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Government and Researchers Flex Mussels to Develop Aquaculture

VICTORIA - A new Brumby Government strategy aims to grow Victoria's aquaculture industry from $22 million to $60 million by 2015.

Announcing the strategy, the Minister responsible for Fisheries Joe Helper said it would set out a framework for an ecologically sustainable and prosperous aquaculture industry.

"Globally, aquaculture now contributes to almost 50 per cent of all seafood produced and Victoria is well-placed to export both aquaculture produce and expertise," said Mr Helper.

"The aquaculture industry is important for all Victorians who want a sustainable supply of fresh fish for future generations and the Brumby Government is taking action to ensure the industry grows in a profitable and sustainable way," he added.

The Victorian Aquaculture Strategy was developed by the Aquaculture Advisory Group and incorporates advice from experts in industry, science, environment, finance and the community.

The strategy builds on the work the government is already doing to support the aquaculture industry. It includes six main objectives and 24 actions to be implemented by DPI - all prepared in consultation with an industry reference group.

Key Tasks

Mr Helper said one of the key tasks in the strategy was to undertake collaborative shellfish research to improve mussel farming productivity and competitiveness.

"This will involve a research and development agreement between the Government and the aquaculture industry to reliably produce more and better mussels in the future. Under the agreement mussel breeders have formed a consortium - the Victorian Shellfish Hatchery," he added.

The Victorian Shellfish Hatchery will collaborate with researchers from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and use the hatchery facilities at Queenscliff to grow mussel spat.

Also, as part of the agreement, the DPI and industry will jointly contribute $800,000 over five years toward research and infrastructure to establish and operate the hatchery. It will also see the research findings and spat production shared with the rest of the industry.

Vital to Survival

Victorian Shellfish Hatchery's Dr Peter Ashton said the project was vital to the survival and growth of the Victorian mussel farming sector.

"Relying on natural mussel spat collection has been a major obstacle to growth in mussel production in the past," said Dr Ashton. "This project is designed to assure seedstock supply, improve mussel farming productivity and enhance product quality. The establishment of the consortium is a watershed for the industry and a positive example of strong collaboration between DPI and the aquaculture industry."