Pilot Edible Oyster Program Forges Ahead in Pilbara

The pilot program to grow edible oysters in the Pilbara said to increase local jobs and develop a sustainable, commercial oyster industry, continues to forge ahead in the Pilbara’s Flying Foam Passage.

Pilot program continues to forge on in the Pilbara

In June this year, the trial was strengthened by an additional 125,000 juvenile oysters that travelled from Western Australia’s shellfish hatchery in Albany to be deployed into their new location.

Maxima Pearling Company General Manager, Steven Gill, said that the trial was progressing well with good growth rates and minimal mortality.

“The oyster spat were produced in the Albany Shellfish Hatchery collected from the from Flying Foam Passage broodstock and will bolster the 7,000 wild juvenile oyster spat that were collected and placed in grow out baskets at the trial site in March.”

“The hatchery spat were packed in Albany and air freighted to Karratha on 20 June. The next day, the oysters were split between intertidal and sub-tidal grow out baskets. In their new home on the Dampier coast, they will grow out to market size as part of the trial.”

“The aim is to assess growth and mortality rates of local oyster species in culture to determine the best set up for a commercial operation in the Pilbara.”

To view progress of the multi-million-dollar project, a partnership between Maxima Pearling Company, Pilbara Development Commission, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, City of Karratha and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, The Hon. Minister Kelly MLA, was invited to attend a hands-on site visit in late August.

John Hutton from Maxima Pearling Company said the site visit was an important opportunity for the Minister to see first-hand the work of the project, and the involvement of people from all sectors and levels.

John Hutton said that it was an important opportunity for the Minister to see first-hand the work of the project. 

“It was a great to welcome the Minister to our rock oyster trial sites.  We are very proud of the research work we are doing on rock oyster culture with the traditional owners. “

“The Minister had the opportunity to walk the intertidal site and collect data on the growth of the oysters during the low tide. This hands-on visit makes it easy for him and government to appreciate the potential of rock oyster production in the region,” he said.

Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. Dave Kelly MLA, said that a priority of the state government is to ensure the aquaculture industry in Western Australia continues to grow.

“It is a priority of the McGowan Government to grow the aquaculture industry in WA, with projects just like in Flying Foam Passage. We’re supporting trials like this through our Albany-based hatchery, which supplies high quality spat for this trial.”

“There is huge potential for us to serve the growing demand worldwide for quality aquaculture products, particularly given our reputation for having clean, healthy and sustainable ocean environments. This will create WA jobs and diversify our local economy.

Minister Kelly said there is huge potential for us to serve the growing demand worldwide for quality aquaculture products

Following the review of the oyster trial, the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation took the Minister to some significant sites in the Murujuga National Park. Tour participants and the Minister were able to observe some of the hundreds of thousands of rock art carvings on the Burrup Peninsula with the traditional owners.

Minister Kelly made mention of the working relationship between private companies and traditional owners, acknowledging the benefits the project may provide to local communities.

“What is particularly great about this trial is the partnership that has formed between aquaculture specialists and traditional owners. The trial has the potential to lead on to a broader scale project that could be of economic and social benefit to local Aboriginal communities,” he said.

 Steven said the pilot scale project will continue for a further 12 months, monitoring growth rates, mortality and oyster quality.

“One of the most important aspects of the trial moving forward is experimenting with different gear types.”

“The Pilbara is a unique environment and it is clear from early results that the traditional oyster growing equipment used in NSW, Tasmania and South Australia will require some modification and refinement to produce the best quality oysters in the large tidal flow environments in the Pilbara,” he concluded.