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Coral Success Leads to Commercial Venture

AUSTRALIA - As the coral trout project in Cairns reaches another milestone researchers are getting closer to commercial captive breeding of two other iconic species - the tropical rock lobster and the giant Queensland groper.

Primary Industry and Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin today toured the Northern Fisheries Centre where DPI&F researchers are developing techniques with enormous potential benefits to Queensland.

Mr Mulherin said: "Captive breeding can help protect wild stocks while at the same time injecting millions of dollars into the Queensland aquaculture industry.

"The in-farm trial will allow us to transfer our growing techniques and expertise to a commercial operating environment."
Primary Industry and Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin

"Today I can announce that 30 of Australia's first captive bred coral trout have recently been sent to a Bowen commercial farm we are partnering with.

"The fish, about six months old and 20cm long, will be grown out and used for breeding future generations of captive bred coral trout.

"DPI&F scientists are working closely with our industry partner to monitor the ongoing growth and health of these trout in the commercial environment.

"The in-farm trial will allow us to transfer our growing techniques and expertise to a commercial operating environment.

"This great achievement means this highly-prized Queensland fish can be bred in aquaculture facilities without drawing stocks from Queensland's wild populations.

"Depending on the season, coral trout can earn $40 to $80 per kilogram on the live fish export market and this represents an exciting future opportunity for Queensland farmers," Mr Mulherin said.

DPI&F is also exploring the aquaculture potential of the giant Queensland groper and tropical rock lobster.

Mr Mulherin said: "We are getting very close with rock lobsters which are notoriously difficult to breed.

"They go through 11 stages to get from larvae to juvenile, a process that in nature can take over 6 months. Until recently the best results were a 60% survival rate to stage 5 in relatively small numbers.

"Now we have over 5,000 larvae at stage 9 to 10 with a 92% survival rate achieved in less than 80 days.

"If these larvae progress through to juvenile we believe it will be the first time such large numbers have been generated in captivity, and will set the scene for commercialisation.

"The tropical rock lobster is one of the world's most valuable seafood products, but its farming will necessitate a supply of juvenile stocks.

"If we can rear commercial numbers of quality juvenile lobsters Queensland can meet the market demand and open opportunities for another highly lucrative industry," Mr Mulherin said.

The Minister said work is also progressing to encourage giant Queensland groper to spawn in captivity.

"Researchers will then apply larval rearing techniques developed for our other grouper species to provide a source of fingerlings for industry to exploit.

"The value of Queensland groper is expected to be high with an established live-fish market in Southeast Asia and a potential domestic market as whole fish and white-fillet.

"For a fish which grows some 3kg in its first year, the potential profitability is exciting," Mr Mulherin said.