No one is currently producing prawns in the state, but Charles Darwin University (CDU) is aiming to change that by launching its own selective breeding programme for banana prawns (Fenneropenaeus indicus), a species native to the NT.
The new initiative is part of a new partnership with prospective prawn farmers Barramundi Adventures and Bynoe Barramundi.
Prawn farming is the largest aquaculture sector in the neighbouring state of Queensland, providing the equivalent of over 600 full-time jobs and generating approximately $80 million a year. However, there are currently no actively operating farms in the Territory, which means developing the industry would support NT jobs, the industry and the economy.
CDU aquaculture lecturer Morris Pizzutto said wild banana prawn broodstock have been collected from local waters, and post-larvae from these are being produced by CDU for the industry to grow to market size.
“We’re working with local producers to grow prawns and we’ve achieved an important milestone in the post-larvae production of juvenile prawns this week as the prawns are now ready to be stocked out into farms this week to kick off the project,” he said in a press release.
CDU is responsible for the maturation and spawning of broodstock and larval rearing for three consecutive generations to produce post-larvae for stocking in grow-out ponds.
Barramundi Adventures and Bynoe Barramundi will be responsible for growing-out the post-larvae to then act as broodstock for the next generation.
After growing out, adult prawns will be selected from these ponds and returned to CDU to produce second generation larvae to create a commercially viable prawn for continued aquaculture production in the NT.
“It’s really exciting as nobody in the NT is currently producing prawns,” he said.
“We have many ponds in the ground that aren’t being used, and we thought we can link it in with our vocational training offerings and try and kick off the prawn farming industry.”
“Aquaculture is potentially a very big driver for the Territory that can be expanded. We have an opportunity here to develop an industry in the NT and develop it in a way that in a way that’s environmentally sustainable and produced locally,” he said.
“We hope to get local fresh prawns onto the market in the next 12 months and go from there. “
Bynoe Barramundi Owner Greg Cooling said the project would benefit producers and he was interested in exploring the potential for the industry in the Northern Territory.
“If we can prove that we can do it, it’s going to open up a lot of doors – it’s an industry with a huge amount of potential,” Cooling said.
“Once they’ve been rebred several times, those prawns then become quite valuable, they become even easier to breed and some end up quite massive.
“A fresh prawn and a cold beer go down alright, so I’m sure Territorians will be happy to have fresh prawns, and we’ll be employing more people in the process.”