Establishing a commercial Tropical Rock Oyster industry in the Pilbara is a step closer with more than 30,000 hatchery-grown spat (juvenile oysters) transferred to new trial sites off the Karratha coast as part of the WA Tropical Rock Oyster Research and Development project, as announced by the Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Fisheries today.
In partnership with the Murujuga Rangers, who will assist with monitoring of the sites, Maxima successfully transferred the spat to grow-out baskets at two new trial sites at West Lewis and Cossack this week where they will grow to market size over the next 18 months.
The transfer follows the successful hatchery culture led by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) at their Hillary facility over the last six months.
The project aims to investigate optimal methods for growing Black Lip Rock Oysters and to build on the knowledge gained from the original research and development trial at Flying Foam Passage completed in 2019 with support from the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, City of Karratha, Pilbara Development Commission, Maxima and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.
Maxima Managing Director John Hutton said the encouraging results achieved through the original trial project, along with the significant positive stakeholder support, provided Maxima with the confidence to continue the research.
“Maxima aims to become a globally-competitive rock oyster producer that creates local jobs, provides diversity to regional economies, and enables meaningful employment and business opportunities for Traditional Owners, and Western Australia’s North West coast is proving to be the best place to pursue this,” Mr Hutton said.
“The successful transfer of spat to the new trial sites is a major milestone in the research and development, and I look forward to taste-testing the Pilbara-grown Black Lip Rock Oysters in 18 months’ time.”
As well as monitoring the grow-out trial, Maxima will provide training to Murujuga National Park Rangers in aquaculture monitoring and management techniques.
“Creating a skilled workforce to support oyster farming on a commercial scale is also key to the success and growth of the industry and we see great potential for continued partnerships with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation. No-one knows this sea country better than them,” Mr Hutton said.
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Vince Adams said “this is the next major milestone in the project which we’ve been a part of since it started in 2017.
“It has maintained momentum due to the dedicated project partners, in addition to its great potential and importance to our land and people.
“Oysters have been a part of our local environment and a source of food for thousands of years. This project is building a sustainable business from our land and sea country with potential to create new jobs and training opportunities for our members, and to provide a new platform for sharing our local knowledge and culture.” Said Mr Adams.
Maxima, in partnership with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and DPIRD, will monitor the trial sites over the next two years as the oysters grow to market size.
The WA Tropical Rock Oyster Research and Development project is led by Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development and supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, Maxima, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, the Albany multispecies shellfish hatchery and gear suppliers Hexcyl Systems, SEAPA and Zapco Aquaculture.