Rare rock oyster to expand WA aquaculture potential

Blacklip Rock Oyster. Photo: Griffith University

Western Australia had reached the first milestone in a research project to grow the tropical rock oyster industry across northern Australia.

Researchers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPRID) have successfully bred a Black Lip Rock Oyster, an emerging species for Australia, with potential to grow the industry.

In November last year, DPIRD received $570,000 as part of a Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia three-year project to develop the industry in WA and the Northern Territory.

The research aims to develop standard guidelines for the shellfish industry and potential investors on the most suitable tropical rock oyster species to grow in northern Australia, and the best techniques to farm them.

“WA’s aquaculture industries contribute $21 million annually to the WA economy,” said WA Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley. “The successful breeding of the Black Lip Rock Oyster is an exciting first step in the production process to kick start the tropical rock oyster industry in WA.”

WA has reached its first research milestone by using brood stock collected from Cone Bay in the Kimberley to breed the species in the Department’s Hillarys marine shellfish hatchery.

Although it is early stages, it is estimated that when the fishery is up and running every 1,000 tonnes of oysters produced will create 250 jobs regional jobs.

The Black Lip Rock Oyster spat will continue to be grown in the hatchery until it is relocated to one of the northern research trial sites off the Karratha and Derby coastlines in September.

The oyster is a fast grower and expected to perform well in northern tropical conditions, making it a good economic option for farmers to consider and potentially attracting investment to expand the industry.

DPIRD is working closely with partners Maxima Pearling Company, the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, the Albany multispecies shellfish hatchery and gear suppliers Hexcyl Systems, SEAPA Oyster Basket Systems and Zapco Aquaculture.


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