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Bringing Together a Major Lobster Industry

AUSTRALIA - Queensland is set to become a world leader in lobster aquaculture with the establishment of a major partnership in tropical rock lobster research and breeding between the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) and Lobster Harvest Pty Ltd.

The partnership will see Lobster Harvest’s tropical rock lobster propagation program move from Exmouth in Western Australia, to DPI&F’s Northern Fisheries’ Centre in Cairns, enhancing DPI&F’s significant research and development ( R&D ) in aquaculture.

The collaboration and co-location of researchers from both organisations represents a significant exchange of knowledge and skills in lobster aquaculture.

Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Tim Mulherin said the collaborators would work together to become world leaders in commercially viable hatchery technologies.

“DPI&F has a 10-year history of tropical rock lobster aquaculture research and development and is already a world leader in rock-lobster larval-rearing research,” the Minister said.

“On December 6 last year, we saw our first baby lobster produced from eggs managed through the larval stages in our tanks at the Northern Fisheries’ Centre, a major breakthrough for tropical rock lobster development in Queensland.

“This larval stage takes more than 100 days, which is much more complex than the 30 days it takes for most other aquaculture species.

“The partnership with Lobster Harvest will support our larval-rearing capabilities by increasing our skills base and resources, which will improve the survival rates and growth of the larval lobsters.

“The ultimate goal is developing a commercial lobster hatchery.”

The MG Kailis Group first produced tropical rock lobster juveniles in June 2006 at its research facility in Exmouth, becoming the first organisation in the world to do so.

This successful propagation was replicated in 2007 and 2008 with the earlier juveniles being grown-out to adult lobsters.

In 2007 Lobster Harvest was formed and all rights to the propagation technology were transferred to the new company. MG Kailis remains a major shareholder in Lobster Harvest.

“Our relationship with Lobster Harvest, and its predecessor, began several years ago with support from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation,” Mr Mulherin said.

“While we have enjoyed much success together to date, this more formal partnership will allow us to further investigate establishing a commercial hatchery for tropical rock lobster.”

Regional Development Minister and Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said the long-term goal of developing a commercial hatchery could provide jobs and another source of income to Cairns’ diverse local economy.

“There is about fifty staff working at the Northern Fisheries Centre,” Minister Boyle said.

“If a commercial hatchery is established in north Queensland, it has the potential to create another twenty-five jobs and that does not include opportunities created in other industries that service the hatchery.

“The tropical lobster is an icon species for the Torres Strait Islanders, and there is clearly great opportunity to establish commercial lobster farms there.

“A commercial hatchery has the potential to create significant employment opportunities in regional Queensland and in the Torres Strait,” she said.

Lobster Harvest chairman Peter Rogers said commercial operations in Queensland could underpin the development of a new aquaculture industry.

“We hope our success in propagation technologies will result in significant economic development in regional Queensland if a commercial hatchery is established,” Mr Rogers said.

“This goal is greatly nurtured through the significant technical, commercial and marketing expertise that this partnership brings together.”

Mr Mulherin said a lobster hatchery was likely to be established near Cairns or elsewhere along the Queensland coast to supply small lobsters to a broader grow-out sector, which might include farms in the Torres Strait.

“The new industry could also attract considerable overseas investment and position Queensland to be a world centre of excellence in tropical rock-lobster aquaculture,” he said.

the Fish Site Editor

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