Oys­ters a purler for in­vestors

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Pil­bara aqua­cul­ture lease­hold­ers have been urged to get oys­ters in the wa­ter now and start work on cre­at­ing an ed­i­ble oys­ter in­dus­try that could add $30 mil­lion to the lo­cal econ­omy and cre­ate jobs.

The Pil­bara Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion hosted a col­lec­tion of Aus­tralian oys­ter farm­ers and re­searchers last Fri­day to sell the mer­its of oys­ter farm­ing in the re­gion.

The group was fer­ried to the Fly­ing Foam Pas­sage in the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago to cast an eye over Max­ima Pear­ling Com­pany’s ex­pan­sive pear­ling lease. They also toured Dampier Salt’s pond zero to gain in­sight into op­tions for kick­start­ing a lo­cal in­dus­try.

Mu­ru­juga Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion and Kimberley-based Max­ima have been work­ing to­gether to in­ves­ti­gate set­ting up an ed­i­ble oys­ter ven­ture in the Fly­ing Foam Pas­sage.

It is one of four leases iden­ti­fied on the Pil­bara coast as hav­ing po­ten­tial to grow ed­i­ble oys­ters.

Max­ima gen­eral man­ager Steven Gill said the com­pany’s role was to bring the skills re­quired to help tra­di­tional own­ers de­velop a vi­able ed­i­ble oys­ter in­dus­try.

“We haven’t grown pearls on that site but we’re look­ing for an al­ter­nate use and an­other oys­ter species makes per­fect sense to us,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a mat­ter of go­ing straight to com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, we’re ac­tu­ally look­ing at pi­lot scale pro­jects to get off the ground first.

“We have heard from peo­ple who

farm oys­ters all over the coun­try to­day that this is a fan­tas­tic site and has great po­ten­tial, which is cer­tainly very en­cour­ag­ing.”

The PDC is push­ing to have a pi­lot project up and run­ning by the end of the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year.

Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Terry Hill said the Pil­bara’s rel­a­tively pop­u­la­tion-free coast­line and in­land ar­eas of­fered suit­able lo­ca­tions for aqua­cul­ture.

“Aqua­cul­ture is a ma­jor trans­for­ma­tional op­por­tu­nity for the re­gion, sup­port­ing job cre­ation and ex­port po­ten­tial,” he said.

Hex­cyl Sys­tems man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and South Aus­tralian oys­ter farmer Garry Seidl said unique­ness would be the best sell­ing point for a lo­cal oys­ter in­dus­try.

“I was more than ex­cited to tell Steven that their lease was very, very, very con­ducive to farm oys­ters,” he said.

“All the nat­u­ral bi­o­log­i­cal in­di­ca­tors are there and you have al­ready got nat­u­ral oys­ters oc­cur­ring in the area.

“The beauty of it is the size of the lo­ca­tion means they can ac­tu­ally se­lect the ideal lo­ca­tion for sight­ing of the var­i­ous meth­ods they could try and em­ploy to farm oys­ters.”

But Mr Seidl warned gov­ern­ment would need to be on board with in­vestors or the in­dus­try would strug­gle to get any trac­tion.

NSW Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries aqua­cul­ture re­search leader Wayne O’Connor brought up some of the hur­dles a lo­cal in­dus­try would need to over­come, but noted the re­gion showed po­ten­tial.

Queens­land-based oys­ter farmer John Col­li­son said the Pil­bara could be sit­ting on a $30 mil­lion in­dus­try.

“I have trav­elled around here for a cou­ple of days and just think the op­por­tu­nity here is mind­bog­gling,” he said.

“Oys­ter farm­ing is labour in­ten­sive so there is em­ploy­ment, and it is a sat­is­fy­ing job be­cause you are work­ing with na­ture. I’d re­ally love to see a trop­i­cal black­lip oys­ter in­dus­try, whether it be Queens­land or over here, hap­pen.”

The PDC is seek­ing ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from in­dus­try part­ners to help fund a pi­lot project.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

A group of oys­ter ex­perts and lo­cal stake­hold­ers tour Max­ima Pear­ling Com­pany's lease in the Fly­ing Foam Pas­sage.

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