Oyster spat research takes centre stage in Northern Australia

Serious research dollars will be back new research into creating a tropical rock oyster industry in northern Australia, which could spark a multi-million dollar industry targeting both the domestic and export markets.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the three-year, $4.1 million research project would be run across sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with a firm eye on filling a gap in the existing oyster market.

“While tropical rock oysters occur naturally along the coasts of most of northern Australia, this research will focus on breeding an entirely new species of meat oyster, developed for northern Australian conditions and grown specifically for consumption,” Minister Canavan said.

“The CRCNA is backing the project with its largest ever investment of $1.2 million. If successful, we’ll potentially see a brand new industry for northern Australia, which means new operators in the market as well as an opportunity for existing aquaculture and pearling operators to diversify.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the venture was a legacy project for the CRCNA.

“Examining appropriate hatchery and grow-out systems is the first step in developing this new industry for Northern Australia. This research is an investment in the future economic development of the north and Australia’s entire aquaculture industry. This is a perfect example of how our Cooperative Research Centres can bring businesses and researchers together to grow the economy and create jobs,” Minister Andrews said.

CLP Senator for the Northern Territory Dr Sam McMahon said a successful Tropical Rock oyster industry could employ more than 500 people and boost exports from Northern Australia by almost $220 million.

“Some good work has already been done in trying to establish an oyster industry in the north, but the key issue has been being able to create a consistent supply of spat in commercial quantities. Ensuring a consistent supply of spat near hatchery and grow-out facilities creates a strong foundation for a viable, profitable and secure oyster industry,” Senator McMahon said.

A range of participants will be involved in the project including the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources, the WA Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development and indigenous stakeholders.

Research teams will work on hatchery techniques, species suitability and assess technology and equipment best suited to Northern Australia’s climate and conditions.

By 2021, researchers expect to deliver industry-standard guidelines for the Northern Territory and Western Australia for tropical hatcheries to increase their supply of Tropical Rock oyster spat to farmers. The project will run for three years and is due to finish in the second half of 2022.

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