Sea­farms fast-tracks Exmouth prawn farm

Pilbara News - - News - Cally Dupe and Alicia Per­era

A ma­jor Perth aqua­cul­ture com­pany is fast-track­ing the trans­for­ma­tion of a for­mer bar­ra­mundi farm in Exmouth into a prawn quar­an­tine cen­tre to sup­port what could be­come Aus­tralia’s big­gest prawn farm in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Sea­farms bought Marine Farms’ bar­ra­mundi farm­ing op­er­a­tion in Exmouth in 2013 to re­de­velop for its $1.5 bil­lion Project Sea Dragon pro­gram at Le­gune Sta­tion in the NT.

The move to de­velop the Exmouth fa­cil­ity came about af­ter the com­pany con­firmed two weeks ago it had fi­nalised a much-an­tic­i­pated $10 mil­lion in cap­i­tal.

Sea­farms man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Chris Mitchell said the Exmouth site would be­come a “quar­an­tine or founder stock cen­tre” for prawns har­vested from the wild.

“The ad­van­tage of Exmouth was it was al­ready li­censed as an aqua­cul­ture cen­tre,” he said.

“It is very re­mote from the other fa­cil­i­ties which is all about biose­cu­rity, you are bring­ing an­i­mals in that haven’t been quar­an­tined or screened so it just makes a lot of sense (to do so).”

“We are just try­ing to ramp up the ren­o­va­tions at Exmouth, the place has been in moth­balls for a pe­riod of time, and needs to be ren­o­vated ef­fec­tively be­cause it had some cy­clone dam­age and has work to be done on it.”

Funds from Sea­farms’ first of­fi­cial cap­i­tal rais­ing will be chan­nelled into the Exmouth fa­cil­ity to make sure the project is “investor-ready” by the end of the year. Mr Mitchell said the com­pany was keen to “fast-track the project” as much as pos­si­ble and “bring for­ward” early cap­i­tal works pro­grams, in­clud­ing the Exmouth fa­cil­ity.

At full scale, Project Sea Dragon will cre­ate up­wards of 1500 jobs, in­clud­ing 670 at Le­gune Sta­tion, 580 in Ku­nunurra and 300 at a Dar­win-based hatch­ery.

Mr Mitchell said there would be some lo­cal jobs on of­fer at the Exmouth fa­cil­ity, though fewer than at most of its other lo­ca­tions.

“In terms of ben­e­fits for the lo­cal com­mu­nity, there is a small num­ber of jobs there but again it is re­ally that the fa­cil­ity, rather than be­ing un­used, will have an ac­tive eco­nomic life,” he said.

At full ca­pac­ity Project Sea Dragon would have 10,000ha of salt­wa­ter grow-out ponds stretch across the flood­plains of the Vic­to­ria and Keep Rivers near the WA-NT bor­der.

Prawns would be pro­cessed at a new pro­cess­ing plant to be built in Ku­nunurra and ex­ported to Asian mar­kets from ei­ther Wyndham or Dar­win.

Pic­ture: Bran­wen Smith

Sea­farms is de­vel­op­ing an Exmouth bar­ra­mundi farm into a prawn quar­an­tine cen­tre, thanks to a fund­ing boost.

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