One step closer to commercial tropical rock oyster industry for WA

A commercially viable tropical oyster industry for northern Western Australia is one step closer, thanks to aquaculture research that has successfully produced oysters that are on track to being restaurant size and quality.

First identified by the Pilbara Development Commission in 2017 and led by WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) researchers, the three-year Tropical Rock Oyster research project successfully produced two tropical rock oyster species.

Broodstock oysters were collected from remote areas in northern WA and grown at DPIRD’s Hillarys marine shellfish hatchery before being transferred to trial sites in the Pilbara, managed by project industry partner Maxima Pearling Company. A small number of Black Lip Rock Oysters were also grown at a site in Cone Bay.

The oysters were monitored to see how they grew and developed into marketable oysters whilst testing different farm sites and systems.

The next step is for industry, led by Maxima Pearling Company, to use the research information to develop post-harvest handling techniques and a market strategy to get tropical rock oysters onto local menus.

Standard guidelines on the best ways to farm tropical rock oysters in Northern Australia are being developed with the aim of attracting potential investment to grow the emerging industry.

The project was supported by $570,000 in funding from the Australian Government through the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.

This research brought together leading fisheries and aquaculture researchers to work with traditional owners and commercial companies including DPIRD, Maxima Pearling Company, Athair Aquaculture, Hexcyl Systems, Zapco Aquaculture, the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the Pilbara and Kimberley Development Commissions.

Quotes attributable to Federal Northern Australia Minister Madeleine King:

“Overall, the Albanese Government has invested $1.2 million in Northern Australian Tropical Rock Oyster research and development through the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.

“This industry has the potential to support hundreds of jobs and create hundreds of millions of dollars of additional economic output in Northern Australia.

“The Albanese Government is committed to supporting industry-led research and development that boosts economic growth in Northern Australia and this investment via the CRCNA is a great example of that.”

Quotes attributable to WA Fisheries and Regional Development Minister Don Punch:

“The McGowan Government is committed to investing in aquaculture research and development which plays a vital role in diversifying the State’s economy and creating new jobs in regional WA, contributing $21 million annually.

“There is a lot of potential in the regions with exciting work being done to grow emerging aquaculture industries including rock oysters and seaweed production.”

Quotes attributable to WA Agriculture and Food Minister Jackie Jarvis:

“Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production sector.

“Continuing to develop our local aquaculture industries through research and development is vital to make sure WA has the opportunity to capitalise on market opportunities as demand for products such as tropical rock oysters and scallops grows.”