Trout join Western Australia’s aquaculture expansion

Rainbow trout born and raised in pristine facilities in Western Australia’s South West are the latest species to join the State’s aquaculture expansion.

The trout nursery, which is part of the existing Blue Ridge Marron farm near Manjimup, was officially opened in December by Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley.

Executive Director Peter McGinty said he and his business partner Steve Vidovich began growing trout about 15 years ago when their marron customers began requesting them.

“At that time, the only trout available came in from the east coast as frozen products. We saw the opportunity to grow fresh product using existing infrastructure straight away. This year we closed in March, at the start of the pandemic and used the eight week closure to commence building the new trout nursery, completing it in late November,” Peter said.

The journey was not a simple one with much trial and error.

“We first began by purchasing fry stock from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Pemberton Hatchery and seeding them into our dams. Unfortunately the dams were also alive with redfin perch which happily devoured almost all our nursery stock. So we developed a separate facility to grow the fry up to around 150mm, which was too big for the redfin to eat and then seeded them into the dams which worked perfectly,” he said.

The team began selling trout at approximately one year old, which is a good size for local consumption and the Singaporean market but saw further opportunity in larger fish.

“We originally sold the year-old fish, but saw potential in other trout-related products, including delicious ‘Trout Caviar’ using the roe. Trout only start producing roe at around two years old, so we held onto some fish to grow them out more and are now selling both the fish and the roe, which is a popular delicacy. It’s all about value-adding,” he said.

Manjimup is considered a good location for the operations due to its mild weather and unspoiled rural location. The new facility will enable the company, which also exports marron products, to improve the quality and quantity of fish as well as increasing the speed and efficiency of production.

“We have lots of room to grow while still being a few hours away from Perth’s international airport, so our fish can be harvested in the morning and be in Singapore the next day. The fish are transported chilled, not frozen, which is important in a species like trout as it provides a much better product when served,” he added.

The process begins with the purchase and supply of fry stock from DPIRD’s trout hatchery, which are then grown-out in the Blue Ridge Marron nursery and later transferred to the farm dams.

The company is also experimenting with new product varieties, with plans to include production of fresh and smoked trout products for gourmet delis in Perth and around Australia, as well as our developing international markets in Asia, including Hong Kong.

Aquaculture development is a priority for the State Government, which has recently announced expansions and developments for a range of species in the Mid-West and South Coast regions.

Perfecting the art of aquaculture

With their production and sales channels established, attention is now being placed on improving brooding and nursery stock and naturally enhancing growth performance.

Peter McGinty said the Blue Ridge Marron team are working with DPIRD to identify and select growth traits and enhance performance of the broodstock.

“We have pooled around 11,000 fry and are selecting the best 500 from that group to use as breeding stock. These fish are showing superior growth performance so it is hoped they will share these traits with their fry when born. This will provide a better and faster growing fish in the future, which will help us and our customers,” Peter said.