Researchers start unlocking WA’s tropical rock oyster potential

  •  McGowan Government drives aquaculture research and development in State’s north
  • World-leading technology used to grow hundreds of regional jobs and diversify WA’s rock oyster resource
  • First research milestone reached with successful breeding of an emerging species for Australia – the Black Lip Rock Oyster

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, which has great 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 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 key 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.

Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley:

“WA’s aquaculture industries contribute $21 million annually to the WA economy.

“This research project is a great example of the McGowan Government driving diversification and development in the north, which in the longer term will lead to the creation of new jobs and boost economic growth in the regions.

“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.”

Kimberley MLA Josie Farrer:

This is fantastic news for the project team and for northern WA.

“An opportunity like this, to potentially develop a whole new fishery to help diversify employment opportunities as well as encourage new market investment is an exciting vision for the Kimberley.”

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel:

“It is projects like these that have great potential to help us in our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WA is pushing the innovation envelope by combining the best technology available from around the world into our aquaculture hatchery breeding.”