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Volume 26 No 1 – Autumn 2012

2012 Aquaculture Conference preview Norfolk Bay farmer growing great oysters Positive changes for Southern Barramundi Producing pearls for niche market Tuki Trout sustainably value adding Aussie mussel farmers expanding market Croc farm success questions freshwater turtle protection Discharge water used for irrigation

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Contents Editor-in-chief


Dr Tim Walker Regular contributors David O'Sullivan


John Mosig Subscription/editorial Austasia Aquaculture PO Box 658, Rosny, Tas. 7018 Ph: 03 6245 0064 Fax: 03 6245 0068 Email: Advertising Megan Farrer Design/typesetting Coalface Production Pty Ltd Prepress & Printing Geon Group Copyright © by Austasia Aquaculture. Contents cannot be reproduced without



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Austasia Aquaculture magazine

Croc farming success unlikely to lead the way for turtles


Chinese Turtle Farms


Nutrients in pond based aquaculture discharge water used for irrigation


(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


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Subtidal and intertidal mix means Tas farmer grows great oysters


Southern Barramundi undergoes business rethink


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

Growing pearls for niche market


Tuki Trout multi value-added produce 16 MARKETING

Aussie mussel farmers expand market


Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 1

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Subtidal and intertidal mix means Tas farmer grows great oysters Front cover of The Australian newspaper! Few, if any aquaculuralist, could claim such a feat. So Tom Gray must be doing something right with his Pacific Oyster farm in south-east Tasmania. Austasia Aquaculture travels south to see exactly what Tom is doing so well.

Clockwise from top: The colourbond grading and packing shed behind stacks of oyster tray modules. Loading barge with modules for sub-tidal deployment. Emptying seed trays ready for grading after 4 weeks. Loading a wooden seed tray with 5mm spat. All photos courtesy of Tom Gray

4 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012


he headlines said it all – “As chefs line up, the world is Tom Gray’s oyster.” Accompanied with a Peter Mathew photo of large oysters and a sandy bottom, the Christmas eve (24/12/11) edition of The Australian had a lead story by rural reporter Sue Neales. The photo caption read: “Tom Gray, at Lease 170 in southern Tasmania, is fast becoming the go-to man for top

chefs searching for the best oysters.” But, truth be told, Tom’s a little embarrassed about the publicity, claiming he’s just a ‘poster boy’ for the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) industry. “It must have been a slow news day!” he jokes. “It has resulted in loads of phone calls for orders. Unfortunately, however, I’ve never been able to grow sufficient oysters to supply the markets. Flavours differ between growing areas, so the unique Norfolk Bay waters and our mixture of intertidal and subtidal culture systems must add to that special flavour and appearance of our oysters.” Tom is a third generation sheep farmer involved in the 1,200ha wool property Fulham, located on the northern side of Norfolk Bay, about an hours’ drive southeast of Hobart. “In the early 1990s due to the low price of wool we looked at different diversification options. With eight kilometres of coastline we chose oysters, so we surveyed some subtidal area and put in an application with the Government for 20ha lease. Whilst we were initially told it would only take a couple of weeks to process, a moratorium on new licenses came into play until the Norfolk Bay Management Plan was developed. In the end we didn’t our licence until July 1998.” Since then Tom has purchased another 5ha subtidal lease and a 9ha intertidal lease. All of the leases are within a kilometre of his land base. “My grandfather, Barclay Gray, built a concrete landing base for the transport of sheep to and from Fulham and Smooth Islands which we also own in Norfolk Bay. We added a one tonne HIAB crane which allows us to lift the oyster modules off the barges and into the grading hopper.”


Rough waters According to Tom Norfolk Bay is a rough place to grow oysters. “Our leases are exposed to the southerly and westerly prevailing winds. With a 20km fetch there is rough water, but fortunately no large swells. However, we do need to continually maintain our culture systems, both intertidal and subtidal. “The advantage is we have our oysters in a large expanse of water so there is loads of water exchange which keeps food levels high. Also there is no direct freshwater input through creeks; all our runoff is from low-density farmland. Thus, for as long as we have been operating, there have been no closures to harvesting.” (The Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program has trigger levels for rainfall in different culture areas, if the rainfall is above the level, then harvesting of oysters is closed until water and meat tests show there is no contamination of the oysters). Tom purchases 3-5mm seed from Cameron of Tasmania in November each year. “Although most of our product is grown through to market size in around 18-20 months, we can do some ongrown sales if the market size demand is slow or we have an excess of stock. We aim to produce 100,000 dozen a year, a mixture of 80% Buffets (60-70mm top shell length) and 20% Standards (70-80mm). We have produced more than that in the last few years and currently have over 3.5 million oysters on our leases. I employ two full time workers.” Homemade 6-bay seed trays are made from 3mm Nylex oyster mesh, 25mm square marine grade treated pine and stainless steel screws. “The trays are 1.2m long and 800mm wide. Initially we stock around 50,000 per tray with another tray as the lid.” Small rafts are made from 25mm alloy pipe welded into a rectangle 1.8m by 1m. Each can hold two seed trays which are fastened with inner tube bands. A 30cm diameter polystyrene float is roped onto each corner. 12mm silver rope extends

6m from the raft to a car tyre filled with concrete. The water depth is around 3m and the rafts are set around 10m apart so they swing around with the tides. “We have plenty of room to expand,” Tom continues. “The seed are graded every four weeks for around two months by which time they have reached 10-15mm and are transferred into baskets on intertidal racks. We get two tides a day and on some tides the oysters remain covered. We work the tides to get our stock.” Treated pine posts (50mm square and 1-1.8 m long) are used to make the intertidal racks. “We cut a barb off the bottom of the posts and nail them one to provide a hold so that the posts won’t lift up with the continual wave action. The bottom is hard sand so we have a water pump to drill a hole for the posts. The posts are put into the holes and we wait for the sand to settle around the posts. Rails (25mm by 50mm treated pine) are nailed along the posts which are about 1.2m apart. Bands made from car tyre tubes are used to hold the basket sticks onto the racks.” The farm uses some SEAPA baskets but mostly makes its own double basket units. The cross sticks (25mm by 25mm) are 1.5m long and hold the two 600mm square ‘pillow’ baskets made from 20mm mesh. These have lids and mesh netting inner bags stop the small oysters from being washed out of the baskets. The SEAPA baskets (mesh size 12mm) are completely sealed so they don’t need the inners. Tom reckons the area is just too rough for other types of culture systems such as the BST adjustable line and post system. He likes the SEAPA baskets as they have slots built into them so that two cross sticks can be inserted through them and then laid across the racks and held on with the tube bands. “We have these set right up against each other.” After 12 months the oysters are around 40-50mm and are transferred onto longlines for growout to market size (4-6 months). “We don’t use another intertidal phase as the oysters have already hardened

From top: Barrel grader and shed. Deploying modules on the longline. Harvest stock bagged for market. Intertidal lease with shore base in background. Heading out to lease, Smooth Island in background. All photos courtesy of Tom Gray

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 5


Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Fulham Aquaculture include: • Certification: Food Safety/HACCP, ASQAP (Shellfish), • Move stock between intertidal and subtidal culture units to take advantage of the two systems using homemade trays and baskets as well as Aquatrays and SEAPA baskets. • Use of a wholesaler/marketer to allow a focus on growing the best oysters. • Use of final subtidal growout stage allows the oysters to be harvested at any time (bad weather the exception) to reduce time out of water before entering cool chain. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture or Holding System utilised: rafts, longlines and racks with baskets & trays • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <20 months (0.05g to 70g) • Survival rate: 85% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: Low density to ensure quality, space is not an issue • Annual harvest: 100,000 + dozen buffet and standard grades, with spot sales of juveniles • Production rate: 3,000 dozen per ha of lease area, 7,000 dozen per developed hectare • Productivity: 35,000 + dozen per Effective Fulltime Unit (240 days, 48wk x 40hr)

up their adductor muscle. So they have a good shelf life. We ship oysters in bulk to Queensland as well as Western Australia: our oysters can go the distance.” The Grays have 20 longlines, all with 20mm thick backbone rope and are 100m

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long. Each holds around 40-50 modules with 20 floats (35L hard black plastic made by Pinecrest, Sorell). Tom makes his own steel plate plough anchors. “We tried concrete blocks but these wouldn’t bed in due to the hard sand bottoms. Our 100kg

anchors dig into the sand and eliminate anchor movement. We have 20mm thick mooring ropes at each end which attached directly to the anchors. At high tide the maximum angle would be 45 degrees.” Tom uses two different modules, a 7-tray and a 9-tray (TTP Plastics Aquatray). 12mm and 20mm mesh size trays are used. “When we first put in the 40-50mm oysters we use the 9-tray modules as there are no gaps between them for the oysters to wash out. After the first grade (6 weeks after stocking in the trays) the oysters are transferred into the 7-tray modules which have a 40mm gap between them for more water flow. These oysters are then graded every 6-8 weeks depending on water temperature and grow rates. “We use a 12mm thick rope strung through each corner. These tie to a centre point with a tail which binds our ropes together and attaches to the backbone.” Tom says that the secret is to get the stocking densities right in the baskets. “This determines the amount of movement or rumbling of the oysters. If they rumble too much then they won’t grow. But some rumbling is necessary to set a lovely shape ready for subtidal culture and harden up the adductor muscle. We have a strict grading program to ensure high product quality.” Work barge and shed A 9m aluminium Lyncraft (made in St Helens) is used as the work barge. It is 3.6m wide and has removable side panels on the port side. “We have a Maxi Lift hydraulic crane which can lift a tonne at 1m extension. The maximum extension is 3.5m.” Two 80HP Yamaha 4-stroke outboards power the barge at 30knots when empty. “Each of the modules can range in weight from 80-120kg and we can hold 16 on the deck. It is only a short trip back to the landing base but you need the power if the winds are coming up when a storm is approaching.” The 10m by 15m shed has a concrete floor and is situated only 3m from the


Tom with some market stock. photos courtesy of Tom Gray

edge of the loading dock. The HIAB crane allows easy transfer of the modules or baskets to and from the barge. Inside the shed is a seed grader (1020mm oysters) plus a double barrel grader for larger oysters. On hand are a number of exchange barrels so the oysters can be graded quite quickly. For the market-size oysters there’s a hopper and conveyor belt for hand grading and counting into bags.

“We sell all our oysters through Ashmore Foods so we use their hessian bags,” Tom says. “These fit 30 dozen Buffets and 25 dozen Standards. The bags are labelled with our farm details, date, time of harvest, size, and quantity.” Tom used to do the marketing of our oysters but five years ago handed the role to Ashmore Foods. “James and his staff are professional, reliable and have a good relationship with both their suppliers and their customers”. James sure knows his stuff – the article in The Australian noted that he runs oyster tasting and cooking master-classes at some of Australia’s elite wine and food festivals. The farm harvests 2-3 days a week. “Due to the subtidal final growout system we don’t have to rely on the tides; we can harvest anytime we want to. Assuming there isn’t a howling westerly we can start harvesting in the morning and the oysters are sorted, packed and loaded into the refrigerated truck by mid-afternoon. It means there’s only a short time before the oysters enter the cool chain.

“Our customers know our oysters by our business name “Fulham Aquaculture” and by Lease number 170.” The article in The Australian quoted James Ashmore rating Tom’s product as among the best he has ever seen and tasted: “It really has an artisan feel to it, the way Tom runs his farm and knows his oysters.” The article also reported that Tasmania now supplies one-quarter of the 14,807 tonnes of fresh oysters eaten annually in Australia, a share that is growing each year, particularly in the higher-priced restaurant segment of the market. It is estimated more than one-third of all oysters sold in Australia are devoured over the ChristmasNew Year festive season. By Dos O’Sullivan. For more information contact Tom Gray, Fulham Aquaculture, PO Box 6, Dunalley Tas 7177. Fax: 03 6253-5616, Mob: 0419 398-640, email:

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 7


Southern Barramundi undergoes business rethink After over 20 years the Southern Barramundi operation has again changed its business plan. A focus on reduction in costs and an increase in efficiency has seen profits rise.

After its years of operation all of the wastes produced at the Barramundi sheds at Kangarilla have been kept on the farm. Here are the sediment tanks and lakes, all supplied with plants to absorb the nutrients.


outhern Barramundi has been continuously producing barramundi since 1991 at its land-based site near Clarendon 40 minutes south of Adelaide. It consists of four independent production shed facilities set up as an aquaculture park, sharing water supply and power generation capability. The site has had several articles written about it in Austasia Aquaculture over the years and, as with all agriculture/ aquaculture pursuits, has had some good times and some hard times. Steve Mawer, its current owner, first worked at the site during construction of the first sheds. He then supplied fingerlings to the site for a number of years before working at SARDI as a fish production technician. Adverse production events Steve and a partner purchased the site in 2003 after the original owners decided to sell for a multitude of reasons. One was fish survival; it was on the decline and the reasons were unknown.

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Following diagnosis by fish vet Paul Hardy Smith of a Streptococcus iniae infection, a vaccine was developed and survival improved. A significant fish quality issue then occurred during 2005. After considerable losses and expense, poor quality feed was identified as the problem and a new feed supplier sourced. However difficulty in proving the link ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and anticipated legal bills of $100,000 prevented recovery of the losses. Greatly disillusioned, Steve’s partner sold his share of the business to him. Production slowly improved as did profitability and things seemed on track until fingerling supply became an issue. Once again, cash flows became strained as production declined. Significantly, these three adverse production events (disease, feed and fingerling supply) spread over the past eight years all but wiped out the profit of the ‘good’ years, limiting Steve’s attempts to upgrade the facility from cash flow. Yet he has always believed in honesty and loyalty with suppliers and customers.

And such strong core beliefs have again proven his salvation, helping him to recover from a ‘near death’ financial experience. Still, the hardship did force him to rethink his business and personal priorities. An opportunity to study some business modules with the University of the Sunshine Coast through the Australian Seafood CRC proved greatly enlightening. “The lecturers were business people in their own right,” Steve explains. “Their insight was amazing and their personal anecdotes allowed me to understand both myself and my business much better.” With his capacity for insightful decisions thus enhanced, Steve has developed a new business plan. “My approach has always been about enjoying what I do and minimising risk. I initially saw risk as solely production risk. I now see it includes financial risk too. “My new plan enables me to identify financial risk better.” An active and ongoing R & D program allowed Southern Barramundi to review 20 years of production data and conduct


a variety of trials in the eight commercial production basins. That process of ‘enlightened’ observations and assumptions subsequently prompted some ‘leaps of faith’ that have paid off. One concerns the water. Many water quality parameters are measured with the Aquaspex equipment used being extremely versatile. Over the years Steve had included additional parameters because he felt that some unidentified factor was triggering mortality events at the farm. “We believe we have finally identified what it is and have changed the way we manage the water.” He also believes that Streptococcus has been eliminated from his facility. So his fish no longer need the vaccination. “Over 95% of the fingerlings brought onto the farm at 25mm are sold at an average weight of 650grams. Most of the mortality on the farm is due to cannibalism in the first four months.” And feed conversion has become vitally important as it is the only way to reduce the feed cost (now over $2/kg landed at the farm). Southern Barramundi is an active

Although starting to show its age, Southern Barra’s shed is still operating after 20 years.

member of the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA) and with them has participated in several projects; • Residue Testing was commenced in 2006 to the highest standards in the world, allowing export anywhere. The ongoing results have shown that the Australian Barramundi industry continue to have no chemical residue problems. • Aquatic animal health and welfare is

extremely important to the industry and Southern Barramundi has conducted preliminary investigations in conjunction with UTAS and the Australian Seafood CRC. • Environmental awareness and sustainability is a core focus of both the ABFA and Southern Barramundi. Steve estimates that over 1,200 tonnes of fish have been produced in 20 years at the

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Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Southern Barramundi include: • Learnt from production failures and supply problems. • Reduced risk by running only two sheds. • Focus on reducing costs whilst maintaining production levels and quality. • Diversification into animal and vegetable crops. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture or Holding System utilised: four double recirculation tanks • Growth rate (from stocking to market): <9 months (2g to 650g) • Survival rate: <5% from first stocking to sale size • Annual harvest: 20-25tonnes • FCR: 1.25-1.3 (number of kg of food to produce 1kg stock)

site. A recent visit by the Environment Protection Authority confirmed that no environmental degradation has occurred in that time. • A major focus for the ABFA is the development of a national selective breeding program to enable the development of strains of barramundi that can be grown more economically. Southern Barramundi doesn’t breed its barra but Steve believes this focus is extremely important. “We are more than 100 years behind land based animal breeding programs and have to start somewhere.” Reducing Costs and increasing sales price Initially Steve employed four full time equivalents at the farm; production was between 1 and 1.5 tonnes per week with the farm gate price averaging around $9/

kg. Costs averaged over $10,000/week and it was difficult to identify fixed and variable costs. The margins were poor (as are the returns for most agricultural businesses) and the financial risks high despite many years production experience. Southern Barramundi has continuously worked to identify significant savings and reduce its cost base. Wages, power (electricity & LPG) and interest payments together are now about equal to the feed cost, when once they were all about the same. Production margins have also improved. Additional income streams for the farm alongside fish production are also being actively pursued to reduce financial risks as Steve has no alternative income streams or shareholder base. With an agricultural science background Steve has never believed the standard

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monoculture production methodologies are environmentally sustainable. So he is now trialing hydroponics/aquaponics plus other vegetable production methods using the ‘wastewater’. Terrestrial livestock are kept to graze the land and pigs consume any dead fish. Opportunities for the future include infrastructure leasing and training. With two commercial sheds currently mothballed and a 30x6m greenhouse under construction, Steve is looking for people to work alongside him to maximise the facility’s productive potential without reducing profitability or increasing his own risk structure. “A new entrant could set up an independent business alongside the existing facility without significant capital costs, close to Adelaide and leveraging knowledge gained over 20 years to reduce production risks associated with establishment of any new business.” Steve reckons sales have never been a problem. When he bought the business the farm gate price was around $9/kg; it recently rose to $12. Supply has always been the constraint. His major market has always been the live trade and his customers are very loyal although some product is exported. The product’s residue-free status and the ability to land the product in export markets within 48 hours of harvest ensures a good price. “The problem with export markets is they want larger volumes than what I can supply from my existing business.” So for now, Steve is really enjoying his time on the farm working with his fish, animals and vegetables. He’s confident he knows how to control his risks, he knows his production costs and, with a good farm gate price, he has a good profit margin. By Dos O’Sullivan.

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Rusty and Bronwyn Tully, owners of Torres Pearls.

Some of the round pearls from the August ‘10 harvest.

Growing pearls for niche market With the falling prices for pearls due to the GFC and probable world oversupply, the bigger option seems to be the most profitable for pearl farms. Paspaley Pearls is certainly the world leader in producing large quantities of high quality South Sea pearls. However, lifestyle can also be an important attraction and two Queenslanders have a seemingly idyllic life producing small quantities of pearls for niche markets.


arming pearls on a tropical island; sound like paradise? Well pearl farmers Rusty and Bronwyn Tully reckon they have the best job in the world in the best location in the world. Their business plan is pretty focussed – produce 3,000 top quality pearls a year and have as much fun as they can doing it! Rusty has been trading in pearls since 2001, mostly on Thursday Island (TI) in Torres Strait. With more than 30 years of working in the tropics he knows how to run a good business with the minimum of fuss. “I was managing the pub on TI and then owned a tree lopping business. But seeing that no-one was retailing pearls in the main street and yet people wanted to buy the local product, I set up the shop. “This gave me an even greater reason to watch and observe the pearling industry around the world.” “I will take my hat off to Nick Paspaley’s mob and also the Kailis family (who have since pulled out of producing pearls). They created the mass South Sea Pearl production techniques that now dominate the world industry.” The new problem, in Rusty’s view, is that share traders are trying to replicate their operations. “There have been a number

of big projects throwing lots of private equity money at pearl farming. One company has spent more than $36 million and it is still not profitable. (It must be said, they had very pretty brochure though).” Rusty believes that successful pearl farms, like those the Paspaleys run, take more than just money. “You need to have a passion for pearls and you must keep a close eye on the environment. I bought a run-down farm at Escape River in February 2009 and we are slowly changing the way things are done to suit what we want to grow, which is beautiful gold and silver Pinctada maxima pearls.” The farm is now named Torres Pearls and it has the largest lease area of all the Queensland pearl farms. It is also the second-oldest in Australia, having started in the late 1950s. After being owned by a number of Australian and overseas companies, Rusty is the first individual owner in its history. And he’s rapt with his purchase. “The farm is located off Turtlehead Island, some 20kms down the eastern coastline from Cape York. It is a beautiful place with unique conditions – including waters that are nutrient-rich – that make it fantastic Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 11


Shoichi Mizuno operating on Pinctada maxima shell.

for growing great pearls. We have our lease spread across an embayment into which two rivers flow – Escape River and Middle River. Neither has a large catchment (both of which are in the Jardine River National Park) and even during the Wet the freshwater stays in the top 2m before it eventually mixes in with the seawater. “We have our pearls down below 2m so they are fine. If there is a really big flood the shell can close for a day or so without being stressed.” In any case, Rusty will soon have a remote monitor for tracking salinity and other water conditions 24/7. “If there is a problem then we can easily move the shell as we usually only have 400 shell on each raft or longline.” The longlines are slowly being made redundant as rafts are a much easier way for the Tullys to work the shell, with cleaning every 4-6 weeks. With crocodiles an every present hazard, a 5m Cairns Custom Craft tinnie – built like a battleship – is used for the water work.” According to Rusty no cyclones have gone through the area. “We are very blessed, as there seems to be no history of cyclone damage in our area. They just seem to move away from us.” Rafts Rusty uses 200L plastic drums as the floatation for the 5m x 6m rafts as well as his 5m x 5m floating operations shed. A hardwood frame is tied onto the drums with stainless steel wire. “You need to check them every so often and twitch some wires to tighten them up. Simple and low cost, but it works.” He uses 12mm thick polyethylene ropes to tie the net panels to the rafts, about 1m apart. “With a 2.5m tide, the water currents through here can be very strong so that a panel filled with 8 large shell will be pushed up to near the surface. We cut two of the pockets out of the panels so they are more streamlined 12 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Handful of freshly harvested pearls.

and have less drag; this means they sit down in the water.” The Tullys do all the water work themselves so they get to know how well the shell is growing, or if there are any problems. And with the rafts strategically placed around the estuary, if there is a disease problem, that area can be quarantined to to stop the spread. “In the 50+ years the farm has been here, there’s never been any mass mortalities due to disease but we are prepared in case something does happen,” Rusty explains. Stocking wild caught shell When the Tullys purchased the farm it held just over 2,000 hatchery shell. But from now on they plan to only use wild caught shell (Pinctada maxima). “Our goal is to seed 3,000 per year although once we achieve that we may move up to 5,000,” Rusty says. “All the other farms use hatchery spat which may be OK for one or two production cycles, but with the wild caught shell you usually can get up to four cycles with them. “We are focussing on low volume, high quality product for niche markets.” The Tullys currently buy wild stock off four local divers who harvest Tropical Ornatus Lobsters. “The lobsters are worth a lot more than the pearl shell, but we have a good relationship with the divers and we can get catches of around 100 shell at a time when the crayfish season is closed. We prefer getting them as small as possible, the current legal minimum size if 130mm across the shell.” According to Rusty, the Queensland Pearl Shell Fishery was not big enough for a sustainable industry during the old hardhat diving years of the 1870s to 1950s, unlike comparable areas in Western Australia or the Northern Territory. “The numbers here are much lower than in the NT waters. (Rusty has a great history of pearling in Far North Queensland on his website


Inserting mabe nucleus into pearl shell.

He holds his new shell in net panels until he accumulates 500 or so. “Then our pearl technician and friend, Shoichi Mizuno, comes up to seed them for us. It doesn’t really matter when we do the seeding (Mizuno did 500 in late November ‘11); even with virgin shell it can be done almost any time. However, the best time for harvesting the pearls is June into early August, when the gonad has retracted to give a firmer nacre; it results in a better presented pearl.” Harvesting pearls Bronwyn says that harvest is a busy time in the life of a pearl farm. “The shell have to be brought in and cleaned in preparation and the operating room has to be set up with table, tank, baskets, lights and lots of running water. Then it’s all systems go. “The shell are encouraged to open by placing them in a tank and running water around them, then wedging them open. They are then carried to the operating table where Mr Mizuno clamps them and uses dentist-like tools to locate and remove any pearls. He then decides if the shell is viable for reseeding and either places a nucleus into the pearl sac, or sets the shell aside. Those set aside are usually used for mabe pearls. “Any virgin shell being seeded for the first time must undergo very delicate surgery involving incisions and grafts. These shell are put back on the raft to rest for ten days. After their rest, they go through a turning cycle for six weeks then out onto the rafts.” An X-ray machine allows them to check if the nuclei have been retained in the shell. “This is only needed once and we usually do it early in the cycle, usually at around 6 months.” Pearls that have been harvested are rinsed in fresh water. They are then placed into a cotton bag with table salt and kneaded for about 20 minutes to remove any coating of mucus and bring out the natural lustre. The pearls are then sorted into the different shapes - round, drop, circle, baroque, keshii. After this,

Waiting for shell to open for harvest.

they are graded from gem quality down to low grade. It is a long but fascinating process, and it is easy to see why people through the ages have been obsessed by these small treasures. “Mizuno is a true professional and is able to work through difficult circumstances – his powers of concentration are amazing considering the seeding operation is so precise and delicate. “Other farms usually harvest the pearls after two years but we prefer to wait a full three years as this gives a larger pearl. I will tell you that it was a simply divine experience to do our first harvest (August 2011). We had nurtured these shells for two years, cleaning them every 4-6 weeks, checking them regularly. It was just a sheer joy to be able to hold in our hands beautiful pearls that we had grown ourselves.” Bronwyn says Rusty is experimenting with difference types of mantle tissue grafts to determine how this affects pearl colour and quality. “This seeding we wanted to experiment by seeding gold-lip shell with gold-lip saibo (mantle tissue cut from another shell), and silver-lip shell with silver-lip saibo,” she says. “The Pinctada maxima we use comes in both gold-lip and silver-lip. The difference just comes down to genetics, like blondes and brunettes. When virgin shell are first seeded, the technician cuts the saibo and uses it as a graft to make the pearl sac where the nuclei is placed. The mantle tissue acts as a host to begin the coating process that forms the pearl. “We want to see if putting gold with gold and silver with silver will increase the chances of producing specifically gold or silver pearls, and if it has an influence on the intensity of the colour.” Cleaning by hand “We don’t use high pressure water to clean the shell,” Rusty explains. “It might sound like a lot of work but we use blunt fish filleting knives; these are pretty flexible and allow us to scrape most of the fouling off the shell. Occasionally a big barnacle Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 13


Raft ready for newly-seeded shell.

Gem grade pearl purchased by Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, as a gift for the Queen.

Sunset over the raft at Turtlehead Island.

Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Torres Pearls include: • Low input farming utilising equipment left over from previous owners. • Selling direct to buyers. • Focus on low volumes, high quality pearls for niche markets. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture or Holding System utilised: longlines & rafts with hanging net panels • Growth rate (from seeding to market): about 3 years • Av. stocking density: maximum of 6 shell per panel (<5kg/m3) • Annual harvest: planning for 3,000 pearls

14 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Floating operations room - mobile so it can be positioned to suit wind and light.

may be found and we use a chef’s cleaver to knock them off.” According to Rusty this ensures that they physically inspect every shell at least once a month or so … any problems are quickly obvious. “We are also very particular about keeping our equipment very clean. We are doing everything we can to keep things going well.” Getting settled Rusty says that as soon as he arrived on the island he dropped any thoughts of wanting to be a big company. Twenty-eight years ago, when Rusty joined the army, he gave Bronwyn his horse and said: “I’ll come back and marry you when I sort myself out”. It took a while but on Valentine’s Day in 2010 he rang Bronwyn. “After quite a few phone calls and a visit over Easter, we got married on Sydney Harbour in front of the Opera House, my favourite shed. Since then we’ve been here and not much interested in going anywhere else. We love each other’s company, we work hard and we get to bed early as there is no TV (we don’t want one), only ABC radio and the internet. “It is a great lifestyle and the whole area is full of wildlife so


Shoichi Mizuno grading the August ‘10 harvest.

Cutting mantle tissue from sacrificial pearl shell to use as saibo

every day we see crocs, huge barramundi, occasionally snub finned dolphins and turtles cruising by. And some people would call this work!” The isolation means that poaching is not a problem. “However we do have ‘things’ in place for security reasons. Usually poaching is undertaken by someone in the industry, as they need to know which panels hold the near market pearls. “We were very pleased with our first harvest; so the small background we had in farming pearls has been good. We are totally in control of the stock as there is no-one else working here so we know we will get success.” The couple are members of The Pearl-, providing contact with the industry from farming right through to retail. “We grade our own pearls from Gem quality then A, B or C grade; we don’t sell any low grade product. “And we do not polish or tumble the pearls with bamboo or walnut chips to get enhanced lustre as their nacre is already a high quality. On my travels I have seen that as a problem in the retail end for our industry. Joe Public is not being presented with good clean pearls in many retail shops.”

Buckingham Palace. We are certain that there is a great future for selected pearls from small producers such as ourselves. The Tullys are slowly pulling down the old 1950s buildings that are in disrepair, whilst fixing up the better ones. And the old generator shed is being renovated with a view to offering it as a research facility for universities across Australia. Rusty is certain that the pristine area will be a great attraction to researchers and students. “It is a totally unique environment here. Although we are the only ones living here, we get plenty of visitors, mainly people going fishing in the area. We have an airstrip on the island or it’s a 30km boat ride through the mangroves and then 10km overland to the nearest town Bamaga which has a small population.” He says one of the more enjoyable aspects of working on the farm has been the help received from the Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries. “People like Kerrod Beattie, Michael Heidenreich and Brad Guy are a breath of fresh air and we have a great working relationship with them. “They came and stayed overnight to discuss our desires and direction last year. Their advice and assistance has helped us greatly on many fronts. We have changed our water boundaries to assist with boating anchorage as we have many yachts and cruisers from May to November come into the river for a rest or break from their travels. Our licence has had a species added to it (not for pearls, there’s another story we’ll tell you about in a few years maybe).”

Local markets Rusty and Bronwyn sell their product via their website and just two outlets - Bully and Cheryl on Cape York and Heaman Mendis at Kenmore in Brisbane. As more people find out about the magnificent area, they are getting more visitors and each one wants to take home a beautiful pearl for their special person. “We sell at around one-third of the price they would pay for raw pearls in the jewellers. We can put them on strands, gold or silver findings or other pieces.” One of their pearls was purchased by Anna Bligh (Qld Premier) for a gift to the Queen during her recent visit. “It is great to know that one of the pearls from our first harvest is in

By Dos O’Sullivan. All photos courtesy of Rusty & Bronwyn Tully. For more information contact Rusty & Bronwyn Tully, Torres Pearls, Turtlehead Island, c/- Post Office, Bamaga Qld 4876. Tel: 07 4069-4694, Email: Web:

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 15


Old trout fishermen’s saying: “The early bird catches the best fish (or at least has fun trying to)”.

Tuki Trout multi value-added produce Value-adding to most industry people means further processing of their fish, such as smoking, deboning, filleting or marinating. However, it also can be achieved by selling other products and experiences with the fish as the central item. A trout and tourism business north-west of Melbourne proves the sustainability of the concept.


iven almost 27 years of experience in growing Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Robert Jones knows exactly what he needs to do to make money. “We have a sustainable, low pressure, niche operation,” he says. “Our family business hinges on people coming onto our property to catch a fish and then we value-add to that fish. We have a high turnover in dollars but a low turnover in trout and people.” Tuki Trout Farm, part of Tuki Retreat, is situated on historic ‘Stoney Rises’, a traditional sheep grazing property just 1.5 hours’ drive north west of Melbourne in amongst the Goldfields, Spa and Macedon regions. The two kilometre private drive becomes a real scene-setter with the trout and spectacular scenery working in concert to keep guests and their families coming back many times. 16 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Tuki’s seven stone cottages are situated in the middle of the property and offer a wonderful view of the Loddon-Campaspe Valley. The one or two bedroom, self-contained cottages are surrounded by dry stonewalls, landscaped gardens and established trees … with a private lake in front. All have open fireplaces, cathedral ceilings and a veranda to watch the sunset on. Magic! For larger families or two couples the Miner’s Cottage is a restored heritage weatherboard cottage with three bedrooms. Surviving the drought Tuki (first featured in Austasia Aquaculture in the February ’04 edition) is not located in the traditional trout growing areas of the Yarra Valley and eastern Snowfields. The closest trout are found

in Lake Wendouree at Ballart (40 minutes’ drive) which is regularly stocked from a small hatchery (AA 22.1 Summer ’08). Although the ponds and lakes at Tuki are supplied with beautiful spring water, the dry and hot conditions over the ten years of drought meant that growing trout was difficult for Robert, his wife Jan and son Alistair. “During the drought we had the same total numbers of stock, but we had to keep stocking densities down by having more stockings throughout the year,” Robert explains. “We purchase fry from Naragani and Buxton (AA 25.3 Spring ’11) Trout Farms. This meant our overheads were higher and we needed to be more conservative with the fish numbers. We had a dual system of aerators to reduce the vulnerability of the trout during hot spells.


“We now are experiencing more normal weather cycles and that makes it easier to keep the fish healthy. With more water going through the ponds it is a lot easier to provide sufficient trout for our tourism business.” Price maker not takers Robert compares the economics of their operation to other agricultural businesses where the focus is often ‘bigger is better’. “Like on any farm you can produce twice as much but if you are only selling it for half-price, then you are getting nowhere. And with bigger volumes you usually have to take what the market is willing to pay you. We find it is much better to set our own prices for a number of low volume products and let the customer choose the ones they want.” According to Robert they have created a number of income sources which support each other. “The cottages are working well and we have good demand for them. We just need to manage and maintain that side of the business – it relies a lot on word-of-mouth and repeat guests. We have two different websites, work closely with Tourism Victoria and we use other promotions ... for instance good lead-in signs so people can easily find us when driving up from Melbourne. “We also have a private airstrip so we regularly get people flying in for a meal or for a stay overnight or for the weekend. Getting the people onto the site is the key factor; once they are here we can offer them lots of different things to buy.” Entry is $8/adult and $4 per child plus $5 for rod hire (including bait which is mainly corn). A family pass provides admittance for two adults plus kids as well as two rods, bait and a hand net. The main meal package costs $32 which includes entry, rod/bait/net and a specially cooked meal of the fish caught. Or visitors can have a sumptuous banquet for $50 which includes three courses –entree of smoked trout pate, main course and a home-made dessert. “We have an 80 seat restaurant which

A couple relaxingly enjoys trout fishing at Tuki – the catch can then be specially prepared by a chef for dinner in their own little house.

serves meals during the day (11-5pm, meals for the cabins only are sold after 6pm),” Robert continues. “We have the normal highs and lows with that but the important thing is to continually offer the best service possible. Great tasting local food is the best way to do this. Of course we have the trout as a key meal; however we also have our beef and lamb from right off our property. We don’t talk about food miles, we talk about food feet! It is only a short trip into the local abattoir and

then we have fresh meat back here. As table water we use our own spring water. The vegetables and condiments are local produce.” Trout size is an important part of the success of the restaurant. “We prefer to work with pan-sized trout, so 350-400g is the best; the fishout ponds are stocked with fish that size. We will stun it for them, clean it and then cook the delicious deboned trout with fresh potatoes, bread and salad and the right dressings.

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A Q U A C U L T U R E TA N K S Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 17


Fishing is fun for all ages, never too young!

Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Tuki Trout Farm include: • Certification: HACCP (Prime Safe & local council), Accreditation through Australian Tourism’s Accreditation Program • Farm gate sales and value-adding of the trout and other products for visitors and guests. • Further value-adding through the onsite restaurant adds another cash flow option. It is important to ensure that the visitation is year round, as small numbers during the winter time can mean a reduced cash flow. • Formulated pellet use is lowered and the trout are allowed to grow in a more ‘natural’ environment to give an attractive taste. • The use of a hand grader means less stress on the fish and a higher product quality. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include: • Culture or Holding System utilised: earthen flow-through ponds, low stocking densities • Growth rate (from stocking to market): 8 months (10g to 350g,) • Survival rate: 90% from first stocking to sale size • Av. stocking density: <7kg/m3 or per culture unit (range is 3-7kg/ m3) • Production rate: 2.9kg per 1,000m3 (growout system volume) per year • Power use: 4 kWhrs per kg produced per year • FCR: 0.85:1 (number of kg of food to produce 1kg stock)

18 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

“We have clear procedures on this and are proud of our ethical and honest food. Even though our ponds are a little turbid, our fish still taste very good. We don’t have problems with gum leaves or other organic matter tainting the flesh.” If guests don’t want to catch their own fish, no matter; it can be netted out for them. A lot of international groups come on buses to catch a fish, see it cooked and then eat it. “If they also buy some drinks, appetisers and desserts then their culinary experience has been increased and we have sold more product. It is all about value adding at a number of different levels.” Smoked fish Robert says the largest fish ever caught in his ponds was a whopping 6.5kg. It was an anomaly. “Obviously how long the fish stay in the ponds determines how big they can grow, but we like to keep the fish well below 1kg. Pan size is preferred for our cooking, but we can stun and gill gut larger fish for fresh sales ($15.50/kg whole weight). So we work hard to catch the aggressive feeders that grow faster and we catch these every week for smoking.”

Smoked whole trout ($30/kg) and pate ($5.20/110g tub) provide other income streams for the business. “We smoke around 100 fish every week. This regular turnover with sales through the shop helps with staff work loads. We don’t sell much product offsite; a little to local delis and restaurants. However we do sell a lot of this value-added product to visitors and guests as take-aways.” Robert smokes his fish slower and longer than other farms. “This means that we may lose more weight. But the payoff is beautiful firm flesh. We use a special brine for drying out the fish and add a few special ingredients to give a generous flavour following the hot smoking (which may go for 8-10 hours).” The fish are quickly cooled and then placed in single sleeves with a backing card for cryovac packing. “These look a million dollars and have up to six weeks shelf life; however most people will consume the fish more quickly. Our cooking system and our HACCP Plan is audited a couple of times a year by Prime Safe (Vic Government agency) to ensure we have a product that is safe to eat.”


Fish husbandry There are 14 growout ponds (averaging 70m long, 7m wide and 2m deep) for a total area of 0.5 ha. 1.5ha of fish out ponds and a small lake are also used for bait and lure fly-fishing; these have lower stocking densities (<3kg/m3) than the growout ponds (7kg/m3). The growout ponds have been built below the fishout ponds to enable the water to gravity feed through each of the ponds. Water is recirculated through a storage dam to reduce the amount of water used on the property. Tuki doesn’t have much of problem with birds as the growing ponds are netted. “We may lose a couple of fish from the fishing ponds and lake in the mornings before people are around but we can work with that. Usually most of the fish are too big (>300g) to be worried by the birds. “Water rats are a more difficult problem to overcome. Foxes only take dead fish killed by injury from the fishing.” The ponds support a large number and variety of aquatic animals (such as insects, yabbies and freshwater shrimp); a slow water exchange rate through the ponds ensures this potential feed is not swept out. For supplementary feeds Robert uses Aquafeeds. “These floating pellets are good quality and have natural colours. We only use a few tonnes of feed each year so this is not a big issue.” Just 30,000 fish move through the business each year for a total harvest of ten tonnes. The aim is for high quality fish products – fresh, cooked, smoked and pate – sold onsite at a good price. “We valueadd as much as possible,” Robert says, “with the tourism side of the business as people come here for a trout meal experience, whether it is a bus group, a family or a couple ‘looking to get away from it all’.”

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By Dos O’Sullivan All photos courtesy of Tuki Trout. For more information contact Jan and Robert Jones, Tuki Trout Farm, 60 Stoney Rises Rd, Smeaton, Vic 3364. Tel: 03 5345 6233, Fax: 03 5345 6377, Email:,

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 19



Small seed attached to a culture rope. Photo courtesy of Spring Bay Seafoods.

Aussie mussel farmers expand market

A delicious dish of freshly steamed Australian Blue Mussels. Photo courtesy of an AMIA member.

20 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Expect to see more beautiful Australian farmed mussels in restaurants and in fish shops as the local growers continue to increase production. The companies are working together to expand their produce range and to develop new markets.

ommercial mussel farming occurs in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia. All 23 farms grow the blue mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; also referred to as the black mussel â&#x20AC;&#x201C; which is native to Australia. The approved common name for the species (Australian Blue Mussels) is registered through the Australian Fish Names Standard and listed in the Australian Seafood Handbook. Whilst the majority of farms use rope culture hanging down from surface longlines, one farm in NSW also uses floating wooden rafts. Mussel growers in each state are issued with a marine farm licence by their State governments to operate a marine farm lease according to specific conditions and criteria. Various pieces of state and Commonwealth planning and environmental protection legislation are applied to and influence mussel farming operations. This is usually condensed into one regulation under a State Fisheries, Aquaculture or Marine Act which acts as a checkpoint and provides a rigorous framework for the industryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s environmental compliance and sustainability. Hatchery production of juvenile mussel spat has recently been commercialised and now takes place in Tasmania and Victoria; elsewhere the farming is almost exclusively based on natural settlement and collection of wild caught spat. All growing areas are covered under the international best practice Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program to ensure mussels are only harvested for consumption when the growing waters are clean and can be traced from farm to plate. Australian mussel producers are also issued with a state-based food safety or processing licence to operate which is regulated by the Australian Food Standards Code. In Australia several mussel farms are either certified organic (for example by NASAA, or have won prestigious awards for their pursuit of excellence in environmental sustainability


(for example Friend of The Sea, Clearly, mussel growers are proud of their environmental sustainability. Their motto – “Our healthy mussel is your coastal environment’s tick of approval!” – says it all. The industry is now worth more than $10m, an increase of more than 30% over the past ten years. Since 2007/08, the average (in the shell) farm gate price has increased slightly from $2.70 to $2.92/kg although the price ranges between states – approximately $4.00/kg in NSW, $1.86/kg for SA, $3.52/ kg in Vic, $3.46/kg in Tas and $3.45/kg in WA. Whilst several mussel farmers and processors are licenced for export to nearby South East Asian countries, all producers compete in the Australian domestic market for fresh mussels. And in this local market they must contend with annual imports of around 3,000 tonnes of the processed New Zealand Green Mussel (Perna canaliculus worth many millions of dollars. Increasing compliance and operating costs (fuel, labour, ropes & buoys, etc.) has meant that profit margins are continually under downward pressure. So, with the help of the FRDC, a core group of farmers around the country recently established the Australian Mussel Industry Association (AMIA) to take a lead role in industry support and development. More of their compatriots are now joining.

The AMIA’s mission is to: • Work collaboratively with mussel growers from all regions across Australia • Provide strong leadership and effective governance for the mussel industry. • Develop and implement R&D plans and projects for industry to promote investment and boost discovery and adoption of innovation by producers and chain partners.

• Provide representation and advocacy for mussel growers to external stakeholders, industry partners, governments and the broader community. • Communicate environmental and product stewardship practices throughout the supply chain • Promote the benefits of Australian Blue mussels to markets and the community.


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Lifting demand Promoting Australian Blue Mussels as a healthy, versatile and easy to prepare meal is one of the priorities: a well-constructed website (www.australianmussels. has now been developed to publicise the fact. It details how the Australian Blue Mussels are a good source of iron, protein, selenium, iodine and omega-3 and exceed the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. The AMIA says that Australians can eat a lot more mussels because they’re great for everyone. Each European eats around

• 2 large Aluminium punts 50ft and 35ft • Deep water oyster shed (crown land lease) on concrete piles with (wharf in need of repair) depuration tanks – connected electricity, water and sewerage. • Cages and 2 x 12 ft Aluminium punts (work boats) motors etc. • Oyster spat – various size • Lots and lots of ancillary equipment Inspection Invited… $115,000 Tel: Tom Hoult 02 4362 2233 evenings or email:

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 21


Harvesting Australian Blue Mussels.

AMIA mussel growers who sell direct to the public include:

Photo courtesy of Sea Bounty.

Eden Sea Farms Snug Cove, Main Wharf, Eden, NSW Mobile: 0428 961 116 Email: Boston Bay Mussels Port Lincoln, SA, 5606 Mobile: 0427 440 194

A happy skipper and crew at Sea Bounty.

Load of mussels harvested for the plates of Australia.

Photo courtesy of Sea Bounty.

Kinkawooka Mussels

Photo courtesy of Sea Bounty.

Port Lincoln SA 5606 Mobile: 0410 240 007 Dover Bay Mussels Dover, Tas 7117 Mobile: 0437 767 076 Spring Bay Seafoods Triabunna, Tasmania 7190 Ph: 03 6257-3614 Email: Certified: Friend of the Sea Advance Mussel Supply

Table: Production of mussels for each state in 2009-10 (ABARES 2011).

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22 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

2kg of mussels each year. Although 30% of Australians eat mussels and do so every 6-7 weeks, on average each of us is only eating 150 grams of Australian mussels per year. So there’s big potential upside in Aussie demand. Australian blue mussels can be brought

from local seafood retailers either live or prepacked. The funny Murray the Mussel video (a hit on YouTube) is a novel way to dispel the common Mussel myths about not eating mussels that don’t open when cooked – Murray the Mussels says that the mussels that don’t open when they’re


cooked are OK to eat – sometimes they just hang on harder!! The advice to throw away mussels that refuse to open began in the 1970s when there were concerns over some European mussels being dredged from polluted mussel beds. This advice has been repeated without question by chefs and in many ‘how to cook fish’ cookbooks since then. Just over 10% of mussels will stay closed after being cooked and depending on cooking time. As it is steamed, the mussel opens when the adductor muscle inside the shell breaks. If that adductor muscle does not sever or separate from the shell, then the mussel will not open. Closed mussels can be cooked a little longer or the shell prised open with a knife. Some helpful do’s and don’t’s include: • If buying fresh mussels, look for mussels that are closed and full of water. • If open the fresh mussels will close their shells if tapped, or move if the shell is squeezed. • Do not buy mussels that smell ‘fishy’ or look open and dried out (these have long since died). • Fresh live mussels can be stored out of water in a moist, cool environment, e.g. covered in ice, for between 8-12 days depending on season. • To keep them alive cover them with ice but never soak the mussels in ice water – always allow melted ice to drain away. • Don’t store mussels in airtight containers or plastic bags without holes or they will suffocate. • When cooking wash the mussels briefly in cold water if not prepacked. Discard

Rotating steel rollers pull the byssal threads off the mussels, this process is termed debyssing and it allows a very clean live product ready for cooking. Photo courtesy of Spring Bay Seafoods.

mussels that won’t close when tapped. Remove the beard with a knife if it hasn’t been removed already. • Mussels can be cooked in less than 3 minutes when steamed in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Don’t overcook. Chef Michael Bacash (Bacash Restaurant, South Yarra, Melbourne) supports the message, “The bottom line is that if the mussel is fresh, you cook it and it doesn’t open, but it smells good, it’s more than fine to eat.”

By Dos O’Sullivan.

Healthy Stock = Healthy Profits

Certified surface area: 14075mm2 per unit

Product range expanded Gone are the days when mussels were just sold in wet sacks. Australian Blue Mussels can be bought from your local seafood retailer in a range of different products: • loose, live mussels on ice (sold in bulk bins or bags), these are transported in plastic bags. • live mussels in bags or pouches in reduced or modified atmosphere conditions. • shucked and marinated mussel meat in plastic containers or jars, usually 200-500g.

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Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 23


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The Next Ten Years Melbourne is the capital city of the Australian State of Victoria where, arguably, aquaculture was first practiced. Melbourne is playing host to the next Australasian Aquaculture Conference and International Trade Show taking place 1- 4 May 2012. The theme of the Conference and of the whole week’s activities is ‘The Next Ten Years’.


efore we look forward let us look back thousands of years. In south- western Victoria, specifically at the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape at Lake Condah, there is evidence of a large, settled Aboriginal community (Gunditjmara) systematically farming eels for food and trade in what is considered to be Australia’s and possibly the region’s earliest and largest aquaculture venture. This complex enterprise took place in a rugged landscape carved out by natural forces and full of meaning to the people who lived there. They built stone dams to hold the water, creating ponds and wetlands in which they grew Southern Shortfin Eels (Anguilla australis) and other fish. They also created channels linking these wetlands. These channels contained weirs with large woven baskets made to harvest mature Eels. The trees close by were hollowed out

and used as smoking ‘ovens’ to cook the Eels and the modified and engineered wetlands and Eel traps provided an economic basis for the development of a settled society with villages. With European settlement in the area in the 1830s came conflict. As this conflict came to an end in the 1860s, many Aboriginal people were displaced but the lands were eventually returned to Gunditjmara people in 1987. Nowadays Aquaculture in the area is managed under the Fisheries Act (Victoria) 1995. The Act provides for the management, development and promotion of an ecologically sustainable and viable aquaculture industry. Over the years there have been major efforts to support aquaculture development with both the Government and industry investing in a range of projects. Victoria’s aquaculture industry increased its production value (farm gate)

by 60% between 98 and 2006 from $13.7 million to $21.9 million or approximately 6% per annum. The new vision (the Victorian Aquaculture Strategy) is to “grow the value of the Victorian aquaculture industry from $22 million to $60 million by 2015 in a sustainable manner”. Victorian aquaculture is undertaken in a variety of offshore, coastal and inland facilities and includes the production of Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Salmon (including hand milked caviar), Abalone, Blue Mussel, Aquarium Finfish, Eel, Murray Cod, Barramundi, Silver Perch, Golden Perch and Yabby. However, the aquaculture industry in Victoria is confronted with a number of challenges which are affecting its competitiveness. The abalone sector is recovering from the impact of a virus outbreak, and the trout and eel sectors have major production problems associated with freAutumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 25

quent drought. There is an urgent need to attract investment in the industry to achieve economies of scale, and the Conference is seen by locals as a means to this end. Future challenges include: adapting to climate change and associated water shortages and bio-security risks; increasing competition in local and global markets; declining terms of trade; and meeting consumer demands (including the sustainability of production systems and integrity of seafood products). There is little doubt that key challenges will need to be addressed for the Victorian aquaculture industry to capitalise on the opportunities associated with its pristine environment and the increasing global demand for seafood, and for it to be part of the significant global aquaculture industry now valued at more than $70 billion p.a. One major issue in the strong mussel farming sector has recently been addressed and you will get the chance to see this during one of the conference tours. The industry struggled for years with an unreliable supply of wild spat for seed-stock, a situation which has now been resolved through a collaborative hatchery project between the state government and a mussel industry group. Benefits have included a doubling of hatchery output to almost 6000 spat ropes per season, a competitive advantage through the production of spat outside its usual seasonal availability. At least 20% of hatchery production will be made available to industry members not directly involved in the hatchery increasing employment opportunities for regional Victoria. Technology transfer to industry will facilitate potential development of a larger, commercial-scale hatchery. This development has the potential to add a further 1,700 tonnes annually to the sector. Since their inception in, the biennial Australasian Aquaculture conferences Austasia ustasia Aqu Aquaculture quacu ac lture | Autumn 2012 266 A

have been organised on a joint venture basis between the Australian National Aquaculture Council and WAS-APC. This relationship has prospered over the years and the conference series has been extremely successful. The establishment of this strong relationship recently secured the World Aquaculture Conference and Trade Show which will be held in Adelaide 7-11 June 2014. Both Melbourne and Adelaide Conferences will have lots of additional activities besides bringing all that comes with such Conferences and Trade Shows. In Melbourne there are events every day from 28 April right through to 6 May (see table) so whatever your connection to aquaculture, you should find an interesting aspect to engage you. On top of that we have networking opportunities and some events, including the inaugural Australasian Aquaculture Awards, which are being held as part of the ‘Articulture’ function at the National Gallery of Victoria. The naming rights sponsor, Skretting Australia (the leading supplier of fish feed in Australasia), and other important sponsors – Fisheries Research & Development Corporation and Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre – have joined with the State Government of Victoria in ensuring there will be much to remember from the occasion. Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE is sponsoring the venues for the Recirculation Aquaculture System Workshop and the AquaEd event. Agrifood Skills Australia is the key sponsor for AquaEd along with Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Global Aquaculture Alliance is sponsoring the Awards program which is an exciting new initiative for the industry. Intrafish is coming on board as the media sponsor for the first time as they look to expand their coverage of our industry. We welcome all sponsors’ involvement as we all work

together in the development of a strong aquaculture industry. Aquaculture Field Trips organised through Department of Primary Industry (Aquaculture section) will be held pre and post Conference. These are full-day tours, including lunch. The first covers Inland Aquaculture and the second Marine Aquaculture – both promise to be good opportunities to see industry and government activities, and provide opportunities for discussion and networking. The home of the Conference and Trade Show is the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC), the centrepiece of a new world-class $1.4 billion Conference and Events precinct, which includes a new Convention Centre as an extension to the current award winning Exhibition Centre, hotels, restaurants, retail and residential establishments. This is located in central Melbourne, on the banks of the Yarra River in the developing South Wharf area, a vibrant river-side precinct, easily accessed by public transport and within walking/short distance to accommodation and more restaurants. The MCEC sets a new benchmark through its advanced applications in presentation technology and its World’s First ‘6 Star, Green Star’ Environmental Rating. Combined with its innovative design and new operational features, organisations and guests will be assured of a high level of event delivery, in a comfortable and exciting environment. It is one of the ‘greenest’ Convention Centres in the world. What better place to present the world’s most environmentally friendly food source, Aquaculture? An excellent array of plenary speakers have been organised for the conference all focusing on different aspects of the main theme. The opening will include Dr Alex Obach, Managing Director of Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre, Norway and Chen Wen, Director of Fisheries Division of Guangdong Provincial

Oceanic and Fisheries Administration, China. From those two speakers we will get a great understanding of two major global issues in aquaculture today, technology development and sustainability in aquaculture feeds and the direction of the China’s largest region in respects of supply and demand of product. The plenary of the second day will feature two communication experts and will focus on food security with Julian Cribb and how the industry will need to adapt with Paul McCarthy. This will be followed on the third day with the Seafood CRC bringing a focus on two wildly disparate but vitally important areas of research. This first will focus on technology in the shape of the role that will be played in the future of aquaculture by the incredibly rapidly evolving molecular sciences such as genomics. The second plenary will focus on the opportunities in seafood marketing. An Australasian Aquaculture event without Tom Losordo running an expert Recirculation Workshop (28/29 April) would not meet expectations and clearly from the interest being shown the demand for such information is higher than ever. The organizers have encouraged Seafood Services Australia to arrange the Seafood Incident Response Workshop on 1 May – this is an interesting activity as a pretend food safety crisis is created and all people attending will be engaged in understanding how to manage such an event. For those people who are interested in Training, Education and Workforce Development the AquaEd event will be taking place after the conference on 5 and 6 May. The small extra fee for this includes coach transfers, lunch and dinner and will be an important event as we will have speakers from China, New Zealand, Texas and Alaska as well as from all around Australia focusing minds on the key challenges in delivering appropriate education and training in aquaculture to meet the specific demands of an expanding industry.

For the first time an Australasian Aquaculture event is being held midweek in order to allow participants the chance to engage with Melbourne’s main events at this time of the year including football of all codes. Activities and how to get involved will be lodged on the website Of course aside from the attractions of Melbourne itself, Victoria and Australia beyond offers numourous opportunities for tourists including its wide open spaces, its fabulous wildlife and multiple adventure options. This truly is a jam-packed week so get in for the early bird concessions as soon as you can and start thinking ‘Melbourne in May’ and let this be the beginning of your own Ten Year Plan. Authors Roy Palmer

Roy has been involved the seafood industry since 1972. He has been engaged in the majority of AA events but took a greater involvement since 2008 was the Chairman of 2010 event in Hobart, has played a strong role in the Melbourne event and hopes to continue through to Adelaide. As WAS-APC Past President he is still very keen on developing that Chapter for the Society.

Roy’s expertise lies in marketing, food safety, trade and training/education. Currently Roy has a number of roles within the industry and recently became the Australia/New Zealand Business Development Manager for Global Aquaculture Alliance. Dr Graham Mair

Graham has been involved in aquaculture and seafood research in the region for well over two decades and has lived and worked in SE Asian aquaculture for 16 of those years. He has been heavily involved with APC-WAS (having served as its President in 2007/8) and WAS (as a Board member from 2008-11) and has played significant roles in the organisation of a number of successful regional conferences. Graham currently works a Program Manager for Production Innovation as part of the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (the Seafood CRC) and is thus actively engaged with a large part of the Australian aquaculture research community. The Seafood CRC is a major sponsor of AA 12 including the coordination of a number of special sessions.

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 27

Aquatic Eco-Systems


Booth No. 56

Booth Nos: 107, 108,& 109

Tel: 02) 65864933

Selection. Service. Solutions Aquatic Eco-Systems is the largest source of aquatic products and systems worldwide.


Since it was founded in 1978, AES has offered unmatched selection, service and solutions to the aquatic community, and has provided integrated and comprehensive solutions for the entire aquaculture chain. Our talented staff of technicians is available for consultations on projects ranging from freshwater and marine fish to shrimp and beyond. Because our staff consists of biologists and technicians with real world experience, we understand the needs of aquaculturists. This translates to better technical advice and innovation. As the industry evolves, our R & D department identifies needs and addresses them. We continue to develop new products to meet the demands of the ever-changing marketplace. Additionally, we offer expert advice, educational workshops and the equipment you need for your aquaponics projects. Installation services are also available with a team that you can trust. No matter the scope of your project, you can let Aquatic EcoSystems’ experience work for you. AES is proud to continue its partnership with Proaqua. With our selection and experience, coupled with all the services Proaqua has to offer, we bring another level of support to the Australian aquaculture market.


28 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012 Aquasonic’s technical staff will be on hand to answer any questions you may have in relation to products or layouts of various aquaculture systems. Aquasonic is an Australian owned and operated company based in Wauchope NSW. We are the largest Aquacultural supplier in Australia. We have been working with the Aquaculture industry in Australia since 1967 at a time when the industry itself was still in its infancy. Sue and Richard Carson built the company up from small beginnings and with the sudden passing of Richard, Sue has continued that vision, steadily expanding and moving the company forward. Aquasonic now stock over 6,000 different product lines specifically designed for the aquaculture industry. We are also the exclusive agents for approximately 40 overseas based companies such as Point4, VMG, Air Sep, YSI, FIAP, Daeil, Varicon, Emperor Aquatics, Ozotech, Performance Pro Pumps, RK2, and Aquaculture System Technologies to name but a few. Aquasonic will have a substantial presence at the Australasian Aquaculture Conference, having 3 booths (No’s 107, 108, & 109). We will also have on display quality equipment such as monitors, ultraviolet sterilisers, oxygen concentrators, ozone generators, filtration equipment, heaters and pumps. The Aquasonic team will be able to advise you on what equipment is best suited for your operation whether it be a large commercial operation or small family concern. Aquasonic stock a complete range of quality affordable aquaculture products at their Wauchope factory/warehouse. Our goal is to provide our customers with a one- stop shop, where all customers can be assured that they will be able to purchase quality equipment at competitive prices.

“Hatch to harvest”

Freecall | 1800 024 850

Fax | 1300 308 001

Booth No: 12

Pentair Aquaculture Technologies

Tel: 1300 304 634

Booth No: 70


Contact: Steven Lelli

Tel: +61 3 95744021

Please visit Nick and Lisa for assistance with your queries.


Proaqua is an Australian owned and operated company with a specialized range of products and services directed at providing essential aquaculture inputs. Our objective is to provide high quality products, and to identify, develop and introduce new technologies to the aquaculture industry. The Proaqua team offer practical on-farm and scientific knowledge and skills that complement our product range ensuring a high level of technical support if required. Products include: • Aeration Equipment • Growout feeds for prawns and fin fish • Algae Hatchery feeds (including a range of algae concentrates) • Pond water conditioning products

A fresh approach to school work

The global leader in water technology is making aquaculture a priority. Pentair Aquaculture Technologies specializes in the design, manufacture and distribution of equipment and engineering solutions for both recirculating and pond aquaculture systems. As part of a $3.8 billion global diversified industrial manufacturer, Pentair’s breadth of products, state-of-the-art technology and engineering expertise will be able to meet any need a farmer has for the movement and treatment of water.

A Member of The Linde Group

At BOC, we understand the knowledge, expertise and process needed to successfully work in the aquaculture industry, and we’re proud to play an important role. Whether you’re talking about oxygen for improving hatchery performance or growth in sea cages, our comprehensive range of industrial gases both in bulk and compressed supply, welding equipment or safety products — we’re there. You can count on our reputation and commitment to service and safety because your business is important to both of us. 7o ľnd out more, please contact Australia

New Zealand

131 262 www.

0800 111 333

BOC Limited Riverside Corporate Park, 10 Julius Avenue, North Ryde, NSW 2113 Australia BOC is a trading name of BOC Limited, a Member of The Linde Group. © BOC Limited 2012.


Proaqua Pty Ltd

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 29

Fresh By Design Group

Seafarm Systems

Booth No: 53, & 54

Booth Nos: 86,87,88,89,90 & 91

Tel: 02) 4868 1762

Tel: 03) 6274 0222


Joining us will be Aubert Faivre from Faivre and David Jarron from Vaki. Ben and his team look forward to meeting existing and new customers in Melbourne.

The Fresh By Design Group is an Australian company providing expertise in world-class equipment to all sectors of the Australasian aquaculture industry since 1998. We advise and supply just about everything for aquaculture – from lab supplies and test kits up to the supply, design and installation of equipment sourced using the very best products and best prices available. So whether it’s oxygen or ozone ,UV or chemical supplies, tanks or drum filters, fish pumps or graders, biomedia and paddlewheels – The Fresh By Design Group will source and supply the best. Our collaboration with Dr Matt Landos of Future Fisheries Veterinary Service adds an important dimension to our business – ensuring both the fish and the farmer are supported through Matt’s experienced aquatic animal health and diagnostic services.

Sunlover Heating Booth No: 74 Tel: 02) 9720 2133 Sunlover Heating have offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland. For all your aquaculture water heating requirements – Gas, heat pumps or solar – please come and visit us for more information. Sunlover Heating commenced 22 years ago as Sunlover Solar with a range of products supplying the swimming pool industry. Sunlover have since branched out into many other industries, including aquaculture. The Oasis brand of heat pump is a well established highly efficient range with Titanium heat exchanges that come with a lifetime warranty against corrosion. Many have already been installed in major institutions in Australia, New Zealand and throughout Australasia. These heat /cool units are available from 8kw to 150kw.

32 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Come and visit us at at our booths where we will have many technical staff to address your requirements. We look forward to meeting you and being of service. Seafarm Systems, a division of Plastic Fabrications, is a leading supplier of fish farming equipment domestically and internationally. Head office is located in Goodwood Tasmania, we have branches in Port Lincoln South Australia and have just announced and launched Sea Farm Systems New Zealand which is based in Christchurch to service our Kiwi friends and customers. Seafarm Systems have formed a 50% joint venture in Aquasure Plastik based in Bodrum Turkey which includes a very new, recently commissioned rotational moulding plant for producing many aquaculture related products to service the global market. We have a long term partner in Japan with Dainichi Corporation; we have exported heavily into this market over many years with much success and have built an excellent history based on quality and service. Our cages and related equipment are very well respected. Seafarm Systems is committed to the aquaculture industry; we manufacture and provide some of the leading brands used in the industry today with proven results. Some of these brands include: Aquasure sea cages, MIC – revolutionary net inspection and cleaning, AQUAMOOR mooring systems – supply of components or supply and install, SFSNETS - complete net solutions (Dyneema, traditional, semi rigid & rigid) Aquatruck high density polyethylene work boats, Weight hook – diver less net weighting system. We have exported to all parts of the globe with no job too big or too small.

BOC Limited Booth No: 112 Freecall: 131 262 Email:



With BOC, ideas become solutions. Come and visit us for more information.

BOC Limited is a Member of The Linde Group, and supplies compressed and bulk gases, chemicals and equipment throughout Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. With its innovative concepts, BOC is playing a pioneering role in the global market. As a technology leader it is our task to constantly raise the bar. Traditionally driven by entrepreneurship, we are working steadily on new highquality products and innovative processes. BOC offers more. We create added value, clearly discernible competitive advantages, and greater profitability.

Each concept is tailored specifically to meet our customers’ requirements – offering standardised as well as customised solutions. This applies to all industries and all companies regardless of their size. If you want to keep pace with tomorrow’s competition, you need a partner by your side for whom top quality, process optimisation, and enhanced productivity are part of daily business. However, we define partnership not merely as being there for you, but being with you. After all, joint activities form the core of commercial success.

At the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation our job is to help you. We can provide you with advice on where to get information, the best research expertise in the country, as well as people development and marketing opportunities.

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 33

Seapa Booth No: 18

Sunderland Marine Mutual Insurance Company Ltd

Contact: Garry Thompson

Booth No: 111

Tel: 08) 8357 6611

Tel: 03) 9560 6288


SEAPA works with farmers to develop new and innovative products that offer practical solutions to farming issues. We understand that every farming environment and technique has unique requirements. Our extensive product range reflects an effective and ongoing partnership with the aquaculture industry. Let us work with you. SEAPA carries a commitment to continuous improvement. We invest in developing lasting relationships with our customers and have an ever-expanding product range. SEAPA is able to provide quality aquaculture products, designed to exacting standards that meet our customer’s requirements and provide superior value for money. SEAPA uses state of the art technology to provide quality aquaculture products to the local and global market. Production methods are certified to AS/NZS ISO 9001/2008 and undertaken by the sister company Garon Plastics Pty Ltd, at the jointly occupied, modern and purpose built premises in Adelaide South Australia. SEAPA is proud of its range of products and strives to provide its customers with solutions that best meet their needs. Our reputation sees us stand by our products and we endeavour to offer after sales service that is second to none.

Technolab Marketing Booth No: 100 Contact: Scott Powell Tel: 03 6244 1330 Email:

34 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012 The world’s leading Fishing Vessel and Aquaculture Insurer, Sunderland reached a ‘silver anniversary’ milestone in 2011, having provided cover to fish farmers around the world for 25 years. A true Mutual, the company is owned by and works solely for insured members. With no independent share holders we are able to provide the most competitive of terms, a level of technical service second to none and an excellent claims settlement capability. Our Insured throughout Australia and New Zealand include Salmon & Trout Farmers, Tuna Farmers, Abalone Farmers, Barramundi, Eel and Perch Farmers with new species and new farms constantly under consideration. Insured systems include off shore cage farms, land based pump ashore sea farms and enclosed fresh and saltwater recirculation systems. With offices in Perth, Melbourne, and Nelson (NZ), the Company are well positioned to contend with the wide geographic spread of risks that we are involved with throughout Australasia. Our Aquaculture Manager, Chris Kennedy, will be present at the show to answer queries and discuss insurance and risk management options with interested attendees.

Technolab are the exclusive distributors for OxyGuard International and Hydrotech in Australia and New Zealand. OxyGuard manufacture measuring, monitoring, alarm, control and data logging equipment for dissolved oxygen, pH, redox and temperature as well as larger systems that incorporate other parameters. Hydrotech specialise in Drum, Disc and Belt filtration systems for Aquaculture. Technolab can make integration of a filtration and dissolved oxygen system into your farm, hatchery or process simple, reliable and cost effective. The OxyGuard Commander system can control the operation of an entire fish farm or system. Commander includes some very advanced functions, but you only purchase what you need, so it is also ideal for smaller or less complicated systems. Technolab, OxyGuard and Hydrotech have worked together in partnership for many years and over that time have introduced revolutionary products that have become standard instruments of choice in the aquaculture and environmental industry.


See us in Melbourne, Stand 111

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 35


Preparing an injection for an adult turtle. Photo by Damien Fordham.

Close up of a feeding crocodile exploding out of a pen. Photo by Grahame Webb.


Croc farming success unlikely to lead the way for turtles International and domestic regulations for the protection for marine and freshwater turtles imply that commercial exploitation is not possible. But is it? Grahame Webb, who was instrumental in the worldwide development of crocodile farming, is at odds with the environmentalists who consider turtles as a ‘no touch species’. Other Australian scientists and aquaculturists are also examining the potential. 36 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

rahame Webb has been researching crocodiles for nearly 40 years and, with other research biologists, established the unique Crocodylus Park in 1994 to improve the conservation, management and sustainable use of crocodiles in Australia’s north. Located some 20 minutes’ drive from Darwin’s CBD, Crocodylus Park now attracts more than 60,000 visitors annually and continues world class research on crocodiles and other reptiles. The facility also contains a modest crocodile production facility – a commercial breeding, growout and processing operation – which annually sells more than $2 million worth of crocodile meat, skins and by-product (skulls, heads, skeletons, stuffed crocodiles, feet, claws, teeth and back straps) together with finished products (belts, wallets, handbags). Grahame is world renowned for the pioneering work he did underpin the sustainable use of crocodiles. In the early days of Austasia Aquaculture, Grahame supplied a number of feature stories on the farming of the Saltwater (Crocodylus porusus) and Freshwater (C. johnstoni) Crocodiles. His message back then, is the same as it is now: “To save the crocodile we need to protect its habitat which in turn can only be achieved by making crocodiles commercially viable.”


Conservation through sustainable use Grahame is a very active promoter of conservation through sustainable use (CSU), writing numerous scientific and technical papers on the subject using the recovery of the N.T. crocodile populations as an example. Recently he has extended this focus to include the captive breeding and marketing of turtles. “We needed to create a commercial reason to save the saltwater crocodile. In 1971, after three decades of unregulated hunting, wild populations had been depleted by at least 95%. Thirty years later (2001), those populations had returned to near pristine levels (around 75,000 individuals); they now occupy their complete historical range. When you consider their profile as a ‘top-end’ predator, public support for that recovery was a remarkable achievement!” According to Grahame there are now fourteen crocodile farms around Australia producing more than $30 million worth of products. However, he notes that the tourism value of crocodiles is many times higher. “The first glimpse of Australia’s far north for most international visitors comes through crocodile programs and stories in the media. In addition to venues where tourists can see and interact with crocodiles in zoos, aquaria, and the wild – including feeding wild crocodiles in the NT since the late 1970’s – crocodiles are a primary attraction for film and documentary makers around the world. “The enlightened use of adaptive management by the N.T. Government has seen a number of important changes,” Grahame continues. “Between 1971 and 1979 management involved strict protection. In 1979-80 a series of crocodile attacks on people saw increased political pressure to reintroduce culling and put an end to the population recovery. “Again management adjusted with an upgraded public education program and the introduction of a formal capture and relocation program for problem

Sorting turtle eggs collected from the wild into containers which will be then put into incubators. Photo by Damien Fordham.

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High Quality • Low Prices Live algae replacement diets Artemia & Rotifer replacement & enrichment diets Brine shrimp (Artemia) ex USA Buy direct from the Australian distributor Contact: Aquatic Diagnostic Services International Pty Ltd Fax: 07 5513 1113 Email:

Call: 0409 727 853 Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 37


Management Metrics Key Management Decisions for Crocodylus Park include: • Certification: Environment, Food Safety/HACCP, AQIS (Export). • Showcasing a top-end predator in a way to get people interested in protecting them. • Combining conservation and sustainable use (e.g. sales of meal, skins and other products). • Strong R&D on better farming techniques as well as monitoring wild populations. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Saltwater Crocodiles include: • Culture or Holding System utilised: concrete lined pens with ponds • Growth rate (from stocking to market): 3-4 years (0.3 to 2.0m) • Survival rate: 75% 0<1 year; 90%, 1<4 years • Av. stocking density: 15/m2 in year 1 to 1/m2 in year 4 • Annual harvest: 2,000 • FCR: 4-5:1 (number of kg of food to produce 1kg stock)

2m crocodiles are humanely slaughtered and then processed under hygienic food safe conditions. Photo by Grahame Webb.

38 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

crocodiles. In 1983 management changes allowed ranching programs to begin, whereby landowners (often indigenous but also cattle stations) are paid for wild eggs collected on their lands ($20-$40 per egg). “In 1995 a further adjustment was made which allowed landowners permission to undertake limited wild harvests, and sell the skins or live animals.” Grahame and his many associates have undertaken one of the most comprehensive assessments of the recovery of a wild crocodilian population in the world. “Our methods and results can be a useful reference for other wildlife managers and researchers working on the same or other crocodilian species. “When we started promoting sustainable use as one of the only options for winning public support for the ongoing recovery of crocodile populations, it ruffled the feathers of many wildlife conservationists who saw protection and more protection as the only answer to conservation problems. “Today, the concept of ‘incentive-driven conservation’, based on sustainable use, is an integral part of all international conservation Treaties and most international environmental groups. Sustainable use is now a mainstream, global, conservation strategy. “In addition to the recovery we have documented with N.T. crocodiles, there are other reptilian examples. One has been the sustainable harvest of Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) in Cuba. This program was subject to a managed fishery since the 1960s, providing benefits to local people. At the same time the export value of the shell plates provided incentive for the Government to keep investing in sea turtle conservation, with monitoring and research programs ensuring sustainability and generating important results for the conservation of Hawksbills outside Cuba. Other examples can be found in the harvesting and/ or farming of freshwater turtles in Asia and the USA.”


Clockwise from top: Some of the new turtle production ponds at SEQF. Photo courtesy of SE Queensland Fish.

Close-up of a young Hawksbill Turtle. Photo by Grahame Webb.

A baby turtle hatched as part of the turtle production program at South East Queensland Fish’s farm. Photo courtesy of SE Queensland Fish.

According to SEQ Fish Pty Ltd’s Managing Director, Dr Phil Chamberlain, the farmed turtle industry in China is huge (see separate story). Estimates suggest that over 600 million turtles are sold per year, worth over $US$1.5 billion. The main species is the common Chinese soft-shell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis), although hundreds of other species are also farmed, including some native Australian species. Turtle farming in Australia The New Animal Products program funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC, aims to accelerate the development of viable new animal industries. In addition to projects on the commercial farming of marine turtles, native freshwater turtles and crocodiles, it has funded a large number of aquaculture projects, including yabbies, redclaw, marron, polychaete worms, tropical sea urchins, and mulloway. The 2008 RIRDC funded report “Captive Breeding and Marketing of Turtles” by

Turtle facts • There are at least 28 species of freshwater turtle in Australia (turtles have flippers or webbed feet for swimming whilst tortoises have club feet for walking). A couple are listed as Endangered and Critically Endangered. • The domestic pet trade is not huge, though the demand overseas for Australian turtles is high. • There are many difference in regulations between states regarding what you can keep as a pet so some species are more common as pets than others. Obviously the Endangered species

and Critically Endangered species cannot be kept as pets. • All animals sold on the pet trade here are captive bred here in Australia, or are reared after wild egg harvest. There are breeders in SA Riverland and SE Queensland. Overseas breeders are selling some Australia species, which presumably were illegally exported. • In the NT there is Indigenous harvesting of adult for food as well as egg collection for rearing and sale into pet trade. Kate Hodges

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Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 39


Above: Young crocodiles basking on the concrete bank of a growout pen. Photo by Grahame Webb. Left: Weighing vermiculite for egg containers. Photo by Damien Fordham.

Grahame with associates Charlie Manolis and Michelle Gray, provides compelling evidence of the potential viability of turtle industries, both marine and freshwater turtles. Australia has at least 28 freshwater turtle species (most are endemic), inhabiting a range of freshwater habitats in all 40 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Australian states and territories except Tasmania. In addition, six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles are also found in Australian waters and nest on the mainland and various islands. Grahame has closely researched the regulations around export of native animals. “For export the trade must comply with Commonwealth legislation, specifically the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999). Under this Act, commercial export is allowed where the specimens are derived from an approved source. This can include an approved captive breeding, aquaculture or other wildlife trade operation. Otherwise an approved or accredited wildlife trade management plan could be developed and used. Likewise, imports into Australia must also comply with the EPBC Act.”

However, that is not the only ‘hoop’ which must be jumped as some Australian freshwater turtle species and all marine turtles are listed on Appendix I or II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Stricter domestic measures with regard to international trade in CITES-listed species have been adopted by Australia, administered by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Over and above CITES-listed species, Australia prohibits the commercial exports of live native reptiles (as well as native mammals, birds and amphibians). Opportunities for Aussie turtles The RIRDC report contains excellent descriptions of the opportunities for domestic and international markets for turtles for the food, pet trade, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and turtle shell products. “A northern Australian industry based


on Hawksbill Turtles could provide tangible economics benefits for indigenous landowners in regional areas,” says Grahame. “Just as it does for crocodiles. It would also provide positive commercial incentives for conservation of sea turtles and their habitats.” According to the RIRDC report, wild sea turtles have a long history of being harvested for meat, eggs, leather and other products. “Captive breeding is perceived as the safest form of use because its impact on wild populations is negligible. Our research on a prototype farming pen showed that the Hawksbill is amenable to captive raising and, possibly for ranching (collection of eggs from the wild, and ongrowing of hatchlings to a size competent for release). The shell of Hawksbill turtles is also in high demand, particularly in Japan where it is used in a highly traditional ‘bekko’ industry.” As Australian marine or freshwater turtles do not currently feature in TCM practiced in Asia, it is unlikely they would be accepted into that market unless medicinal properties can be confirmed through testing. Grahame says that at present there is no established commercial market for turtles as food in Australia, although indigenous people have eaten them for thousands of years. “Chinese restaurants surveyed in Sydney and Melbourne indicated that sea turtle meat could be utilised.” Grahame says export could be more

Dr Phil Chamberlain and Matt Johnson measuring a baby turtle.

Macy collecting wild Northern Long-necked turtles for food.

Photo courtesy of SE Queensland Fish.

Photo by Damien Fordham.

difficult. “There is a high demand for freshwater turtles for food, particularly in China. This provides potential opportunities for Australian species; however restrictions on export of live product (via the EPBC Act ) would limit exports to whole dead or processed turtles, depressing the market price. “But you never know. Perhaps the rising harvest of wild freshwater turtles in Asia and the increased regulation of trade through CITES, may make viable a processed (frozen) turtle product from Australia.” “Our species of freshwater turtles are sought after in the international pet trade, especially those with unique appearances

like the Pig-nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) which is available in large numbers in the pet trade in Asia and elsewhere, even though now listed on CITES. However, current Commonwealth legislation prohibits the export of live animals for commercial purposes, which is an impediment to even assessing and testing market opportunities.” The domestic trade in freshwater species requires permits for the sale/transfer of turtles between States/Territories. Some native species are listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered at the Commonwealth level. With some species this is warranted, because there truly is only a handful left. But with others, such

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 41


Indigenous project for food and hatchlings for pet market The Aboriginal people of north-west

Working with researchers from the

from the Australian Research Council

Arnhem Land use freshwater turtles as a

Institute of Applied Ecology (University

Linkage Program in partnership with

significant source of protein. They have

of Canberra) the BAC is gaining

the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.

accumulated a wealth of knowledge of

fundamental knowledge and

Ongoing work is focussing on feral pig

wildlife and how it can be exploited on

understanding to underpin a

control, as the impact of feral pigs on

a subsistence basis.

sustainable harvest of C. rugosa eggs

turtle populations is an order of

and adults in support of a local industry

magnitude greater than the impact of

Corporation (BAC, a support agency

in Maningrida, Arnhem Land. The

harvest. These control measures are an

for Aboriginal people who choose to

researchers have examined the impact

offset against the harvest activities.

The Bawinanga Aboriginal

live at outstations on their traditional

of current Aboriginal harvest on turtle

clan estates,

populations by comparing the

has promoted a range of projects for

population dynamics of harvested

this knowledge to be used in

populations with those of populations

developing local industries that

subject to little or no harvest pressure.

contribute to economic self-sufficiency

A model of the population dynamics

while at the same time maintaining and

of the species has also been developed

reinforcing links to traditional

to assess the resilience of turtle

Aboriginal culture.

populations to mortality of eggs and

A small-scale local industry has been

adults, taking into account any density-

established on the harvest of adults and

dependent interactions with growth rate,

eggs of the Northern Snake- long-

age/size at maturity, fecundity and

necked Turtle (Chelodina rugosa). The

population structure.

adults are used for food, whilst the

This has been used to predict the

eggs are incubated and the hatchlings

impact of egg and adult harvests of

sold to the pet market. At present, the

varying intensity and to estimate the

market is local, largely restricted to the

degree to which this impact can be

Northern Territory. The species is

offset by head-starting and release of

exceptionally fast growing and there

captive-reared turtles.

are plans to expand the industry to

Incubation experiments and captive

grow turtles for food but this is limited

rearing experiments have been

by infrastructure, access to markets and

conducted to determine the optimal

the fact that the turtles are obligate

conditions for incubation of eggs and

carnivores which presents challenges

rearing of hatchlings, fundamental

for sustainable aquaculture beyond a

research of importance to the BAC.

narrow niche market.

as hawksbills, there is no evidence the populations have ever been larger than today. Despite the hurdles, at least two commercial projects are in operation. The Bawinanga Aboriginal Community (see insert) has been commercially using Northern Long-necked Turtle (Chelodina rugosa) since 2000. Gravid adult females are caught and induced to lay; the babies are sold to the Australian pet trade. 42 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

This work was funded by a grant

The breeding program run by South East Queensland Fish (SEQ) for Saw Shelled Turtle (Elseya latisternum), the Eastern Snake Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis), Krefft’s River Turtle (Emydura macquarii krefftii) and the Eastern Short Neck Turtle (E. macquarii) was featured in the March ’09 issue of Austasia Aquaculture. SEQ has been selling some hatchlings into the pet trade, but see huge export potential in the market for adults into the

( staff/georges/aboriginal-harvest.php) Further reading • Fordham, D., Georges, A. and Brook, B.W. 2008. Indigenous harvest, exotic pig predation and local persistence of a long-lived vertebrate: managing a tropical freshwater turtle for sustainability and conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 45:52-62. • Fordham, D., Georges, A. and Corey, B. 2007. Optimal conditions for egg storage, incubation and post-hatching growth for the freshwater turtle, Chelodina rugosa: Science in support of an indigenous enterprise. Aquaculture 270:105-114. • Fordham, D., Georges, A. and Corey, B. 2006. Compensation for inundation-induced embryonic diapause in a freshwater turtle: Achieving predictability in the face of environmental stochasticity. Functional Ecology 20:670-677.

restaurant trade. And with the RIRDC’s help it is developing a plan to produce and market (within five years) 4,000 juveniles/yr to the aquarium industry plus 2,000 adults/ yr into restaurants. According to Managing Director Dr Phil Chamberlain the issues faced are predominantly government regulation, as turtle are not classed as an aquaculture species in Qld (or any other state). “Our aim was


Catching adult turtles for research at the Bawinanga Aboriginal Community, Arnhem Land. Photo by Damien Fordham.

to evaluate local species for suitability to farming, but we have no access to wild bloodstock and must source broodstock from the pet industry. “This stock is often diseased, of poor genetics, inbred, and with different genetics to the local wild stock. The State government is crying out for new aquacul-

ture industries, but to date has ignored calls for freshwater turtle to be classed as an aquaculture species. “We have found that the Eastern Short Neck Turtle most suitable to farming and know that there is a large market for sale into the restaurant trade. But Queensland government regulations currently prevent us from selling turtle into this trade.” Phil says they will be working with industry and Government to develop an Australian turtle export industry that reduces the pressure on threatened Asian turtle species. “We are aiming for 50 farmers producing 10 million turtles a year. Depending on markets this could be annually valued at $20-200 million.” “Domestic consumption (as food for Chinese restaurants) appears to be a viable option for freshwater turtles in the short-term,” Grahame concludes, “And perhaps in the rapidly expanding TCM industry in Australia.” Like the commercial utilisation of other native species (e.g. kangaroos and emus) this can become a highly emotional issue. However, current aquaculture regulations on health management and animal

welfare are sufficient to ensure cultured species are produced efficiently and are treated humanely. Let’s hope that the regulators use the excellent example of the crocodile sustainable use and how it has worked to protect the species and their environments. By Dos O’Sullivan. For more information contact: Grahame Webb, Crocodylus Park, 815 McMillans Rd, Berrimah, NT 0828. Tel: 08 8922-4500, Fax: 08 8947-0678, email: Philip Chamberlain, South East Queensland Fish, Tel: 07 3289-1887

Further reading: • Grahame Webb, Charlie Manolis and Michelle Gray 2008, Captive Breeding and Marketing of Turtles, RIRDC Publication No 08/012, Kingston, ACT, 51pp. • John Mosig 2009, Possible export markets for turtles spurs interest, Austasia Aquaculture March ’09, Vol 23.1, p45-47.

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Chinese Turtle Farms China is the world leader in the farming of freshwater turtles. As part of a RIRDC-funded project Dr Phil Chamberlain (South East Queensland Fish Pty Ltd) visited three of the larger turtle farms. Some key facts on China’s turtle culture • More than 40,000 turtle farms, some farms in excess of 1,000ha and huge processing plants. • The turtles are sold as gourmet food, traditional medicine ingredients or for the aquarium pet trade (mostly Red Eared Sliders Trachemys spp. or Coota Pseudemys nelson).

Turtle processing plant.

44 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

Incubation facility in Turtle hatchery.

• Farm sizes vary. Possibly the largest sells over 10 million turtle annually for human consumption and also has a huge trade to the aquarium industry. This grower also grows crocodiles for meat and leather. • Many are integrated – one family business visited had a tourist turtle park (people can fish for turtle and can stay overnight) plus a research and commercial food turtle production section.

• 600 million turtles are sold per year, worth over $US$1.5 billion • Chinese soft-shell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis), which can grow up to 30cm, is the main species for the food trade; it takes four years to grow from hatchling to 800g. Some Australian species are also cultured (E. maquarrii and E. kreftii) • Most farms use earthen ponds with concrete walls to prevent escape. A sandy basking/feeding bank is required; some farms use floating bamboo basking areas. Most growers agree this is important to allow the turtles to dry out daily. • Due to lack of growth in cold winter periods (3-5ºC, summer up to 29ºC), some of the northern farms use heated indoor tanks; southern farms can get year-round growth.


A freshly killed and steamed Softshell Turtle.

• One grower visited sells more than 0.3 million hatchlings to other smaller growers. • Broodstock fed the same diet as growers. • Laying areas have 25cm deep sand; the eggs are laid at around 10cm depth. • Collected eggs are transferred into small temperature controlled hatching rooms. The eggs are placed in trays with a water spray to keep the sand moist. • Minimal antibiotics are now used, but a Chinese herbal product is included in hatchling diet to reduce disease. • Sophisticated processing plants handle 500 tonnes or more. • Turtles are killed by cutting the throat and collecting the blood (valuable) and bleeding out (as in halal beef). • Often marketed live / fresh. Main processed product is gutted, cooked, vacuum packed and frozen with shell on. The yield after processing is around 50% (400g from an 800g live weight turtle); around 70% of the final weight is meat • Also some vacuum packing (400 or 500g packs) which is claimed to have a shelf life of 15 months unrefrigerated. • Market price is around $A50/kg; some product is sold without the shell. • Export sales to Taiwan, Japan, Korea, other Asian countries and even Spain. Words and photos by Dr Phil Chamberlain

Indoor hatchling rearing facility on a turtle farm.

The vac pack product makes for a popular dish with the Chinese.

Wooden ramps allow turtles to access sandy areas (under cover) for laying eggs.

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 45


Nutrients in pond based aquaculture discharge water used for irrigation Abstract survey was undertaken to measure the nutrient levels in closed (no discharge to waterways) freshwater pond based aquaculture facilities. Of particular interest were the nitrogen and phosphorus levels of the effluent (waste) waters used to irrigate agricultural crops or pastures. Previously, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) supplied State and local government agencies with estimated figures based on modeled nutrient levels. To provide these agencies with more accurate data, NSW DPI has recently surveyed 12 freshwater pond-based aquaculture facilities located on the Mid Coast and Murrumbidgee regions of NSW. The surveyed farms practiced extensive or intensive production strategies. Total nitrogen (Oxidised & Kjeldahl) and phosphorus concentrations in the surveyed aquaculture facilities were measured in accordance with the methods described in the Standard Methods for the examination of Water & Wastewater, 2005 (Anon. 2005). The data was then compared to recommendations in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, 2000 (ANZECC, 2000) and the NSW Environmental Guidelines, Use of Effluent by Irrigation Guidelines, 2004 (NSW Guideline). In addition, the potential irrigation of land using effluent water from aquaculture facilities was used to draw a comparison to the general application of agricultural fertilisers to an area of irrigated pasture or lucerne. The results of the survey indicated that the average total nitrogen (2.9-4.5 mg L-1) and total phosphorus (0.11-0.16 mg L-1) concentrations of aquaculture waste waters were low and lower than the


46 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

long-term trigger values for irrigation concentrations of these nutrients recommended by ANZECC 2000. The nitrogen and phosphorous concentration of the aquaculture waste waters could also be classified as “low” (i.e. nitrogen < 50mg L-1, phosphorous < 10 mg L-1) according to the NSW Guideline. The measured nutrient concentrations from surveyed farms also represents less than 25% of the nitrogen and less than 3% of the phosphorus application rates generally applied through agricultural fertilisation of irrigated pasture or lucerne in the Mid-Coast and Murrumbidgee Regions. Based on the data collected during this survey, the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the waste water from a pond based aquaculture farm used for irrigation is unlikely to cause a significant impact on the environment or its waterways. Introduction The enrichment of water bodies with nutrients, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus, has the potential to cause eutrophication of our natural waterways. This may cause abundant aquatic plant growth, including algae, and can change the aquatic biota and lead to the degradation of our waterways. Freshwater aquaculture in NSW relies on both groundwater and surface water resources. It is therefore important that aquaculture does not pollute the waterways from which it sources its water or from which other users may source their water. In NSW, freshwater aquaculture (except for approved flow through system) is not permitted to discharge its waste water (effluent) into natural waterways. Freshwater aquaculture enterprises are encouraged to reuse or recycle (i.e.

secondary use) the water they use and any nutrients contained therein. The secondary uses may include; • Reuse after particle and nutrient removal back through the aquaculture facility • Irrigation of pastures, lucerne crops, trees and garden beds • Utilisation within hydroponic systems • Loss through evaporation In addition it is a requirement under the NSW Land Based Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy (NSW LBSAS) that an aquaculture development should not be within flood prone areas to mitigate any accidental discharges of nutrients to waterways. The NSW LBSAS also requires that areas used for irrigation should have a riparian buffer of 50 metres. To date NSW DPI has supplied State and local government agencies with estimated figures of the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations within aquaculture waters using modeled nutrient values. However, some of the agencies have requested more detailed information, including “actual” or in-situ determination of the nutrient concentrations in aquaculture waters, particularly from waste water ponds or storage facilities. One of the major concerns held by different agencies is that stored effluent water from aquaculture may contain substantial quantities of nutrients that may leach into ground waters or be washed from areas irrigated by these waters during rainfall events. Maximum growth rates of temperate fish species reared in pond-based aquaculture facilities in NSW generally occur over the summer and autumn periods of the year. At these times, feed inputs and biomass on respective aquaculture farms


Materials and methods The nutrient survey involved three Murrumbidgee region and nine Mid Coast region freshwater pond-based aquaculture farms. These farms are comprised of eight intensive and four extensive aquaculture farms. Water sampling was undertaken between the 11-13th April 2011 in the Mid Coast Region and on the 3rd May 2011 in the Murrumbidgee Region. The surveyed farms included both intensive (i.e. use formulated feeds) and extensive (i.e. rely on natural pond productivity to feed the fish) farming strategies which were used to culture a range of species including Silver perch, yabbies (Cherax sp.) and Australian bass. The farms were selected to provide a general cross section of eastern and western drainage freshwater pond-based aquaculture facilities. The intensive farms primarily produced Silver perch, but some farms also produced other species such as yabbies and Australian bass. The extensive aquaculture farms cultured yabbies and fish species in fish-out ponds. Extensive systems have stocking rates that are considerably lower than that of intensive systems as they rely on the natural process within the culture ponds to provide the majority of feed for the animals. Water samples were collected from the following point sources at each farm; • inlet water which included river extraction, dams and bores

• culture water which included extensive and intensive culture activities • waste water from holding dams. The water quality of each of the sampled water sources on the respective farms was measured in-situ for pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature and salinity using a Horiba Water Quality Analyser Model U10. A 1 litre sample was also taken from the respective water sources and placed within an insulated polystyrene box for transportation to the Hunter Water Laboratory (Hunter Water Australia (HWA), Warabrook, NSW) for analysis of suspended solids, total oxidised nitrogen, total kjeldahl nitrogen and total phosphorus in accordance with the methods described in the Standard Methods for the examination of Water & Wastewater, 2005 (Anon. 2005). The sum of total oxidised nitrogen and Kjeldahl nitrogen were added to provide a total nitrogen value for each water sample. This study aimed to capture a “snapshot” of the average nutrient concentrations from 12 freshwater pond-based aquaculture farms. As such several important assumptions regarding the collection of the water samples have been made. These include; • The water samples were taken towards the end of the main growing period for fish in pond-based aquaculture systems

and it was assumed that the input of feed and conversely nutrients into the respective culture systems was at or near expected maximum levels. • Waste water ponds varied in age, location within topography, soil types, liner types (soil or artificial liner), turbidity, the extent of submerged or emergent vegetation, depth (e.g. varied from 2cm to 200cm deep) and surrounding land management practices. This and other variability within and among waste water ponds and the impacts on biological processes were not considered separately in relation to the resultant nutrient levels. • It was assumed that the prevailing weather conditions over the duration (4 days) of the sampling period or between the regions in which the aquaculture farms were located did not differentially effect nutrient concentration. Regardless of the aforementioned assumptions it is important to note that each aquaculture farm and associated waste water pond or storage is managed in its own unique way with a range of different factors determining the final nutrient concentrations measured in the waste water. In consideration of this, the original data obtained from the on site measurement of water quality and the results from the analysis were categorised into


Af Q fo u rd a ab li le ty Pr ice s

will also generally be at their highest which should result in the highest levels of nutrients within the aquaculture systems. In contrast, feed inputs and standing biomass is likely to be much lower during the winter months and therefore nutrient levels on farms are expected to be lower. This study provides a “snapshot” of the average nutrient concentrations from 12 freshwater pond-based aquaculture farms and also compares these concentrations to ANZECC 2000, NSW Guidelines and agricultural fertiliser application rates for irrigated pastures and lucerne.



Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 47


Figure 1. Average nutrient concentrations from inlet water from surveyed farms. extensive and intensive groups for each point source (i.e. inlet water, culture water or waste water). The average water quality and nutrient concentrations were compared with water from sewage treatment facility discharges licensed by Office of Environment and Heritage for irrigation use (data provided by HWA and Dubbo City Council). Results The range of average pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature and salinity measured at the surveyed farms varied between 6.98-8.31 units, 6.44-9.56mg L-1, 19.1822.00째C and 0.00-0.24%, respectively

(Table 1). The average concentration of nutrients measured from inlet water is presented in Figure 1. In all cases the average inlet concentrations of total phosphorous, total nitrogen, Kjeldahl nitrogen and oxidised nitrogen from the surveyed farms were lower than typical concentrations in sewage discharge. The average concentration of nutrients measured from culture water is presented in Figure 2. Not surprisingly the average concentration of total nitrogen from ponds was elevated compared to inlet waters and the concentration was elevated compared to sewage discharge. Compared to intensive systems, extensive systems

tended to be lower in nitrogen and total phosphorous. The average concentration of nutrients measured from waste water is presented in Figure 3. On average, the concentration of nitrogen declined in the waste water point sources measured at the time of this survey and tended to approach the concentration of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) recorded in a typical sample of sewage discharge (Figure 3). Little change was recorded between point source nitrogen or phosphorous concentrations in the extensive pond systems indicating these systems were relatively stable at the time of measurement (Table 1). Discussion The data provided by this survey provide a useful guide for NSW State and local government agencies in the assessment of new or existing aquaculture developments. State and local government agencies generally use either the NSW Guideline or the ANZECC 2000 to assess the potential impact of the nutrients within waste waters. However, in discussions with personnel from a number of state and local government agencies there was a perception that the nutrient and suspended loading of aquaculture waste water discharge is as high as the potential loading

Table 1: Averages of the values for each of the water types from 12 pond based aquaculture farms and the irrigation discharge waters from three sewage treatment works irrigated waters. Water type


DO (mg/L)

Temp (째C)

Salinity ppt

Nitrogen Oxidised mg/L

Nitrogen Kjeldahl mg/L

Total Nitrogen mg/L

Total Phosphorus mg/L

Suspended solids mg/L





















Extensive /culture








































Sewage discharge







48 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012


of nutrients from sewage discharge or intensive animal industries such as dairies and piggeries. The following discussion uses the classification tables within the aforementioned documents to compare the nutrients measured in the onfarm aquaculture waters survey. In addition, this discussion makes comparisons between the nutrients measured in aquaculture waste water to the amount of nutrients released during the practice of fertiliser top dressing or irrigation of pastures on agricultural land. Comparison of aquaculture waste waters against ANZECC 2000 Excessive quantities of nitrogen and phosphorous applied to irrigated areas can lead to leaching of these nutrients into groundwater and surface water and depending on which nutrient is limiting the stimulation of increased algal growth in surface waters. ANZECC 2000 provides long-term trigger values (LTV) and short-term trigger values (STV) for nitrogen and phosphorus in irrigation water. These trigger values relate to the recommended nutrient concentration of the irrigated waters and the time span of the irrigation and are based on the significance of the nutrient, the cycling of the nutrient within the environment and the percentage of the nutrient generally removed in harvestable portions of the irrigated pasture or crop (ANZECC 2000). Long term trigger values allow for irrigation of low nutrient waters over a longer time span of up to 100 years while STV values allow for irrigation of high nutrient waters over a much shorter time span of up to 20 years. These trigger values have been developed to minimise impacts to crop yields, farm infrastructure and off site. ANZECC (2000) recommends that the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in irrigation water should be less than their respective recommended trigger values. Recommended ANZECC 2000 STV and LTV for nitrogen and phosphorous as well

Figure 2. Average nutrient concentrations of culture water from surveyed farms

Figure 3. Average nutrient concentrations from waste water from surveyed farms

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as the average total nitrogen and phosphorous values measured in the current survey as well as values for sewage discharge are presented in Table 2. Based on the data in this table the concentration of total nitrogen and phosphorous measured in the waste water at either the extensive or intensive farms is well below the recommended STV values cited for nitrogen and phosphorous by ANZECC 2000. In addition, the measured farm values for total nitrogen are below or similar to the recommended LTV for nitrogen (Table 2). Phosphorous concentration of extensive and intensive waste aquaculture water tended to be slightly higher than recommended STV but within the range recommended for LTV in irrigated waters. The phosphorous concentration of sewage discharge is almost 22 times higher than the phosphorous concentration recorded in the waste water from surveyed aquaculture farms. However, it should be noted that the average level of phosphorus in the discharge irrigation water from the three

approved sewage treatment plants was about 70 times the ANZECC 2000 recommended LTV. This data supports the premise that the waste waters from an extensive or intensive pond based aquaculture farm similar to those surveyed in this study are suitable for long term (up to 100 years) irrigation applications under the ANZECC 2000 guidelines. Comparison of aquaculture waste waters against NSW guideline The NSW Guideline provides guidance on the best management practices relating to the management of effluent for irrigation. These guidelines state that water from municipal sewage treatment plants is likely to be low strength, whereas untreated effluent from intensive animal industries is likely to be medium to high strength. Values for low, medium and high strength concentrations are described in Table 3. Table 3 provides a comparison of the

Table 2: Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in aquaculture waste waters, sewage irrigation water and the ANZEC 2000 STV & LTVs. Water source

Total nitrogen (mg/L)

Total phosphorus (mg/L)







Sewage discharge







25 - 125

0.8 - 12

Table 3: NSW Guideline classification levels and aquaculture waste water nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations. Nutrient

Low (mg/L)

Medium (mg/L)

High (mg/L)

Extensive Aquaculture waste water

Intensive Aquaculture waste water





50 - 100






10 - 20




50 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

average nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the surveyed freshwater ponds to the recommended values cited in the NSW Guideline. The nitrogen levels measured in the waste water of extensive and intensive freshwater ponds represents only 5.7% and 9.0% respectively of the upper value for a low classification level under the NSW Guideline. Phosphorus levels in the extensive and intensive freshwater pond based aquaculture waste water represented only 1.1% and 1.6% respectively of the upper value for a low classification level under the NSW Guideline. These comparisons indicate that the total concentration of nitrogen and phosphorous in waste water from typical freshwater aquaculture ponds is well below the lowest values cited in the NSW Guidelines and is much lower than the medium or high strength concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous normally associated with the waste waters from intensive animal industries. Comparison of aquaculture waste waters with agricultural pasture fertiliser applications The quantity of water and fertiliser used on an area of pasture or lucerne will vary depending on the particular management regimes being employed and the local weather, soil type, topography and irrigation regimes being employed at each site. For example Griffiths et al. (2007) recommend an application rate of about 20kg N ha-1 and 20kg P ha-1 at the time of establishing a pasture (seeding). Once the pasture has established an annual fertiliser, top dressing of about 150-200kg N ha-1 and 50kg P ha-1 is recommended. To undertake a comparison between the potential nutrient levels applied by irrigating with aquaculture waste water and the level of nutrients applied as agricultural fertiliser it is first necessary to calculate the irrigation requirements for the specific site, paddock or region. Once the irrigation requirements are known then the quantity of nutrients applied via


the irrigated aquaculture waste waters can be calculated. Documents prepared for the NSW Water Use Efficiency Advisory Unit indicate the theoretical irrigation requirements for pasture and lucerne in the NSW Mid-Coast Region (including Hunter & Central Coast) range from 4.57.5 ML ha-1. while in the Murrumbidgee Region requirements range from 6-8 ML ha-1 (Hope 2003, Hope and Wright 2003). These theoretical irrigation volumes have been used to calculate the potential nitrogen and phosphorus loads which may be applied to an area of one hectare for both intensive and extensive aquaculture farm types. Table 4 outlines the respective quantity of nutrients that may be applied by using aquaculture waste waters, sewage works discharge waters and waters with nutrient levels as outlined in the ANZECC LTV & STV. The data indicates that the application of freshwater pond based aquaculture waste waters would represent less than 25% of the nitrogen and less than 3% of the phosphorus application rates generally applied through agricultural top dressing fertilisation practices. It should also be noted that where used, the application of the nitrogen and phosphorus via the aquaculture waste waters is as a solution which ensures the nutrients are readily available for plant uptake. Applications are also undertaken over numerous events and not in 1-3 large broadcast applications of fertilisers as occur with agricultural practices. Therefore, the application of the nutrients via aquaculture waste waters is less likely to cause leaching and runoff of large quantity of nutrients in storm events. Conclusion This survey of the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations within pond based aquaculture waste water indicated that the average nutrient values of the aquaculture waters surveyed were acceptable in relation to the long-term trigger (LTV) values in irrigation water under ANZECC 2000. The aquaculture waste water

nutrient levels would also be classified as low under the NSW Guideline and represents less than 25% of the nitrogen and less than 3% of the phosphorus application rates generally applied through agricultural fertilisation of irrigated pasture or lucerne in the Mid-Coast and Murrumbidgee Regions. In comparison to three sewage treatment works that are currently approved to irrigate to pastures, the aquaculture waste waters were found on average to have similar nitrogen levels but contained only 4% of the phosphorus levels. Research undertaken by Smith et al (1996) into the losses of nitrogen through volatilisation following irrigation of pasture at Wagga Wagga with urban sewage effluent found losses to the atmosphere of up to 25% of the applied nitrogen. The ANZECC 2000 also indicates that between 0 and 80% of the nitrogen within irriga-

tion water may be lost through volatilisation and denitrification. Based on the data collected during this survey, the nitrogen and phosphorus levels within the waste water from a pond based aquaculture farm where used for irrigation are unlikely to cause a significant impact on the environment. by DG Bowley & GL Allan NSW Department of Primary Industries, Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, Taylors Beach Road, Taylors Beach, NSW, 2316.

References 1. Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. 2000. Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for fresh and marine Water Quality 2000. http://www. australian_and_new_zealand_guidelines_ for_fresh_and_marine_water_quality

Table 4: Comparison of N & P loads from aquaculture waste waters, agricultural fertiliser rates & waters applied at ANZECC 2000 STV & LTV (Kg/Ha.) Location/ comparison

Waste water source

N lower

N upper

P lower

P upper

Hunter & Central Coast (H&CC)

Extensive Aquaculture





Hunter & Central Coast

Intensive Aquaculture





Murrumbidgee Region

Extensive Aquaculture





Murrumbidgee Region

Intensive Aquaculture





Hunter & Central Coast

Sewage Discharge





Murrumbidgee Region

Sewage Discharge











125- 625

187.5 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 937.5

3.6 - 54

6 - 90

ANZECC LTV Murrumbidgee





ANZECC STV Murrumbidgee





Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 51


2. Department of Environment and

4. Hope,M and Wright, M. 2003. NSW


Conservation NSW. 2003. Environmental;

Murrumbidgee Catchment Irrigation Profile.


Guidelines, use of Effluent by Irrigation.

Report for the Water Use Efficiency Advisory

6. Smith, C.J., Freney, J.R., and Bond, W. J.,




gated with urban sewage effluent. Australian


Journal of Soil research, 34:789-802.

3. Hope,M. 2003. NSW Mid-Coast Region

1996. Ammonia volatilisation from soil irri-

Irrigation Profile. Report for the Water Use

5. Griffiths, M., Beale, P., Christie, J., Senn, A.

7. Anon. 2005. Standard Methods for the

Efficiency Advisory Unit. http://www.dpi.

2007. Pasture and Winter forage crop sow-

Examination of Water & Wastewater.

ing guide – Hawkesbury-Nepean, Hunter

American Public Health Association, the


and Manning Valleys. http://www.dpi.nsw.

American Water Works Association and the


Water Environment Federation.

Nitrogen and phosphorus balance in aquaculture ponds Introduction In natural aquatic systems including farm dams nitrogen and phosphorus inflows are rapidly assimilated by phytoplankton and aquatic vegetation communities. The phytoplankton communities are then consumed by zooplankton and then by macro-invertebrates that in turn are consumed by the fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles. This natural process is also employed to maintain water quality within aquaculture farms and is especially important in discharge water reservoirs. The natural processes assist in treating the discharged water so that it can be reused back through the aquaculture culture ponds. Calculation of nutrients from a fish farm To provide details of the potential maximum available nutrients from the aquaculture facility culturing 4 tonne of Silver perch the following calculations have been made based on the following assumptions: 1. All fish growth is due to formulated feeds and there is no contribution of feed from natural ecosystem within aquaculture ponds, 2. The discharge treatment reservoir is being bypassed with wastes from fish going straight onto pastures. Therefore, there is no calculations of the removal of nutrients through natural processes in the discharge reservoir. 3. Natural aquatic processes are not impacting on discharge levels of nutrients in culture ponds (ie discharged direct from fish onto adjoining lands.)

52 Austasia Aquaculture | Autumn 2012

4. There are no natural gaseous discharges from the culture water to the atmosphere. (Ammonia volatilization results in a net loss of nitrogen). The food conversion ratio for silver perch is on average about 2:1 therefore for every tonne of fish produced two tonnes of feed is required. Silver perch manufactured feed generally consists of 35% protein and 2% phosphorus. In calculating the quantity of nitrogen within protein a conversion factor of 6.25 is generally accepted. Also only a quarter of the nitrogen and phosphorus within the feed is utilised by the fish with the remainder being lost to the environment. The following calculations have been done for both the average and maximum potential production. Nitrogen To produce 4 tonne of fish 8 tonne of manufactured feed is required, therefore: • 8 tonne of feed = 8,000kg @ 35% protein = 2,800 kg of protein • 2,800 kg of protein divided by 6.25 = 448kg nitrogen. • 448 X 0.75 = 336 kg of nitrogen entering the culture water. Phosphorous To produce 4 tonne of fish 8 tonne of manufactured feed is required. Fish feed generally includes about 2% phosphorous and again only about ¼ of this is utilised by the fish, therefore: • 8,000kg @ 2% phosphorous = 160kg phosphorous in the feed,

• 160 kg phosphorus X 0.75 = 120kg of phosphorous entering the culture water. Comparison to agricultural fertilisation levels of pasture Fertiliser applications for pasture growth vary depending on soil types and crops being grown. However, an application of 150kg/ha of super phosphate and 60 kg/ha of urea is generally classed as a light top dressing for pasture growth. It should be noted that the nutrients in the fish pond discharge water are totally soluble and more readily available for plant use than solid agricultural fertilizers. Therefore, if the area available for irrigation is 4 hectares then the respective nutrient levels per hectare would be:• Nitrogen Maximum 336/4 = 84 kg /ha • Phosphorus Maximum 120/4 =30 kg / ha. In conclusion, the nutrient levels of the discharge water (with the above assumptions applied) are equal to a light dressing of nitrogen or a poor application of phosphorus. It should be noted that irrigation of the discharge water over the 4 ha would occur, if required, over a period of time, unlike the agricultural practise of single application of fertiliser. Therefore, the chance of nutrient run off is far less with irrigated fish culture pond discharge water.



Location is Everything... Priced to sell at $795,000

AQUACULTURE SERVICES AUSTRALIA Get the ‘right’ information right now by purchasing copies of The Australian Yabby Farmer @ $47.50 and The Australian Fish Farmer @ $97.50 (prices inclusive of GST & postage) Call us on 03 9817 3043 or email:

AQUACULTURE CONSULTANCY SERVICES Close to Rainbow Beach and Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Ironbark Redclaw, established (10+ years) netting approx $100,000 p/a is on the market. For more information Tel: (07) 5486 7367 or visit:

Fast Disease Diagnosis & Control • Independent Lab Confidentiality • Microbe & Parasite ID’s • Water Quality & Biofilter Taming • Depuration Monitoring & Control • Disease Risk Assessments •

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Baseline F O R SALE – Akoya Pearl Oyster growout equipment Including: • 34 coils x 24mm/220m hard lay new • Floats 3500 -- black • Rope 10mm 4 coils hard lay • Cleaning machine/ power pack Kailis • Panels 24 pocket new – 1000 • Panels used – 250 • Conditioning box – 450 • Recovery box – 250

• Stingray Anchors 85 x 75kg new • Round cages 21mm x 2000 • 1 seeding trough • 4mm lantern 5 level cages new x 231 • Used longlines 25 • 6mm mesh bags over spat frame 250 Sell the lot $80,000

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

E M PL OY M E N T WAN TE D I am seeking an entry level position or traineeship in an Aquaculture Fish Hatchery/Farm within travelling distance to Melbourne, Victoria. Willing to learn, work and study. Employers please contact David on Tel: 0409 872 330 or Email:

RARE OPPORTUN ITY to purhase Manning River oyster farm After 24 years farming oysters Keith Hall is retiring and his beautiful oyster farm is For Sale. Here is a rare opportunity to purchase a long established oyster farm with absolute frontage to the Manning River – specialising in the breeding, growing and fattening of Sydney Rock Oysters – sold locally as well as to seafood suppliers and restaurants from Brisbane to Sydney. Total walk in walk out retirement sale and Keith will continue on in a consultancy capacity for a nominated period if desired. Take a look at: or call Keith on 0412 234 579

FO R S A L E – 30 Hectare Fish Farm (in Gloucester NSW)

‘Perched on Avon’ is a fully operational fish farm (silver perch) with potential to double production. Quality infrastructure, fully automated, ample water, close to Sydney and Newcastle and established markets. Property includes quality 3 bdr family home, separate guest quarters plus olive grove and grazing paddocks.

Check out the website for a comprehensive overview of this fabulous property. This could be the lifestyle change you’ve been looking for. For more information visit:

Autumn 2012 | Austasia Aquaculture 53

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Autumn 2012  
Autumn 2012  

Austasia Aquaculture magazine