eric Brain, Colin Shepherd, Tim Paice, DPIWE For more information contact Graham Woods, Senior Marine Farming Environmental Management Officer, Marine Environment Section, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, GPO Box 44, Hobart 7001 Tasmania. Phone: (03) 6233 7752; Fax: (03) 6233 3065
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Tasmanian oyster farmers initiate EMS The payoff for instituting a farm-based Environmental Management Systems (EMS) is better productivity and reduced environmental impact. The National Aquaculture Council (NAC) has promoted the benefits of EMS through a series of workshops around Australia. It is also helping farms develop their own EMS. Three Tasmanian oyster producers are taking part in this with some exciting results so far. The Aquaculture Action Agenda managed by the National Aquaculture Council aims to boost the value of production towards $2.5 billion by 2010. As part of the AAA the Implementation Subcommittee on ESD has developed a project to assist 30 key aquaculture businesses, or groups of businesses across Australia, to take up Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in their day-to-day business operations. An EMS is management tool designed to identify all environmental workplace hazards, define associated potential risks and to develop procedures and practices to eliminate or minimise exposure to the environment. EMS implementation is the first step towards gaining ISO14000 and/or HACCP accreditation The National Aquaculture Council (NAC) has contracted Aquatic Solutions Australia (ASA) for the implementation of the EMS program with three edible oyster farms (Tasmania), three abalone farms (Victoria) and three prawn farms (Queensland). According to project manager Brett Stevens, the first step was to identify and select ‘industry champions’, those businesses that can commit to the longterm goal of operating within designated
environmental codes of practice. “An EMS template developed in Western Australia has been modified for industry and individual companies,” he explains. “The next step is for us to provide basic training in the adoption and implementation of these customised EMS. To do this we will conduct intensive training sessions with operators and staff in the methods used for the development, adoption and implementation of EMS within their facilities.” Transparency of the process has been identified as a key performance criterion. “The role of Public Environmental Reporting (PER) as a means of informing communities on an operator’s environmental performance is critical. This to include the role of third party auditing as a means to determine compliance with EMS standards. “Longer term objectives of the project include the completion of a ‘gap analysis’ to assist implementation within the wider aquaculture industry. This will of course include the development and adoption of a well-accepted format for Public Environmental Reporting. The NAC will audit participants of this program to ensure that the EMS has been implemented correctly and is being operated within designated codes
Environmental responsibility From left: Graded oysters are returned to the lease for ongrowing. Oysters ready for harvest are bagged awaiting delivery.
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of practice.” Brett is excited about the project, “I have travelled and worked overseas a lot and have seen some very poor environmental outcomes from badly designed and operated aquaculture operations. While Australian operations are much better, there are still some improvements we can make to ensure our industry is profitable and sustainable in the long term. A ‘clean green image’ is also vital to the industry as a whole when competing internationally.” Tasmania oyster farms ASA is working with the three edible oyster farms including Smithton Shellfish (operated by Paul Viney), Barilla Bay Oysters (David Forrest and his family) and Oyster Bay Oysters (Hayden Dyke and his family). All the growers agree that there are many potential impacts that oyster farming can have including: • overcatch, or unnaturally high settlement rates of oysters in local area; • modified current or water flows around racks; • depleted feeds for natural populations of filter feeders; • attraction of fouling organisms, and
Environmental irresponsibilty From left: Intake lines cover the beach front in this region of Taiwan, no restrictions for access make for environmental disaster. Little effort is spent on treating effluent from this farm in Taiwan.
• Noise, visual and aesthetic impacts However, these operators also believe that properly managed operations can have a minimal impact of the environment ... and in some ways can also protect it. Paul Viney’s Smithton based operation is located in Duck Bay and shares the area with several other oyster producers. “We share our environment with other leases and a range of stakeholders such as the local community, fisherman and the natural fauna and flora,” says Paul. “It is very important to maintain a sustainable environment for every one that has a stake in the area; we need to maintain it for the future.” Dave Forrest of Barilla Bay Oysters takes the issue of shared responsibility further. “The fact that an oyster lease is in the area ensures that other developments and industries in the area operate within fairly strict guidelines, which helps to protect the environment.” The Dykes operation is based in Little Swanport, within Great Oyster Bay on the East Coast of Tasmania. The operation is part of another pilot EMS project in their catchment. “We are working on this pilot project to generate a whole of catchment management plan,” Hayden says. “We hope this will ensure sustainable environmental flows into the local ecosystem to maintain the current ecosystem as it currently is. Without proper ecosystem management our farm will not be sustainable into the future.” Hayden is interested in taking the pilot EMS project further by working with Aquatic Solutions Australia to develop their own farm-based EMS. “Our philosophy is to be environmentally sustainable, and the business has been operated as such since commencing in 1984. However, while we have been operating in a sustainable manner, we have not formalised this into an EMS as yet. We hope that this latest EMS initiative will help us achieve this” said Hayden. The Dykes take environmental management very seriously and carry out a range of activities to ensure they have the least amount of impact on the environment as possible. Some of these include:
• regular rubbish pick-ups along the surrounding shorelines (in conjunction the areas’ other aquaculture operators); • fencing off and revegetating (with native plants) riparian reserves along the shore; • establishing sustainable production levels (around 110,000 dozen per year ) for the lease, and • working with the Tasmanian Wilderness Society to monitor local rare and endangered bird populations and conduct educational programs on minimising human disruption to them. However, while the farm philosophy is based on ESD, Hayden still thinks there is room for improvement. “We are aiming for world’s best practice and it is all about continual improvement. Projects like this help you to discover what impacts you actually do have, which can be different to the impacts you think you have, on the environment. Once you get a better handle on these impacts, management procedures to fix the problems can be developed and the process continues.” Dave Forrests operation is based near Hobart with the main base in Barilla Bay and a second lease at Dunalley. The operation produces between 200 – 250,000 dozen oysters per year and has been operating since the early 1980’s. The Barilla Bay lease is in a particularly environmentally sensitive area with nature reserves and many protected species within the area. Dave hopes that the EMS will help their operation. The Barilla Bay area also supports
another five oyster leases. David hopes that other operators will follow his lead and that a catchment area EMS can be developed in the long term. “It is important that we show that aquaculture can coexist with the environment. In many ways I believe we are the ‘custodians of the waterways’ and have invested more time and effort in maintaining a healthy environment to grow oysters in.” The EMS is also important for their growing tourism and restaurant trade. “Our new restaurant is now operating and the tourism trade is growing significantly. Marketing and corporate image are very important to us, and we need to maintain our clean, green image. An EMS developed for our farm will assist us in maintaining environmental standards now and into the future. I believe it will play an increasingly important role in our marketing our product in Australia and overseas.” So what is an EMS? An EMS is a system that undertakes four main activities: • description of the environmental issues an operation faces; • identification of the standards or goals for environmental performance (ie. effluent discharge composition and volumes, other wastes, sources of inputs etc.); • development of a management plan to achieve these standards, and • establishment of a system to measure progress towards achieving these goals.
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The main component of the EMS is a manual detailing operational guidelines to meet the desired environmental outcomes, roles and responsibilities, and reporting procedures. This includes standard operating procedures and appropriate actions to take when problems occur. Another important part of the EMS is a database to compile a register of potential hazards on the farm. Seafood Services Australia has developed a Risk Assessment Framework that is being used in this project to compile the environmental risks for each operation. This database can be used to assess the likely impact of risks and can set priorities as to which risks need to be addressed first. According to Brett the database also allows changes and or improvements to the business operations to be tracked over time. “Obviously the risk database can be maintained on paper. However it is a much more powerful tool when the computer based. In fact, the SSA Risk Framework could be adapted to assess the risks for food safety or OH&S as well.” An EMS can also be viewed as the first step towards implementing ISO14000 and/or HACCP accreditation. However, an EMS does not have to be ISO accredited and in fact ISO systems only audit the processes and not the outcomes. Therefore, if there is no regulatory standard available for use as the target within an ISO framework, these systems cannot guarantee that appropriate environmental outcomes will be generated.
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Benefits of an EMS Once in place the EMS should provide many benefits for producers. A major incentive for many export-oriented producers is that of market access. An EMS can be used by producers towards the development of eco- or environmental labelling which is essential for access to many overseas markets. Even in Australia there is now a trend towards eco-friendly products. Paul Viney of Smithton Shellfish sees this as a major benefit. “While we are not in the export market yet, I see this EMS as a way to provide our customers with a certified environmentally friendly product and I hope to use this as part of my future marketing plans.” Paul is also looking at the growing local tourism retail market and sees an EMS as a valuable tool for this growing market. “With increasing tourism to the NW coast of Tasmania, particularly eco-tourism, it is important that we show customers that we are a sustainable industry if we are going to capitalise on the opportunity.” Another major benefit is in improving the management of farm inputs and outputs. In particular, the identification of alternative methods for waste or effluent removal from the farm can lead to markets for farm byproducts – such as composting processing waste and waste solids for use as fertiliser or the growing shellfish in prawn farm effluent. This type of innovative solution not only benefits the environment but also increase farm profitability. Adoption of EMS also benefits the aquaculture industry by improving the profile of the industry as a whole with the various levels of government, the general public and environmental groups. “We are all aware that the aquaculture industry has had some negative publicity regarding environmental management,” says Brett. “Adoption of EMS throughout the industry will help to reduce the perception that aquaculture has a negative impact on the environment.” Walk the walk, talk the EMS talk A problem often experienced with ‘new systems’ being developed for busi-
ness is the lack of a strategy to actually implement the system. There are a lot of aquaculture businesses that seen consultants come in, produce an Occupational Health and Safety Manual or a Food Safety Manual, and then seen it gather dust on a shelf. This program is different. Key staff are involved in the development of the EMS policies and procedures. Thus implementation will be made by the very people who helped design the ‘new way’. The ASA team call this ‘walking the walk, talking the EMS talk’. The first part of an on-farm workshop involves a basic audit of the farm to assess current farm practices and the potential impact of the farm on the environment. The second and third days involve a PowerPoint presentation detailing what an EMS system is and how to implement it on the farm. Brett says that the Seafood Services Australia EMS Risk assessment program is then used to begin recording potential environmental impacts on the farm, appropriate management strategies, and the roles and responsibilities within the organisation. “By the end of the workshop, farmers should have an understanding of what an EMS is and how to go about setting one up. Hopefully we will also have a good start on setting out the EMS for the farmers as well.” Brett is also hoping that more farms will adopt EMS as part of their operations. “I hope that we will be able to hold similar workshops for other farms through FarmBis supported workshops. I think this is a great initiative by the NAC and hope the industry in general embraces it.” By Shane Willis and Dos O’Sullivan For more information contact Brett Stevens, Aquatic Solutions Australia, 184 Vista Drive Cape Woolamai, Victoria, 3925. Tel/Fax: 03 59 566 241 Mob: 0419 506 598 Email:email@example.com; Website: www.aquaticsolutions.com.au
Stamina of shrimp postlarvae: measures and indicators needed for organic aquaculture Benefits from organic aquaculture of shrimps in terms of quality and quantity of the produce can be maximized substantially by using high health postlarvae (PL). Robust PL grow faster, tolerate environmental variations with remarkable resilience and are in a better position to defend themselves against pathogens. These attributes make the use of chemicals and antibiotics unnecessary, and thereby promote the relevance of organic aquaculture and interest in good management practices. Success of a regional shrimp industry is determined by having a reliable source of PL. The mass production of affordable, high-quality and viable PL is considered the key to modern shrimp aquaculture. Stress test is required to evaluate hardiness of the PL and their suitability for farming. If results are outside of the normal range, the PL should not be stocked. Ensuring a dependable supply of high quality PL throughout the year can stabilize production and provide the farmers more options for better management. Before stocking, PL should be examined for signs of disease, behavior and resilience to assess quality even if they originate from a certified SPF stock. A crucial question that arises pertains to development of some sort of a rule-ofthumb method of determining the robustness and health standard of the PL. Stamina, an attribute that reflects endurance and staying power, if measured accurately, can provide a basis of selecting a PL stock for a production cycle in any aquaculture system. Stamina measurement can complement the objective of using a specific pathogen free (SPF) stock which is essentially to raise a healthy crop of shrimp. Several methods have been reported for stamina measurement, however, most of the
Earthworm used in preparation of meal for shrimp PL.
techniques described do not seem to based on comprehensive research and fail to accurately indicate the stamina. In this study, separate stocks of PL of tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, were raised on different types of diets and their biomass gains were recorded. RNA/DNA ratios of the various batches were determined to biochemically confirm their condition and growth tendencies. All the test specimens were then subjected to salinity stress test to examine utility of the approach in stamina measurement. Results of these trials are presented here. The data emphasizes the importance of diet in the stamina of shrimp PL, the utility of RNA/DNA measurement in supplementing scientific validity of biomass gain data, and suggests the need to modify the stress test protocol. Experimental trials PL produced from a certified pathogen-free broodstock of tiger shrimp were subjected to experimental trials.
The test specimens (PL15) were siblings. They were measured for weight before the commencement of feeding trials. Trials were carried out in tanks containing water that provided a 2 liter space for each PL in a total stock strength of 125 specimens. Filtered sea water was supplied to the tanks. Aeration was maintained by air stones. Water temperature varied from 23Â°C to 27Â° C. Salinity was 20 â€“ 30 ppt. There were five experimental tanks containing randomly collected PL. They were given diet at the rate of 5% of body weight daily. Living earthworms for one of the trials were enriched with a Calcarea phosphoricum (Ca32PO4) cell salt (Martin and Pleasance, Victoria, Australia). A solution of this cell salt in a concentration of 2.5 mcg/liter was prepared in potable water. Live earthworms were released into this medium and allowed to remain there for one hour. Thereafter, they were taken out and frozen. For preparing meal, the earthworms were collected from an A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
organically maintained garden in the Fannie Bay area of Darwin suburb, rinsed with running tap water and frozen. Subsequently, the samples were defrosted and dried in an oven at 100°C. The dried product was pulverized and passed through a sieve to obtain the required grain size. One treatment involved direct exposure of PL to Ca32PO4 solution in the same concentration as was used for exposure of earthworm. The solution in this case was prepared in seawater under which the shrimps were cultured. The feeding treatments provided to the five different batches of shrimp are described below:
muscle samples were selected. The stress test was performed based on the salinity shock. In this test, the PL are abruptly immersed in freshwater for 15 minutes and transferred back to seawater where their revival is noted over a 15 minute period. Those with high stamina are expected to have high revival rate. In the current experiment, this period of salinity shock was inadequate for better accuracy and quantification. Biomass gain, RNA/DNA ratio and PL quality The dietary treatments provided to the shrimp PL produced noticeable differences in biomass gain and RNA/DNA ratio. These are described below:
Commercial feed + earthworm meal (50:50)
Commercial feed + enriched earthworm meal (50:50)
Commercial feed + cell salt exposure
The commercial feed (grain size 500 – 1000 micron) consisted of 50% protein and 8% oil. Feeding trials continued for two weeks. Towards the end of feeding trials, observations were made on color, wholesomeness and behavior of the PL, especially their swimming activity, and response to stimuli. When the trials completed, half of the total number of test specimens from each group were taken out for calculation of body specific growth (BSG) and RNA/DNA ratio, and the remaining specimens were subjected to stress test. The BSG was computed by the following equation: BSG (%) =
Wf(mg) – Wi(mg)
Wi(mg) Wi and Wf are body weights at the beginning and end of experimental trials, respectively. For RNA and DNA analysis, abdominal 50
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PL maintained on the commercial feed rapidly gained biomass and were normally pigmented. Growth was further enhanced by exposure of the
shrimp PL to the cell salt. The calciumphosphate cell salt evidently provided minerals necessary for repeated formation of exoskeleton that occurred due to successive molting. Poorest result was obtained in the PL batch supplied earthworm meal exclusively. Their biomass gain was lowest of all the batches. The RNA/DNA ratio (given in the above table) substantiated the growth data. It was highest in batch E, closely followed by batch A, and was lowest in batch B, while values were in the medium range in the remaining batches. Significant differences (P<0.05) in the RNA/DNA ratios were found between the well nourished (A and E) and malnourished (B) stocks. The data explicitly indicates the usefulness of the RNA/DNA ratios for assessment of the nutritional condition of hatcheryreared shrimp PL. With more research on nutritional condition, growth and RNA/DNA ratio it will be possible to classify the shrimp PL according to their general health standard and scale them as starving/ malnourished/weak and well nourished/healthy stocks. Little work has been done in the past on the application of RNA/DNA ratio in shrimp although a great deal of data on this aspect is available for fish. Apprehensions have been expressed in the past on the accuracy of the ratio techPL of SPF tiger shrimp broodstock.
RNA or DNA concentrations.
Shrimp PL undergoing stress test.
nique in the shrimps because of significant morphological and physiological changes associated with the metamorphosis and development as well as the biochemical changes related to their molting cycle. Molting is regulated by ecdysone which is a steroid hormone. This hormone is known to exert anabolic effect and could stimulate RNA synthesis. Because all the selected specimens in different trial stocks were siblings and because sampling of all the treatment groups was done on the same day, it was unlikely that molting influenced the results obtained on the different batches. The study demonstrates the utility of RNA/DNA ratio in discriminating between unfed, moderately-fed and well-fed shrimp, and in assessing the success of a given feeding regime. This work was based on the abdominal musculature. Whether or not tissues of other parts of the body such as the metabolically active hepato-pancreas give a similar profile of the RNA/DNA ratio remains to be investigated. Future investigations should address this issue, also focus on pre-molt, inter-molt and post-molt RNA/DNA profiles, and include observations on proximate biochemical components of the same tissue. A comparison of the nucleic acid concentrations on dry and wet weight basis might also throw some light on the possible cause-and-effect relations in
Color pattern and behavior of PL The specimens supplied earthworm meal looked weak and pale. The healthy specimens exhibited normal color pattern. It is known that coloration results from natural lipid-soluble pigments called carotenoids. Shrimps possess a mixture of carotenoids in their carapace in addition to the blood, eyes, midgut glands and ovary. Astaxanthin is reported to be the predominant pigment in peneids, accounting for some 86-98% of the total carotenoids. Shrimps lack the capacity to produce astaxanthin de novo, and should get it from plants or bacteria that are capable of synthesizing carotenoids. They possess an enzymatic mechanism to convert carotenoids derived from plants into astaxanthin which is then deposited in the exoskeleton. Cultured tiger prawn devoid of a carotenoid-containing diet exhibit what is called a â€˜blue syndromeâ€™ that reflects nutritional deficiency characterized by shortage of pigments. It is not only the color that matters; the carotenoid are involved in a number of metabolic activities, including their role as an antioxidant and precursor of vitamin-A, as well as in boosting immunity, promoting fertility, growth and maturation. Carotenoid deficiency will affect all these functions. The pale looking shrimps are therefore weak. In the present study, an exclusive earthworm diet did not seem to provide the required carotenoids. Carotenoids in aquaculture animals have been the focus of many investigations. They have been shown to play vital roles in the physiology and overall health. It has been documented in the past that these pigments are essential nutrients to be included in all aquatic diets. Supplementation of diet with astaxanthin decreases the period of PL development by producing quantitative variations in the output of molting hormones. Commercially also carotenoid deposition is important because market value of shrimp is based on the visual appeal of the body coloration.
Normally colored, fast growing and apparently healthy PL were active in swimming, responded quickly to external stimuli, tended to evade handling, could move with straight body or in upside down position at the water surface, and tended to cling to the sides of the tank when water was mechanically agitated. The pale and weak specimens were lethargic in movement, slow in evading capture, often moved towards the centre during water stirring, and maintained an arched posture during swimming. The PL provided a mixture of earthworm meal and commercial feed were better off in appearance and growth than those offered only earthworm meal. The bioenrichment of earthworm made no appreciable difference. Evidently, the bioenrichment product can make a difference if the prey containing it is acceptable to the shrimp. Non-traditional dietary treatments and PL quality The data indicates that the earthworm meal as an exclusive component of the diet is not suitable for shrimp PL. Most of the diet was left unconsumed, biomass gain was poor and RNA/DNA ratio was low. This could be related to unacceptable texture or taste of the earthworm meal and lack of physiological capacity to make best use of the meal ingredients. An improved worm meal should be tested for better acceptability. There can be various methods of doing so: eliminating the soil from their digestive tube and boiling in water before freezing or drying. Some authors have suggested the possibility of draining out of noxious yellow coelomic fluid by boiling. Boiling also hydrolyzes the proteins which then become more easily digestible for shrimp PL that have relatively weak digestive system. While we are not aware of any published data on the performance of earthworm meal in shrimps, substitution of this product for fish meal is known to have the potential of supplying as much as 25-50% of the dietary protein. The data leaves no doubt about the growth-promoting effect of the given A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
mineral cell salt. The PL gained more biomass with the same amount of feed when exposed to the cell salt. The PL grow better when directly exposed to the calcium-phosphate cell salt rather than being supplied earthworms enriched with this product. This is not to dispute the role of enriched feed but delivery of enrichment product to the target animal (shrimp PL) would obviously fail if PL are averse to consuming the enriched feed in the form in which it was supplied. This emphasizes the importance of understanding the texture and other properties of the pellet according to preferences of the PL. However, earthworm in their soft texture should be acceptable to broodstock and can be utilized as an ingredient of their diet or as a means of delivery of the required product through enrichment or bioencapsulation. Stamina – need for a quantitative scale Salinity shock as a stress test prescribed in its present form does not appear to be a sensitive measure of stamina. PL from all the various batches survived the so-called shock treatment despite marked differences in their nutritional status, health and robustness as revealed by values of BSG and RNA/DNA ratio. Evidently, the shrimp PL have an efficient osmoregulatory mechanism and other physiological traits that account for their resilience in freshwater for at least 15 minutes even when they are under poor health condition. A prolonged exposure is needed to yield results. For PL15 the freshwater treatment for a longer period, perhaps 30 minutes or more, at moderate temperature in a tropical condition and carried out without aeration could produce the results which can be the basis of selection or otherwise of the PL stock. We are still working on this problem. Stamina would probably vary with the stage of growth and development. It is, therefore, necessary to develop a stamina scale to cover all the stages and to provide a range of quantitative values for the optimum stamina. Furthermore, the conditions under which salinity 52
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stress and revival are carried out should be defined especially with reference to volume of water, stocking density, temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH. It is very likely that the same level of salinity would produce different levels of stress under different values of these parameters. Stamina is a complex attribute and any simplistic approach might be erroneous. Acknowledgements We thank the Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Charles Darwin University for sponsoring this collaborative study. The work was financially supported by the government of Australia. Cynthia Grant, Manager of International Projects, New South Wales, managed the research grant. Reggie Markham and Brett
Slade provided the shrimp postlarvae. We are grateful to Kathy Kellam for logistical assistance in the hatchery and to Alistair Borwon of the Aquatic Veterinary Service, Victoria for providing commercial feed for the experimental trials. By Saleem Mustafa and Jim Luong-Van For more information contact: Saleem Mustafa at Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88999 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. E-mail: Saleem@ums.edu.my and Jim Luong-Van at School of Science and Primary Industries, Charles Darwin University, Casuarina Campus, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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ABALON E FIRST HARVEST SOON AT BICHENO AB FARM Following seventeen years of effort the farm Miles and his father Morrie Cropp established at Bicheno is about to experience a first abalone harvest. The land-based farm was set up at a site known for the good water quality in the sea off the east coast, the low population and low risk of pollution. Abalone farms Australia currently has the capacity to harvest 40 tonnes annually â€“ a quantity which even if entering at the bottom end of the market would return $1.6 million. Currently the farm comprises 430 6.5 by 2.5m concrete tanks each fed with pumped sea water. A partnership with venture company First Tasmania Investments will allow expansion to 780 tanks providing for production of 70 tonnes annually. While the abalone farming techniques were being developed the farm produced oyster spat for maturation on leases in South Australia and Tasmania. A problem has been securing quality broodstock and having them produce enough seeds in captivity. The farm now has a stock survival rate of greater than ten percent compared with one percent in the wild. During growout the abalone are fed a combination of wheat flour, minerals, fish meal, vitamins and milk powder, and they graze on algae on the tank walls. The farm is licensed to harvest abalone at a smaller size than that required of catch in the wild fishery, taking 80-100mm fish after three year's growth. The intent is to supply the market seeking cocktail or entree-sized animals. Currently there's a world abalone supply shortfall of 10,000 tonnes, helping abalone to sell for as much as $40 to $60/kg. Miles Cropp acknowledges the assistance provided by the Cooperative Research Centre for Tasmania, the Department of Economic Development, the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and Ausindustry. The help given has helped the farm develop its own machines to anaesthetise, harvest and grade the crop. Abalone Farms Australia employs nine people full-time and intends to achieve all-year-round production. Source: Phil Beck in the Mercury (Hobart) (15/7/2004).
GRANT FOR ABALONE BUSINESS Two Rocks Abalone has been granted $1.05 million to develop a model for sustainable abalone aquaculture encompassing the life cycle from hatchery to grow-out stage. Two Rocks, a subsidiary of Southseas Abalone, initially planned to undertake research at Two Rocks Marina, north of Perth, but elected to operate from a SA site. Source: Business News (WA) (29/7/2004) 54
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EXPANSION – BUT AN EROSION ISSUE Victorian Mariculture Developments was commenced in 1999 and, after nearly folding because of the effects of the SARS virus on abalone exports, recently received an $8000 grant to expand export business. Some 43 tonnes of product was sold last financial year, valued at around $2 million. The business now employs 10 workers and several casuals. Owner Tom Rudge says he'll use the grant to go on marketing trips and participate in the Hong Kong Food Exhibition. However the major farm expansion at Narrawong is prejudiced by coastal erosion. The farm, which plans to double production to 140 tonnes of abalone, cannot do so until the erosion problem is fixed. In the previous four years some three metres of land have been lost each year. It's expected a planning permit will would be based on a coastal engineering report requiring building of a rock wall prior to other development. Source: Warrnambool Standard (4/8/2004); Sarah Lipovas in the Warrnambool Standard (4/8/2004); Bill Mellund in the Portland Observer (6/8/2004).
ABALONE FARM MAY FIT WITH OYSTER GROWERS Wangary resident Justin Enright has proposed an abalone farm based on a 2ha marine algae lease near Point Longnose and a 10ha subtidal aquaculture lease approximately 2 kilometres from the Coffin Bay National Park. Algae grown and harvested at the 2ha lease would be fed to abalone in plastic tubes on the 10ha lease floor. An advantage of the type of operation is that, other than a buoy, there's nothing on the surface to interfere with other water users. Oyster growers in the area are seeking assurances the algae will not carry predators of the harbour oysters - but given the assurances can be made, there have been suggestions seed algae could be collected from the oyster leases. Abalone, as grazers, do not compete with oysters which are filter feeders. Discussions to date have been positive. The culture technique proposed by Mr Enright is already in use in Victoria, though in other parts of South Australia proposals are to grow the animals in suspended cages. There's a trial under way near Tumby Bay and Ceduna under which abalone are being grown in tuna pontoons. Source: Stan Gorton in the Port Lincoln Times (12/8/2004); Port Lincoln Times (12/8/2004).
FARM EXPANSION OKAY WITH CONDITIONS Expansion of the Narrawong-based Victorian Mariculture Developments Pty Ltd abalone venture has been approved by the Glenelg Shire Council, but with one of the 15 conditions possibly proving restrictive. The condition imposes a requirement for an extension of the current sea wall at an estimated cost of $300,000 in order to secure and protect the proposed expansion from erosion. The $4 million expansion would double the farm production. Farm operations manager Tim Rudge advises the expansion is required to keep the Portland operation at the forefront of abalone farm development in Australia, and to meet the growing demands of Asian markets. It's hoped the requirement for the sea wall won't dampen investment enthusiasm. Source: Bill Meldrum in the Portland Observer (3/9/2004).
AQUACULTURE INCUBATOR PRESENTED Following on a visit by the Federal Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, to Curtin University Aquaculture Centre facilities at Bandy Creek, the Centre is hoping for support for its aquaculture incubator project. The Minister took the opportunity to observe students at work, and to see development of the Abalone Pilot Farm in addition to discussing the incubator project. It's a concept providing for industry-standard facilities to be alongside Curtin's aquaculture training services, also supporting smaller aquaculture industries and providing student employment. the incubator concept is in line with the Minister's 'Aquaculture Industry Action Agenda' document Source: Esperance Express (26/8/2004).
BARRAMUNDI SHARED SKILLS BUILDS A FARM A new aquaculture venture in Townsville – AQA Finfish – has emerged at less initial cost than usual for farm development as a result of skill and resource sharing. Brothers Colin and Andrew Everingham built everything required themselves, drawing on their skills as plumbers. Colin Everingham also owns a sheet metal business. They constructed the packing shed, ponds, nursery, storage dam and irrigation system. Ann Everingham, Colin's wife, dealt with government agencies. The group began work on the farm in 2002 using spare time while operating their other businesses. Bore water is used initially in the nursery, then gravity-supplied to the storage dam, then on to 20 growout ponds. Pipes under the ponds provide for bottom-flushing without pumping, and prevent over-topping during storms. Used water from the farm irrigates turf which is sold on to other users – and the turf farm acts as an environmental filter for the fish farm. Barramundi are grown in cages in the ponds, protected from predators and moving in clear water. AQA Finfish currently harvests each two to three months but is looking to expand by doubling the nursery capacity. Plans are to harvest each week. Source: Tony Raggatt in the Townsville Bulletin (20/7/2004).
AUSTRALIS LOOKING GREAT Australis Aquaculture Ltd is expecting to list on the Australian Stock Exchange on August 3 now that its $5.5 million initial public offer has been over-subscribed. Twenty-two million shares were offered at 25 cents each. Managing director Stewart Graham advises there's been strong institutional and public support for the stock. The float was initially launched to fund the purchase of the US-based Turners Falls fish growout facility near New York, provide working capital and address promotional costs. The company plans to send 130,000 barramundi fingerlings from Australian hatcheries to the facility in August, meaning there'll then be a total of 200,000 at the site. The export system has been successfully trialed over the previous four months – it's expected commercial quantities of platesized barramundi grown out at Turners Falls will be available to New York restaurants during the fourth quarter of 2004. A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
Initial annual production is planned to be 300 tonnes, with full production at 700 tonnes – equal to more than half of Australia's published 2002 output of barramundi. If demand requires it, the plant will be extended. Another good sign is that the first phase operating costs at the plant are ahead of budget. The next milestone to pass is that of sales, says Mr Graham. Source: North West Star (Mt Isa) (26/7/2004); Fleur Leyden in the Age (24/7/2004).
EXCESS BARRA INTO NT WATERWAYS Barramundi fingerlings bred at the Darwin Aquaculture Centre but excess to industry requirements, were released into The East Arm and Middle Arm of Darwin Harbour recently, offering a supplement to the targets available to recreational fishers. Some 25,000 fingerlings were released. In August, 50,000 fingerlings will be stocked in the disused water supply dam at Mount Todd near the Edith River. In June 55,000 large fingerlings were placed into Lake Bennett, while 60,000 went into Lake Manton over the past 12 months. High survival rates are expected because of the large size of the fingerlings, at 50-100 mm Source: Litchfield Times (28/7/2004); Sunday Territorian (8/8/2004).
HUMPTY DOO BARRAMUNDI Bob Richards is one of four Northern Territory farmers running Humpty Doo Barramundi, established alongside the Adelaide River. The operation is based on 13 earthern ponds. Benefiting from experience gained since the farm was commenced by farmer Billy Boustead in 1993, and by observation of techniques used elsewhere, there have been some changes. Recently, drawing on the US scene, the pond sizes have been increased from 0.1ha to 3.5ha, and stocking densities have reduced. About 25 percent of the weekly harvest is exported to the USA. Three to four kilo fish are also supplied to markets in Queensland, Victoria and NSW. Production is steadily increasing with 36 tonnes in 200/2001 and 70 tonnes in 2002-2003. Sales last year passed $800,000, with a target of topping $1 million in 2004. Bob advises the intention is to produce premiumquality fish while maintaining the environment. Currently options for automation are being considered with a view to increasing labour productivity. Source: Fiona Gowers in Outback (1/8/2004).
BARRAMUNDI RESTOCKING ONGOING The Fisheries Group of the Department of Business, Industry and Research Development makes inroads with barramundi restocking in various parts of the NT. Some 25,000 fingerlings went into Darwin Harbour's Middle and East Arms in July, and 20,000 into West Arm in August. And the fish were 50100mm in length, unlike the tiny fingerlings previously released to an uncertain fate. Another 50,000 were placed into Manton Dam recently, and suggestions are they'd be eating, rather than being eaten. Lake Bennet was topped up with 52,000, while the Mount Todd Mine water supply reservoir collected 63,000. The fingerling availability is an outcome of the Fisheries Aquaculture Centre producing juveniles for the 56
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Bathurst Island barramundi hatchery – the fish that don't meet the hatchery's criteria are used in re-stocking programs. Source: Northern Territory News (19/8/2004)
BARRA FOR CRAYFISH BAIT It's now unlikely barramundi in excess from the aquaculture project in Lake Argyle will be released, either into Lake Argyle or Lake Kununurra. The outcome appears to be a result of government bureaucratic stalling. The Ord River District Cooperative has located a buyer for the fish, which are now being used as crayfish bait. Production at the aquaculture facility will be scaled down while the Cooperative considers options Source: Kimberley Echo (22/7/2004).
AUSTRALIS CONTINUES TO BOOM Australis stock rose to close at 27.5 cents on 4/8/2004, for a market value of $27.4 million. The shares opened at 29 cents, which is a 16 percent premium on the 25 cent listing price. It's been predicted Australis should reach a market capitalisation of $4 billion – $83 a share – based on its global market size. The Perth company ships 60,000 barramundi fingerlings to the US each month for growout in its plant near New York. First sales of grown fish are expected in September. In an interesting twist, potential shareholders were lured along when the company hired celebrity chef Don Hancey to cook barbecued barra fillets seasoned with lemon myrtle in the forecourt of Perth's Exchange Plaza. Source: Michael West in the Australian (5/8/2004); Herald Sun Melbourne (5/8/2004); West Australian (7/8/2004).
BARRA STOCKS INCREASED In June marine studies students at the Gilroy Santa Maria College released 100 barramundi fingerlings into the Herbert River system. The Year 11 students grew them from 20mm long during intense theoretical and practical aquaculture studies. The school has now purchased a 5000L tank and will make barramundi cultivation a regular year 11 study feature. The fish were released at several sites along the river following their donation to Fishcare, in conjunction with Fishcare's Vince Vitale, and using his specialised boat Source: Herbert River Express (12/8/2004)
TWENTY YEARS ON... Chris Phillips was the pioneer of Australian barramundi farming. Twenty years ago the Queensland cane farmer perceived there'd be a decline in the sugar industry. He dug ponds and established a barramundi farm. While there were some difficult times, things eventually came good. Now he produces some 1000 tonnes annually – around half of what's required to supply the Australian market. He's expecting to expand capacity by 25 percent this year and looking for export opportunities. Recently the listed company Australis Aquaculture has moved into the export market in a big way, by sending barramundi fingerlings to the US for growout in its own facility. In doing so it circumvents problems with fish spoiling. The company recently raised $5.5 million by offering 22 million 25 cent
shares. Commencing trading on 4 August, they closed on 20 August at 43 cents. Its expected Australis will be supplying commercial quantities of barramundi from the farm near Boston by September. The Australis farm in Australia has been operating successfully for 10 years without big losses. Source: Andrew Heathcote in the Business Review Weekly (26/8/2004).
BIG EXPANSION FOR TAILOR MADE FISH FARMS Building on six year's rapid growth, Tailor Made Fish farms is to undergo a $2.8 million expansion of the Bobs Farm facility. Barramundi production will build from 30 tonnes annually to 130 tonnes. Managing director Nick Arena explains there'll be two new 50 tonne systems installed. There'll also be facilities for students and visitors, such as a tourism and training area, gift shop, canteen, a toilet block and a storage shed. The business is considered to be the largest and most efficient barramundi producer in NSW, and has the added boost of selling its fish recirculation systems to other producers, with interest both in and outside Australia. The farm has another business stream - the nutrient-rich wastewater is used to hydroponically grow herbs, lettuce and tomatoes. This sector is also developing well, with product selling through Coles-Bi-Lo stores throughout the Hunter. Source: Charles Elias in the Port Stephens Examiner (26/8/2004).
SOUTHERN BARRAMUNDI DEVELOPS Michael Birks and Steve Mawer have been running Southern Barramundi for eight months since taking over the business, and things are looking good. The pair are improving the operation using the philosophies that the risks need to be known and managed, research in alliances with farmers is necessary and farm equipment must always be in good condition to allow proper operations and maintain fish health. Its also important to develop and sustain communications in the sector to make it develop properly, and they're actively supporting associations such as the Inland Aquaculture Association of South Australia – and helping train Flinders University students. They advocate the use of Rabobank, which they say is the only bank understanding their integrity and wanting to be involved in a business plan development. The Clarendon farm stocks 135,000 barramundi, and most product is shipped to Melbourne to realise the best prices. The plan is to double production in the next year and move two tonnes each week. Source: Natalie Di Fava in the Stock Journal (2/9/2004).
MORE BARRA TO BE NT FARMED Glenn Schipp of the Department of Business Industry Resource Development's Darwin Aquaculture Centre advises in the last year the NT barramundi farming industry progressed from producing 230 tonnes to 700 tonnes. At the close of 2005 production is expected to be doubled, with 1500 tonnes grown out, valued at more than $13 million. The research outcomes, combined with the quality of the NT product, provides for the highest market prices, at approximately $9 per kilo. Source: Sunday Territorian (29/8/2004)
EELS PROJECT TO REFLOOD LAKE CONDAH DELAYEDSLIGHTLY Removal of Dr David Kemp as the Federal Environment Minister has delayed the expected announcement of National Heritage Listing for the Mt Eccles lava flow area. Representatives of the Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project partnership had hoped the announcement would be made in Mid-July, then expected there'd be a delay of around two weeks while the new Minister – Western Australian Senator Ian Campbell – was briefed on the portfolio. However, the new Minister announced the listing of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape just a few days after his appointment. One of the project's aims is to reflood Lake Condah, thus supporting eel aquaculture and tourism ventures in the area. The Gunditjmara people traditionally engineered an aquaculture eel farming system in the area thousands of years ago. Source: Jason Wallace in the Portland Observer (16/7/2004); Holly Marsh in the Portland Observer (19/7/2004)
F I S H H E A LT H FISH HEALTH TRAINING Dr Mark Sheppard, a Canadian vet internationally recognised as an authority on the health of Yellowtail Kingfish, recently delivered an extremely successful fish health training workshop at Arno Bay. The function, organised by the SA Marine Finfish Farmer's Association (SAMFFA), took place on July 15 and 16, and was attended by people from member companies. Networking was possible between attendees from vet practices, the Environment Protection Agency, the universities of Adelaide and Tasmania, fish farms, laboratories, and PIRSA. SAMFFA executive officer Martin Hernen thanks the Australian Government for its financial support in establishing the workshop through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Source: Port Lincoln Times (22/7/2004).
WORKSHOP ON FISH DISEASE The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) is running a Finfish Disease Diagnostic Workshop at the Oonoonba Veterinary Laboratory on September 14 and 15. The fourth of its kind, the workshop will be conducted by fish veterinarians Ian Anderson and Rachel Bowater. The focus will be on farmers developing practical skills to help identify the early stages of disease. There'll be instruction on fish post-mortem, collecting gill and skin smears, microscopy of parasites and fungi, and organ and tissue sampling. The total cost of the workshop, including lunch and morning and afternoon teas on both days, is $160. Contact is Kelly Condon at DPI&F Source: Innisfail Advocate (28/8/2004); Townsville Bulletin (2/9/2004). A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
PROBLEM-SOLVING PROF Professor Sena De Silva of Deakin University is leading a project intended to help Indonesia resolve serious fish-farming problems in three reservoirs in Java. The project, funded to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Federal Government, is to address problems which began occurring in 1993, under circumstances in which now thousands of tonnes of fish can be lost. Professor De Silva now has $390,000 from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and will depart for Indonesia in September to commence the three-year study. He'll be working on the optimal density for farming caged fish, an issue related to water quality. It's a problem which has become more evident in the last ten years. Source: Eve Lamb in the Warrnambool Standard (23/7/2004)
MUSSELS HEALTHY MUSSELS When a study by Sydney University's Professor McIntyre indicated only two sites on the NSW coast suitable for the activity, Andrew and Julie Harvey began farming mussels at Jervis Bay and Twofold Bay. They have a 1ha site at Twofold Bay where they place new ropes to collect spawners. When the mussels reach 100mm they move them to Jervis Bay where they're spread out to grow. Mr Harvey describes his farm as a floating reef, supplying 200 tonnes of product a year in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly industry. He's recently been granted permission to sell mussels from the wharf at Huskisson Source: South Coast Register (Nowra) ( 23/7/2004).
MARKETING INDUSTRY ACTION PLAN FOR THE HASTINGS The Hastings Council is to fund an industry action plan intended to support sales of fish from five local farms into the Hastings community – currently the farmers mostly sell into Sydney. Under the plan, which would establish an entirely new market, the five farmers will share marketing and transport costs and become more capable of meeting what's hoped to be a growing demand. Two local restaurants are have already agreed to use the local fish – some caters have been importing Northern Territory barramundi because they were unaware of the local sources. Group chairman and farmer Brian Irving says the intent is to promote local fish farm produce, especially silver perch and barramundi. The Hasting Council's philosophy in funding the push is that it will create more jobs and help preserve the environment, since fish farming eases the pressure on wildstock fish. Source: Port Macquarie News (2/8/2004).
EYRE PENINSULA SEAFOOD & AQUACULTURE TRAIL The Eyre Peninsula Seafood and Aquaculture trail is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia – it's a self-drive trail from Whyalla to Ceduna designed to promote the region's aquaculture industry. It provides for visits to commercial operations ranging from small family businesses to very large facilities, with guides explaining how things are done. It's been predicted the Eyre Peninsula's aquaculture activity is likely to double capacity by 2010 – in 2000-2001 there were sales of $428.5 million and employment for around 2000 people. The Trail was recently boosted by a State Government grant of $20,000 for additional signs and car parking, which will help businesses which are new in joining the Trail. Some 24,000 tours were sold last year, an 11 percent increase on the previous year. Those using the Trail can discover the fishing, and in many cases the farming and tasting of southern bluefin tuna, crayfish, abalone, shark, scallops, seahorses, crabs, snapper, oysters, yellow-tail kingfish, mulloway and King George Whiting. Direct sales to the public are also available on many tours. For more information check out www.tep.com.au. Source: Stock Journal (26/8/2004); Port Lincoln Times (2/9/2004) 58
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KINKAWOOKA MUSSELS Diners should take the chance to sample Kinkawooka mussels, grown in Boston Bay off Port Lincoln. The mussels, smaller and sweeter than conventional, are part of a special deal on offer at 40 SA restaurants during August – order a dish of mussels and there'll be a free glass of wine in the deal. A crisp, citrus-style Richmond Grove reisling provides the best companion. Source: Adelaide Advertiser (18/8/2004).
O R N A M E N TA L S RIRDC WINNER PROGRESSES Carnarvon's Diana Morrison, who won a bursary of $15,000 under the Federal Government's 2004 RIRDC Rural Women's Award, has been investigating the economics of farming exotic aquarium fish in saline artesian water. The interest lies in the fact that 80 million ornamental fish are imported into Australia each year. Currently Diana's work has resulted in varieties of catfish, rainbow fish and goldfish now being marketed in Perth and Karratha. She'll soon visit the eastern states to meet with appropriate industry people before travelling to Singapore to attend the annual Aquamara Expo, which is the ornamental fish showcase of South-East Asia. Those involved with agriculture and/or natural resources can take a leaf from Diana's book and investigate the possibilities for a Rural Woman's Award. Visit the website at www.ruralwomensaward.gov.au. Nominations open on 1 August and close on 15 October. Source: Northern Guardian (28/7/2004).
ORNAMENTALS IN ARTESIAN WATER There are opportunities for Gascoyne farmers to diversify into ornamental fish farming in artesian water, advocates Di Morrison. Ms Morrison, winner of the RIRDC Rural Women's Award for her aquaculture project, has been growing ornamental fish for 12 to 18 months in artesian water – once she developed a treatment system for it. The temperature and iron content was too high, and the water was devoid of oxygen. Although the ornamental industry has its fads, she's had no problem
selling her fish, and she predicts demand will rise as fewer people have the area at home to keep cats or dogs as pets. Blair Marsh, a lecturer in aquaculture at Central West TAFE in Carnarvon, says many species of ornamental fish are well suited to growing in artesian water, especially since the water is already warm, and comes out of the ground under pressure, thus not requiring pumping. One problem is that currently there isn't a good supply of juvenile fish, and there are few people with the required skills. Mrs Morrison is hoping to attract PhD students to Carnarvon TAFE to study issues relating to the aquaculture industry. Source: Wendy Robertson in Farm Weekly (2/9/2004)
O T H E R C R U S TA C E A N S MUD CRABS IN THE NT Senior Aquaculture Scientist Graham Williams explains that mud crabs grown from eggs to juveniles at the Darwin Aquaculture centre, then on to 800gm adults at the nearby Golden Prawn Corporation's farm, appear to be more robust and less prone to disease than their wild relatives taken from the mangroves. The first 500 crabs were recently shipped to local and interstate retailers to check out market reaction – Mr Williams expects a positive response. The trial is a cooperative venture between the Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Research Development and the Golden Prawn Corporation, an Asian-based group. There'll be more work on survival and growth rates, harvesting methods and feed applications, progressing towards commercial crab farms in the Top End. Source: North Queensland Register (Townsville) (15/7/2004).
PROPOSAL TO CULTURE MORETON BAY BUGS Tests are to begin to evaluate the possibilities of culturing Moreton Bay bugs – also known as Bay Lobsters, Shovelnose Lobsters and Balmain bugs - near Chinderah. Test drillings are to take place on Kingscliff beach to determine water quality, which if appropriate will lead to water being pumped to a property near the Melaleuca Station tourist centre at Chinderah where the bugs will be grown out. The Queensland company Australian Bay Lobster Producers Pty Ltd has been encouraged to move into the area and take on the venture by the NSW Department of State and Regional Development. If successful the $40 million project will result in the employment of 200 people after six years, with exports to the west coast of the US. The NSW area was selected because of its pristine water quality and proximity to an airport Source: Daily News (17/8/2004); Northern Star (17/8/2004).
MOUNT BARKER MARRON Mount Barker company Bouverie conducts 1500 kilometre round trips from its farm to the Goldfields area, ensuring a year-round supply of fresh marron and saltwater trout to residents. Rainbow trout is also available. The marron grow out over three to four years to 500g, and can survive at low
temperatures out of water for as much as a week – the trip takes three days. Bouverie representative Kevin Roberts explains marron is proving very popular with Goldfields locals, fresh, healthy meat that goes well with beer. Bouverie produces more than six tonnes of trout and 20 tonnes of marron annually. Source: Conor MacGill in the Kalgoorlie Miner (23/7/2004).
MUD CRAB FARMING WORKSHOP In July around 20 people attended a workshop on mud crab farming held at the Tennyson Street offices of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Dr Colin Shelley, Aquaculture and Policy and Management acting manager, explains visitors learned about the economics and logistics of mud crab farming. Source: Daily Mercury (Mackay) (15/7/2004).
MANJIMUP'S MARRON FRESH Marron producers now have an alternative place to sell on their stock, with the business Marron Fresh now set up in Manjimup. Owned by local company Aquatic Resources Management, the operation provides for returns of up to $26/kilo for producers, with stock sourced across the South West. Marron Fresh's Peter McGinty explains live marron is exported each week to a wide range of overseas markets in addition to the Perth market. Source: Zoran Panzich in the Manjimup Bridgetown Times (28/7/2004)
O T H E R F R E S H W AT E R F I S H MURRAY COD FARMER SUCCEEDS – SLAMS FEES Simon Noble has been farming Murray Cod for 11 years after being told it was impossible to intensively farm the species. It took two to three years to work out the right mix of techniques, which included feeding young fish six to eight times a day, higher stocking rates, and grading stock every two to three weeks. Coming out of series of failures, he now turns off 50 to 100 kilos off fish each week, and has a base working on some 18,000 fish ranging from brood stock to fingerlings. Recently the Nobles have had some success with their breeding program – conventionally they source fingerlings from an Alexandria hatchery. Best growth rates are achieved at a constant 21 Celsius, and Simon pumps bore water at 18-19 Celsius, heating it as required. The farm runs individual selfcontained systems based on a combined recycled and flowthrough process. Discharge water goes to an agri-forestry block and lucerne flats. The feed formula is a Brisbane-sourced barramundi mix fed at 1.1 kilos per kilo of fish. Looking ahead, the intent is to increase production to 15 tonnes per annum. Simon Noble is unimpressed by the State Government charging higher fees and imposing tougher laws on his industry. His licensing fee has increased from $291 to $800 this year – and it will go to $1500 next year. There's also the issue of the $600 PrimeSafe fee and other charges by that body. Source: Land (NSW) (15/7/2004); Land (NSW) (22/7/2004). A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
FARMING AND FISHING AT TANZALI LAKES Peter and Kate Whiddet operate the Tanzali Lakes Fishing Park, where they grow jade perch in seven ponds, two of which are reserved for recreational fishing. The largest fishing pond is between four and 11 metres deep, covers 1.8ha and carries 35,000 fish. A half day's fishing costs $25 including fishing gear and bait – those who don't catch a fish are given one to take home. However, recently 25 Korean visitors caught 170 fish in two hours. The Whiddetts produce their own fingerlings, stocking the ponds with 25mm juveniles at 40,000 per 1000 square metres. The fish are graded into commercial sizes ranging from 400g to 900g. Jade perch, also known as the Barcoo Grunter, have high levels of Omega-3 oil and are promoted as a gourmet health food by the Aquaculture Association of Queensland.
increased in 1994-95 when catch quotas were introduced, and farmers used their knowledge of what had happened at Port Lincoln, Australia to establish farms. The total allowable catch (TAC) of tuna has remained at approximately 30,000 tonnes per year, with stocks appearing to decline. Two years ago approximately 35 percent of the TAC was farmed fish. Now farmed component of TAC is estimated at more than 50 percent, with more countries entering the industry. Professor Agius suggests that aquaculture adds value to the catch taken in several ways; for example by fattening the otherwise variablysized fish and modifying their otherwise variable quality, and by extending the supply period. He notes the overriding issue is long-term sustainability of the industry, especially the reliance on wildstocks and the growing numbers of tuna farms. Source: Port Lincoln Times (15/7/2004).
Source: Ian Morgan in the Queensland Farmer (August 2004).
MARRON FARMS THREATENED BY CONTAMINATION Arsenic contamination from a Wesfarmers mill has been found again in a South-West river. The section of river feeds five irrigation dams – all containing marron – one on a commercial marron farm. The Department of the Environment will conduct further tests. The contamination is believed to be from a drain linking a mill at Deanmill near Manjimup, to Lefroy Brook. The State Government has accepted responsibility for the arsenic problem, since the mill was run by State Sawmills in the 1920s and arsenic was used in timber treatment. There's also an issue of groundwater and soil contamination with creosote. The responsibility for this has been accepted by Wesfarmers. The State Government and Wesfarmers will share the cost of clearing up the site, which will take place following detailed ecological work. Source: Eloise Dortch in the West Australian (7/8/2004).
CAPTURED CATFISH Twelve adult catfish were captured by RMIT workers last December during draining of the RMIT University's Bundoora West campus lake in preparation for a major expansion. Although there were plans to release the fish into the new lake it's unlikely the state authorities will provide a release permit, and the fish will remain in the campus aquaculture research centre. RMIT will consider breeding the catfish and evaluating them for farming. Source: Tim King in the Whittlesea Leader (31/8/2004).
OTHER MARINE FISH A MEDITERRANEAN VIEW Carmelo Agius, a professor and aquaculture consultant based in Malta, has produced a report providing insight into the Mediterranean tuna-farming industry. He explains that northern bluefin tuna arrive in the Mediterranean to spawn each year from May, with numbers peaking in June-July. Due to their migration habits the numbers of tuna in the western Mediterranean are greater than in the eastern part of the water body, and the fish are larger. Interest in farming tuna 60
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SUN AQUA REFUSES FURTHER INFORMATION Sun Aqua spokesman Dr Julian Amos has indicated there's no point in supplying further scientific evidence the company's proposal for a sea cage farm in Moreton Bay would not have significant environmental impacts unless the State Government provides assurances the supplementary information would impact on its decision. The outcome is that the fish farm proposal is now stalled. Dr Amos notes there's still correspondence between the company and the State Government. The company, which would build a farm to produce some 1200 tonnes of fish annually, has already produced an Environmental Impact Statement. The project is being strongly resisted by the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort, claiming it will have devastating effects on Moreton Bay. In later news a spokesman for State Development Minister Tony McGrady said Sun Aqua had not submitted an adjusted Environmental Impact Statement after being told its original plan needed reworking in 2003. The company does not have a Moreton Bay fish farm proposal the State Government can approve. Source: Kirstie Maier in the Wynnum Herald (28/7/2004); Courier Mail (6/8/2004).
QCC OPPOSES SCALLOP RANCH LOCATION The Queensland Conservation Council is opposing a component of Queensland Sea Scallop's proposal to establish a scallop ranch at Hervey Bay. QCC spokesman Simon Baltais explains the opposition is not to the ranch, but to one proposed location. The company has been granted permission to run trials at two sites, one off Coonar south of Bundaberg one in the Hervey Bay Marine Park off Fraser Island. The QCC opposes the site in the marine park, and is asking the company to provide all of its research data for review. Mr Baltais asserts the federal government should have required an investigation into the ranch under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and has asked the Government to intervene. The company plan is to breed millions of scallops at a Bundaberg hatchery, ship them to Hervey Bay to grow out for 12 months, then harvest them using trawlers Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle (Maryborough) (4/8/2004)
BE CAREFUL, SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT In a letter to the editor of the Esperance Express, environmental consultant Shelley Grasty urges anyone with an interest in the future of Esperance to get involved in the tuna debate to help ensure the industry is managed to give maximum benefit to the community and minimal conflict with existing users of the archipelago. She observes she's in favour of wellplanned developments providing they don't present major conflicts with existing commercial and recreational activities. It's expected MG Kailis will introduce a tuna farm proposal following completion of a tuna cage trial in the area. Source: Shelley Grasty in a letter to the editor of the Esperance Express (27/7/2004).
TORRES STRAIT SPONGES The Australian Institute of Marine Science has established a project to evaluate the possibilities of sponge aquaculture in the Torres Strait. Marine biologist Dr Alan Duckworth now advises one particular sponge variety found in the Strait is soft, durable with a good shape, quite suitable as a bath sponge. The variety is most prevalent in the waters surrounding Masig (York Island). Sponges can be cut into as many as 15 pieces, each of which will grow into a single sponge. The next stage of the project is to develop ways to farm the sponges of Masig with a view to application of the techniques in other coastal indigenous communities. The sponge investigation is taking place against a background in which the $55 million global sponge market is suffering due to over-harvesting in the major production areas – the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Source: Lisa Hodgetts and AAP in the Cairns Post (17/8/2004).
THE SEAL DEAL Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment employs up to 10 casual staff to help keep seals away from fish farms. They collect seals caught by the farmers and relocate them to the state's north-west – last year around 1000 were moved, each costing fish farmers $600. Relocated seals are tagged – and it's known they just return, some to the same farm, within 25 days. Some are so well-known the DPWA staff have given them names. One farmer advises the $600 is worth it, because one seal can cause ten times that amount of damage in one night. Farmers generally try other seal discouragers prior to requesting the relocation service. There's a suggestion that farming will become sophisticated to the point were the seals will no longer present a problem Source: Sunday Tasmanian (22/8/2004); Linda Smith in the Sunday Tasmanian (22/8/2004).
UNITING FOR A FIGHT In a first, recreational and commercial fishers, the environmentalists Australians for Animals, Sunfish Queensland, Dugongs of Moreton Bay, Tangalooma resort, members of various councillors from the Moreton Bay area and tourist operators have joined together to engage in a huge fight intending to stop the State Government approving sea cages for fish farming in Moreton Bay. The environmental argument is that cages would presage the death of the Bay, heralding a social and
economic disaster for the region. Over the next few weeks there are to be protests, meetings and lobbying of all members of parliament on the matter. Dr Julian Amos of Sun Aqua, developer of the proposed farm, says the project complies with all State Government Environmental Guidelines. He asserts nothing Sun Aqua will do will have any effect on the water quality or the sea-grass beds. Meanwhile a year after Sandgate residents appealed against the proposal to build a fish farm in Moreton Bay the State Government has still not released a statement on outcomes from an environmental study it launched at the same time, on the proposed Sun Aqua fish cage farm. The farm would consist of up to 8 25m cages to produce 600 tonnes of snapper and yellowtail kingfish annually. Julian Amos says he's intrigued to know why the study has taken so long. However a spokesman for State Development has described the wait as 'normal'. Source: Cath Fouracre in the Caboolture News (11/8/2004); Paul Lancaster in the Redcliffe & Bayside Herald (11/8/2004); Northside Chronicle (18/8/2004).
ABROLHOS TUNA FARM TRIAL The Department of Fisheries having approved a tuna farm trial in the Abrolhos Islands, the proponents are now seeking investors for the venture. An aquaculture licence was recently issued to Latitude Fisheries, owned by Bert Boschetti, and Tohzai King, owned by Kim Newbold. Some $5 million is needed to allow purchase of sea pens and to lease a purse seine vessel. In an operation proposed for this summer, 200 tonnes of yellowfin tuna will be towed from Exmouth and placed in 8 cages near Pelsaert island. Around a dozen people will be employed during the early stages, probably more during harvesting. The venture is the first sea-based finfish commercial trial in WA. Running for a year, it will allow monitoring of the environmental effects before a commercial scale operation commences. Further negotiations would be required before a commercial operation could be established. Source: Kate Campbell in the Geraldton Guardian (11/8/2004); Mid-West Times (11/8/2004).
AQUABAIT WORM FARM LADY Milada Safarik was named NSW Rural Woman of the Year in 2003 for her efforts in establishing the Aquabait worm farm. Complementing her practical research, she completed her Master of Scientific Studies at the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle in 2003. With her bursary from the Rural Women's Award, Milada has recently completed a study tour of Europe which included attending a polychaete conference in Madrid. She and her father have developed hatcheries, new technologies, harvesting techniques and husbandry knowledge on the farm. In the 2002-2003 summer harvest they amassed 2500kg of worms, while last summer 2700kg were taken. The worms are sold for bait, and relieve pressure on the population of naturally-occurring worms. Aquabait won a grant from the Department of State and Regional Development to relocate to the Central Coast, and now the farm has breeding tanks adjacent to a man-made canal in the buffer zone surrounding the Eraring power station. A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
The farm is expanded from the original 120 square metres to 2200 square metres. The Aquabait farm has little impact on the environment with no nutrients released in Lake Macquarie – the worms operate as biological filters. The business plan for the farm describes an operation 20 times larger than the pilot. Source: Kim Britton in the Australian (1/9/2004).
SPONGE FARMING IN ARNHEM LAND "Aquaculture is now considered the only viable method of supplying sufficient and sustainable quantities of bath sponges to meet market demand," states marine biologist Alan Duckworth of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Now, Sea Rangers from Maningrida and Warruwi in Arnhem Land are providing the manpower in a two-year project to cultivate sponges in a bid to establish a viable sponge aquaculture industry, working with AIMS and Lo Tech Aquaculture. An important factor in the project is that sponges have considerable regenerative capacity. When a sponge is harvested at least one-third of it remains attached to the rock, on which it quickly regrows. The project's early results are promising. Source: Nigel Adlam in the Northern Territory News (27/8/2004).
SUN AQUA ASSERTS ‘NO POINT’ – AND THERE WASN'T Sun Aqua Pty Ltd, a Tasmanian-based company wishing to establish a 1200 tonnes per annum sea cage farm in the Moreton Bay Marine Park off Moreton Island, has not provided additional information requested by the Department of State Development's coordinator-general. The information required was further scientific evidence the proposal would not have significant environmental impacts. Company spokesman Dr Julian Amos says there's no point in providing further data unless the State Government provides assurances the additional information will have an impact on its decision. The project is currently stalled, although Dr Amos observes there is correspondence between the company and the Department. The Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island has asked the State Government to reject the proposal, supporting its argument by sending individual letters from more than 6000 tourists objecting to the farm, to Premier Peter Beattie. In later news the Queensland Government has rejected the proposal on environmental grounds, despite the fact it promised development of a new industry and jobs. Dr Amos advises the company will examining its legal options given Department of Primary Industries bureaucrats first invited Sun Aqua to put forward the proposal. He's also expressed surprise the government considered the application process completed, since the company is still finalising a supplementary report. The outcome has been welcomed by a range of community groups. In related news, the newly appointed Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has announced funding of $1.94 million to improve the water quality in Moreton Bay under the Federal Government's Heritage Trust. The funds will help protect the waterway from sediments and bad nutrients. Six projects will be arranged to reduce pollutants entering Moreton Bay and a water quality improvement plan will be developed. The Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association has placed the State Government under fire for 62
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taking two years to reject the Sun Aqua plan. More than 1000 submissions from a wide range of contributors attacked the proposal. Source: Kirstie Maier in the Redcliffe & Bayside Herald (25/8/2004); Toowoomba Chronicle (1/9/2004); Courier Mail (1/9/2004); Sean Parnell in the Courier Mail (1/9/2004); Bayside Star (1/9/2004); Northern Times (3/9/2004).
WORK BEGINS ON SCALLOP HATCHERY Late in August work began on the Bundaberg scallop hatchery being built by Queensland Sea Scallops at the mouth of the Burnett River. When completed the hatchery will produce millions of juvenile scallops, feeding them algae until they become large enough to be placed on the Hervey Bay sea floor and ranched for a year before harvesting. The hatchery includes three controlled-temperature rooms, a semi-automated algal production system and six 200,000L seawater ponds for water storage and nursery grow-out. Dr Clive Keenan, previously principal scientist at the Queensland Department of Primary Industries' Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre, has recently been appointed project manager for the hatchery. He's developed hatcheries for several other operations. The Queensland Sea Scallops venture is expected to eventually create 1500 jobs in the seafood processing industry, with 200 positions in industries processing the shell and gut – and 4000 in other areas. The company was formed two years ago when 20 processors realised their operating circumstances were changing with increasing restrictions on wildfishing. Estimates are a successful scallop ranch would generate annual returns of $126 million, though this will depend on the venture being fully commercialised and ranching over 200 square miles by 2012. On the other side of the coin, conservationists fear that sea-ranching at Hervey Bay and Platypus Bay will damage vital seagrass beds. Wally Franklin, director of the Oceania Project, says it's incomprehensible that ranching and scallop trawling is being considered in Hervey Bay Marine Park. There are, he says, other sites available. Paul Hodda of the Australian Whale Conservation Society advises his group is concerned that the trials were allowed when a zoning review of the Great Sandy Marine Park area had started. "It seems incredible they would allow this before their review was complete. This scallop farm could end up in the middle of the park." Simon Baltais of the Queensland Conservation Council observes the group is not against the project, but the government and the company are experimenting at the expense of the environment. Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle (28/8/2004); Melissa Ketchell in the Sunday Mail (29/8/2004); Michael Secomb in the News Mail (28/8/2004).
STEEP LEARNING CURVE, BUT REWARDS NOW Stehr group director Marcus Stehr observes that after four years, despite a steep learning curve, production at the Port Lincoln region's main fish breeding and farming operation is
building â€“ and it looks as though there's a bright future for the finfish aquaculture industry because demand is increasing too, both domestically and internationally. Currently the Stehr Group is selling 10 tonnes each week, of mainly mulloway with some kingfish, from three harvests each week. Mulloway is rapidly becoming the preferred species on farms located at Arno Bay. Two dedicated marketing specialists are now employed at the company's Port Lincoln offices, and product is currently being sold off at a ratio of 50 percent overseas and 50 percent into Australian markets. For foreign markets, mulloway is labelled as suzuki and kingfish as yellowtail or hiramasa. Product now goes to up to 10 different countries in North America, Asia and Europe. The fish, bred at the Arno Bay hatchery, are grown out on pontoons nearby. At two years old, when they've three kilos, the caged fish are towed to Port Lincoln for harvesting and processing at the Southern Ocean Express factory. As well as mulloway and kingfish broodstock, the Stehr Group's hatchery also holds tuna, and it's hoped that researchers will eventually discover the techniques required to propagate southern bluefin tuna. Source: Stan Gorton in the Port Lincoln Times (31/8/2004).
oysters, and 20,000 seeded Maxima pearl oysters. They'll be placed in four 50ha sites in the channel running between Little Woody Island and Fraser Island. There'll be a permanent houseboat on site for security reasons, and initially four employees. Later, Sydney rock oysters will be produced for the seafood market. Source: Chris Butt in the Fraser Coast Chronicle (Maryborough) (23/7/2004).
DROUGHT GOOD FOR OYSTERS IN NSW TOO President of the Oyster Growers Association's Gosford branch Allan Ferguson observes that despite the Brisbane water catchment receiving no major rainfall since May 2003, farmers are still enjoying good crops. Even thought it's being described as the worst drought for 100 years, excellent oysters are growing in the unusually clear water. Another advantage is that the lack of rain means the oysters aren't spawning and losing weight â€“ and since spat is now hatchery-produced there isn't a supply problem. There is, however, the possibility of a problem developing as the weather warms, if the protozoan parasite known as winter kill emerges. The parasite devastated the industry in 1998. There's a possibility that the clearer waters which are low in nutrients may cause winter kill to feed off the oysters. Source: Ben Sharkey in the Daily Telegraph (23/7/2004).
DROUGHT IMPROVES PORT STEPHENS OYSTERS Guy Holbert of Holberts Oysters at Soldiers Point believes the drought conditions have helped east coast oyster farmers produce the finest oysters. He observes the oysters are plumper than usual and, with a lack of rain, they taste saltier. While the oysters don't grow so fast, they taste good and are easy to sell, he says, and farmers are expecting a good summer Source: Tess Campbell in the Port Stephens Examiner (15/7/2004).
CANARIES OF THE ESTUARIES Richmond River oyster farmer Dennis McCarthy asserts that oysters are the canaries of the estuaries. That's because regulations introduced a year ago mean that oyster farmers carry out regular water testing leading to classification of the water body on which they farm, to ensure harvests can safely be made. It means, he points out, that oyster farmers have become watchdogs of the river. Oysters pump 37 litres of water through their bodies each hour, and if there's a problem with water quality, it soon shows. Mr McCarthy has been an oyster farmer for 12 years. In common with many in the industry, he believes the oyster disease QX is an outcome of the presence of acid sulphate soils. Source: Northern Star (Lismore) (22/7/2004).
CORAL SEA PEARLS A GOER AT HERVEY BAY Coral Sea Pearls will commence a pearl oyster farming operation in Hervey Bay at once, advises owner David Williams. The company has been provided $200,000 from the Federal Government's Sustainable Regions Program, and will now move spat from the Moreton Bay site to Hervey Bay. By October there'll be 200,000 shells seeded. Under full production at Hervey Bay the farm will carry 400,000 seeded Akoya pearl
MANAGING GEORGES BAY...AND MORE Oyster stock deaths in Georges Bay following floods have heightened community concerns, and the Break O'Day Council is pursuing investigations to develop a better understanding of the circumstances in the water body. Funds provided by the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute (TAFI) will enable preparation of a report on the Bay's status using existing data. Under its Bring Back the Bay Project, the Council now has a partnership with the Primary Industries, Water and Environment Department in which data will be placed on a centrally-managed database, and funding has been arranged to set up a water quality monitoring and reporting system. The Council will work with landowners along the Georges River to determine ways to improve water quality and extend sustainable production. In more recent news the State Government has called for an investigation of levels of chemicals in the river following release of a report by marine ecologist Marcus Scammel. The report details a hypothesis linking aerial spraying of timber plantations with mass deaths of oysters and ill-health in the area. Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia executive officer Phil Hurst says the Scammel report makes leaps of faith to get recommendations not supported by science or real-world practice, and points out it contains recommendations based on 20-year-old reports totally irrelevant to current practice. He advises chemicals applied by air are approved only after exhaustive trials, and pilots use strict risk management to ensure spraying is accurate and safe. The report, he asserts, should be consigned to the rubbish bin for the fantasy that it represents. Greens Primary Industry spokesman Kim Booth observes spray drift has been an issue in Tasmania for more than a decade, with slack legislation and a deficient voluntary A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
code of practice – and lax provisions for spraying over water, with no clear statement prohibiting spraying in windy conditions. Break O'Day Mayor Stephen Salter has called for a ban on spraying until water samples are analysed – the State Government began collecting samples on 19/7. They'll be checked for a range of chemicals known to be used in the catchment by the forestry industry. There'll also be a check through of the chemical application records and monitoring work arranged by the forestry industry. Meanwhile the Tasmanian Fishing Industry Council (TFIC) has taken steps to reassure consumers that oysters and mussels from the State are safe for human consumption, pointing out that the Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program managed by the Department of Health and Human Services is world's best practice. TFIC chief executive Bob Lister comments the causal links identified in the report are of great concern to the industry and the entire community, placing Tasmania's clean, green image as a producer of the finest quality produce at risk. He urges the State Government to immediately implement programs to monitor catchments and the impacts on water quality – a government responsibility. An industry spokesman, Brian Leahy, chaired a meeting between stakeholders recently at which attempts were made to have stakeholders take over various recommendations of the Percival Report. A group, consisting of Mr Leahy, Colin Dyke (Chairman of the Tasmanian Aquaculture Council), and representatives from DPIWE, Break O'Day Council and the Department of Health, was formed to address the issue. A TAFI senior aquaculture research scientist, Christine Crawford, comments that testing for agricultural chemicals in Tasmania's waterways would be worthwhile, although she points out that it's very difficult to detect extremely low levels of some of the products used. Referring to the issue of fresh water influxes, Ms Crawford notes that Pacific oysters seal themselves when the events occur, and can remain closed for several days. Where a fresh water situation becomes protracted, problems can become evident. Source: Christine Van Geest in the Launceston Examiner (13/7/2004); Maria Rae in the Launceston Examiner (20/7/2004); Christine Van Geest in the Launceston Examiner (20/7/2004); Michelle Paine in the Mercury (Hobart) (23/7/2004); Sean Ford in the Burnie Advocate (22/7/2004).
CLIPPER PEARLS Larry House's Clipper Pearls operation began operations off WA in 1988, after he'd occupied eight years building farms for other people. He's now working through harvesting his own first crop – and is finding what look like pearls making it worth all the effort. He anticipates some 20 percent of the harvest of 50,000 to 70,000 pearls will be gem quality – a ratio well over the industry standards. Clipper's pearls are valued for their lustre, pink or champagne colour, and freedom from blemishes. However, Mr House observes there'll be harder times for the WA industry because of restrictions on quota based on wildstock and hatchery harvests. His company is moving away from wildstock like many others, and he argues hatchery harvests should not be so restricted. The issue is 64
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that WA operators are restricted, yet facing competition from Indonesian and Northern Territory farmers. Source: Belinda Hickman in the Australian (20/7/2004).
JUNO BAY PEARL FARM FORCED OUT A tribunal ruling has forced out one of the east coast's first successful pearl farms, after six years of farming at Juno Bay in the Palm Island group northeast of Townsville. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has ruled that the original permits for the farm, issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, should never have been granted. It's been successfully claimed the pearl farm, especially if expanded, would affect the cultural and heritage values of Fantome Island, an Aboriginal burial area sacred to the Manbarra people of Palm Island. The farm has been producing high-quality pearls sold into Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris. Source: Melissa Ketchell in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) (1/8/2004).
NO CHEMICALS FOUND IN GEORGES BAY Dr Roscoe Taylor, Public Health director, advises Georges Bay water samples recently collected do not show evidence of contamination by pesticides or herbicides. He's recommended further sampling in the catchment following heavy rainfall and after aerial spraying. He's also recommended the forestry industry share their sampling information with other agencies. Local oyster-grower Jim Harris says the report is disappointing and he asserts a ban on spraying should be introduced until more testing after heavy rainfall. Senior scientific officers in the State Government have reviewed the earlier report by marine ecologist Marcus Scammel in which he questioned water quality in Georges Bay. They suggest it contains major errors of fact and 'alarmist sentiment'. They claim the Scammel report is unscientific and provides no evidence of a link between aerial spraying of chemicals in the George River catchment and oyster deaths in Georges Bay. Source: Maria Rae in the Launceston Examiner (31/7/2004 and 4/8/2004).
CAPE INSCRIPTION PEARLS Cape Inscription Pearls emerged as an unexpected outgrowth from a tuna farming business in Shark Bay. Farming the wild species pinctada margaritifera – black lip pearl oyster – commenced in 1996, and extended on the basis of research and evaluation. There are now two farm sites – one at Dirk Hartog Island in the Shark Bay area and the other near the Abrolhos Islands Group. Cape Inscription pearls are enthusiastically used by Leon Baker Jewellers in their products. Source: Geraldton Guardian (18/8/2004).
CLEAR CLYDE RIVER MAY MEAN SMALLER OYSTERS Alan Temple from Bay Rock Oysters in Batemans Bay observes that the oysters on sale in two years time may be smaller and less juicy than those from recent harvests. That's because the Clyde River, currently running with less water than normal because of the drought, is carrying little in the way of nutrients on which oysters feed. Right now oysters grown in Clyde waters are saltier than normal – great for oyster
lovers. The dry circumstances have also boosted the quality of oysters in northern NSW. However, notes Alan, the three-year oyster growing period is likely to be affected by the continuing dry conditions, with oysters ceasing to grow. Source: Keeli Cambourne and Ben Eyles in the South Coast Weekly (9/8/2004).
PRODUCERS TO MANAGE OYSTER BREEDING The Oyster Farmers' Association of NSW and The NSW Farmer's Association have linked to establish Select Oyster Company P/L, and farmers are being encouraged to access stock. David Maidment, NSW Farmers' Company Director, indicates this is the first time direct control over breeding has been taken over by producers. "This move will give farmers future access to the latest developments in oyster production, helping address farming fundamentals such as modernisation, profitability and disease resistance. The Department of Primary Industry has done a lot of research on oyster breeding for many years and our new company will allow the industry to continue this work. The research allows farmers to select and breed from oysters that have qualities superior to those you find in the wild." The new company's first task is to manage the production of some 10 million fast growing oysters. All growers have been sent an order form â€“ the closing date for orders is 3 September. Source: Bellingen Courier Sun (11/8/2004).
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY! The closure of the channel at Old Bar has radically affected local waterways, insists Michael Chapman. And oyster farmers are just one group of waterway users prejudiced. He claims the oyster industry has seen returns slashed in recent years with product badly affected by the resultant poor water quality. Claiming one of the three ministers involved has described oyster farmers as opportunistic, Mr Chapman states, "However, if you consider that some families of oyster growers have been working the Manning for 110 years, or five generations, I think they would be most offended to be called 'opportunistic'. They are business owners, the same as any other business." He believes the issues cut across the ministerial responsibilities of Craig Knowles and Michael Costas, and that the two should discuss the implications of a dereliction of duty under Section 25 of the 1995 NSW Ports Corporation and Waterways Management Act. There are suggestions upgrade work on the Pacific Highway in the lower Manning Area has impacted on the waterway. The Old Bar channel is known to have been navigable for more than 100 years, and environmental degradation has taken place since natural flushing has stopped. Source: Manning River Times (18/8/2004).
ALL CLEAR FOR THE BELLINGER RIVER The NSW Food Authority has completed water testing and recently informed oyster growers on the Bellinger River they can commence harvesting again. The river had been closed since January as a result of pollution hot spots. Harvesting is also under way on the Nambucca River. Source: Coffs Coast Advocate (21/8/2004).
FIGHTING QX IN THE HAWKESBURY Sydney rock oysters carrying a 70% resistance to the disease QX are to be placed in the Hawkesbury River so that their resistance to the disease now present in the river can be assessed. The Hawkesbury was invaded by QX for the first time in June. The oysters destined for the Hawkesbury survived a QX outbreak in the Georges River â€“ an outbreak which ended commercial oyster farming in the area. Oysters found to be resistant to QX in the Hawkesbury will be used as breeding stock. Roger Clarke, president of the Oyster Farmers Association, describes the outbreak in the Hawkesbury as potentially catastrophic. "The Hawkesbury will be quarantined for the next four or five years and no oysters can move from there." The river has been used as a growing area for juvenile stock to be moved to other areas - an activity now ceased. Mr Clarke asks, "Is it drought, degradation of the river? It's the equivalent of foot and mouth for the oyster industry." There's to be a meeting of NSW Fisheries researchers, growers and other specialists to formulate plans to manage the issue. Source: Frances Thompson in the Newcastle Herald (24/8/2004).
PEARL FARMER TO APPROACH ICAC Managing director of Port Stephens Pearls Ian Burt has accused NSW Infrastructure, Planning and Natural resources Minister Craig Knowles of not giving the company's proposal for a 30ha pearl oyster farm at Port Stephens a fair hearing. Mr Knowles rejected the proposal in August following objections from residents, observing he wasn't satisfied the development could be operated at all times without risk to the environment. He also mentioned concerns with respect to marine animals, and water quality. Mr Burt states the NSW Government requested his company try to expand the aquaculture industry in the area, and the company has invested $7 million in the project. He has been obliged to dismiss 12 employees because of delays in government approval and now a total of 20 jobs have been lost. Noting that he was denied access to Mr Knowles at all times, Mr Burt states he will take his concerns to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). There's also the possibility of a challenge in the NSW Land and Environment Court and referring the matter to the NSW Ombudsman. Port Stephens MP John Bartlett, leader of a number of delegations to the government opposing the plan, has applauded the decision to reject the proposal. He observes it should give pause to other developers who consider coming into the area and taking from rather than giving to the environment. The head of Port Stephens Tourism, Bob Westbury, said that common sense had prevailed, adding, "It's good to see the minister has listened to us. Source: Mike Scanlon in the Newcastle Herald (25/8/2004); Port Stephens Examiner (26/8/2004).
AQUACULTURE THEME AT RIVERFEST About 100,000 people are predicted to attend South Bank's Riverfest, which has an aquaculture theme this year. Coral Sea Pearls will have a display at the event, showing oysters being seeded and jewels produced using the pearls. There'll also be a range of pearls on view from China, Australia, Japan A U S TA S I A A Q U A C U LT U R E
and Tahiti, covering a price range from inexpensive to very expensive. The fashion parade at the event will include work by designer Louise Phillips, whose signature material is barramundi leather and barramundi scales. Jewellery designer Debbie Haigh has been liaising with Louise in order to produce pearl jewellery complimenting the fashion garments. It's expected the first of Coral Sea Pearl's farm oysters will placed in growing cages in Hervey Bay near Woody island in October. Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle (27/8/2004).
ANGASIS ENTER THE FIELD Angasi oysters were part of the competition at the Sydney Royal Fine Show in August, entered by NSW Angasi growers for the first time. Originally the winter oyster breed was grown only in Tasmania, but has been taken on by NSW farmers. Angasis take up to three years to grow, and are being farmed on the South Coast. Competition winners are yet to be announced.
cooker which was built in Denmark to the company's design. Consumers in Europe are sampling the harvest via links to the Marks and Spencer group. While 80 per cent of Seafarm's produce is sold domestically, some also goes to Japan and New Zealand. The Crystal Bay prawn is the company's premium variety, the outcome of a selective breeding program based on the banana or white prawn - and now no prawns are sourced from the wild. With operations running continuously, some 200 harvests are made each year. It's expected Seafarm will produce more than 1000 tonnes this year, from 132 ponds. In another new phase, as well as supplying fresh, frozen and peeled prawns, the company is extending to value-adding, now producing retail packs in addition to bulk supplies. Seafarm recently entered into a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with the State Government under which an area of land of more than 45ha between the two Cardwell farms is retained as a nature buffer in perpetuity. Source: Tracy Bange in the Herbert River Express (19/8/2004).
Source: Evelyn Yamine in the Daily Telegraph (25/8/2004).
SALMON PRAWNS TIGER INTERNATIONAL COLLECTS Following an attempt to raise $1.68 million to fund activities including development of prawn farms near Darwin, there are suggestions potential investors are interested. Some $2.1 million has been raised at $0.14 per share. Source: West Australian (14/8/2004).
WATCH OUT FOR IMPORTS, SAYS ROCKY POINT FARMER Serena Zipf of Rocky Point Prawn Farm at Woongoolba near Beenleigh warns that introduction by the US of tough anti-dumping legislation and a tax on imports to limit access to its market will enhance Australia as a target for inferior Asian product, and this threatens Australian producers. The Rocky Point Farm produces and exports kuruma prawns – the only type which can be sent abroad alive - to Japan, Korea and the European Union. Other product is sent to the US, UK and Europe. The farm has now begun breeding black tiger prawns. Source: Courier Mail (23/8/2004).
SEAFARM PTY LTD BOOMS Seafarm Pty Ltd was established in 1983, moving to Cardwell in 1987. Some 15 months ago the company expanded and there are now two prawn farms and a processing plant at Cardwell, four hatcheries at Flying Fish point near Innisfail, and the Mossman farm and processing plant. There have been recent marketing successes for the company. Crystal Bay Prawns were on the menu at the Danish royal wedding, and currently the operation is undergoing a stringent accreditation process prior to supplying product to Britain's retail giant Marks and Spencer. As part of the accreditation, the Cardwell facilities have been upgraded, and the facility has the most sophisticated prawn processing plant in Australia. There's precision grading and weighing gear and a unique automatic 66
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LARGE SALMON INTO LAKE BARRINGTON Inland Fisheries released 200 9 kilo Atlantic salmon into Lake Barrington on 5/8/2004, just prior to the opening of the trout season. The fish were surplus breeding stock from the Wayatinah fish farm, donated by the company in support of recreational fishing. Inland Fisheries director John Diggle explains the salmon won't survive for long as they are accustomed to feeding on pellets - and there are no females. Source: Cathy Alexander in the Burnie Advocate (6/8/2004).
TASSAL/WEBSTER LINK? The Guinness Peat Group is chasing a consolidation between Tassal Group and Websters (Aquatas Tasmania) – the largest operators in the Australian $400 million salmon industry. The merger could result in savings of $8 million the first year's operations and produce a regional leader in the premium aquaculture industry – controlling 75 percent of the salmon industry in Australia. There'd also be access to salmon farms in the north, east and west Tasmanian coasts, providing for better farming circumstances. Timing for the merger is perfect. Internationally, salmon prices are up, while Tassal is soon expected to report well as a company. The proposed merger is apparently acceptable to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Source: Eli Greenblat in the Australian Financial Review (23/8/2004).
TASSAL ROMPS ALONG Reporting a net profit of $11.4 million for the June year, fish producer Tassal Group has exceeded its profit forecast since emerging from receivership last November. When SGARA (self-generating and regenerating benefits) and DOA (discount on acquisition) factors, after-tax profit was $3.9 million as against the $3.5 million indicated in the prospectus. Better growing conditions have resulted in increased average weight of salmon to be harvested this year, and there are some
interesting domestic and export initiatives. A final dividend of 2 cents per share has been declared. Tassal shares closed unchanged at 90 cents on 31 August. Source: The Age (1/9/2004).
TROUT COWRA SMOKEHOUSE In 1999 Tim Pullen diversified his sun-dried tomatoes business by establishing a the Cowra Smokehouse label for locally-produced trout. Moving on, in 2003 he started an indoor trout farm - now Cowra Smokehouse sells 3000 trout each week, fresh and smoked. Last year Tim opened the Cowra Smokehouse Regional Deli and Cafe at Cowra with more
local products – honey, cheese, olives and olive oil. Source: Lynne Mullins in the Sydney Morning Herald (3/8/2004).
EXCELLENT PRODUCTION AT SPRINGFIELD WATERS A weight check of saltwater trout grown at the Springfield Waters farm is showing impressive outcomes. Sampling from a population of 700 fish growing in a 10 cubic metre pond revealed an average fish weight of 390gm, with some fish as large as 550gm. It's estimated the trout are gaining some 50g per week. The project aims to illustrate how wheatbelt farmers can use saline water in an economically viable way and is already showing indications that fish can be feedlotted and harvested profitably. Source: Avon Valley Advocate (4/8/2004).
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