PRAWN BOOM MEANS JOBS

Aqua­cul­ture com­pany keen to start on $2.6m ex­pan­sion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

THE prawn farm on the north­ern out­skirts of Port Dou­glas is set to un­dergo a $2.6 mil­lion ex­pan­sion this year, cre­at­ing around nine full­time jobs.

Own­ers Gold Coast Ma­rine Aqua­cul­ture ac­quired land for new ponds and a new pro­cess­ing plant over the past few years and are now look­ing with some ur­gency to get­ting pro­duc­tion ramped up from the cur­rent 300 tonnes a year to 500 tonnes.

GCMA’s main fa­cil­ity on the Lo­gan River has been de­stocked in re­sponse to the de­tec­tion of white spot dis­ease in prawn farms late last year. All seven farms on the Lo­gan River have been de­stocked.

GCMA lost 25 mil­lion black tiger prawns – there is not a sin­gle prawn on site.

It is pre­cisely the need to di­ver­sify risk that gen­eral man­ager Nick Moore says spurred his com­pany sev­eral years ago to build up its Port Dou­glas op­er­a­tions. “You’ve got to have plan B, C and D,” Mr Moore told the Gazette.

“We’re Aussie farm­ers, re­mem­ber, and if any farm­ers in the world have to put up with what we do, with flood, fires, drought and gov­ern­ments . . .

“This was some­thing we al­ways had in our mind.

“In fact we ac­tu­ally have an­i­mals in an­other bio-se­cure fa­cil­ity some­where else as well.

“You can­not af­ford to lose your brood stock – they are ir­re­place­able. Iron­i­cally, we set up sep­a­rate sites in case of floods and other risk, not nec­es­sar­ily in case of the out­break of ex­otic diseases.”

The com­pany put in a DA to ex­pand the farm in 2015 and it was ap­proved late last year – just when one of those risks – an ex­otic dis­ease – took full im­pact. Now with the Lo­gan River farm off­line for an in­def­i­nite time, the need for cash­flow is para­mount.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate this has oc­curred in the year that it did be­cause we need to be very care­ful as to how we spend what­ever cap­i­tal we re­tain, since not hav­ing a crop this year is hav­ing a pretty dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on cash­flow.

“Hav­ing said that, we are ded­i­cated to in­creas­ing our area of pondage at Port Dou­glas. There are al­ready black tiger prawns in pro­duc­tion on the Kil­laloe site, but not a breed­ing fa­cil­ity so we would be look­ing at build­ing some­thing up there so we can do some­thing a bit more so­phis­ti­cated.”

Mr Moore said GCMA wanted to boost pro­duc­tion as soon as it could; site prepa­ra­tions would start as soon as the Wet Sea­son al­lowed.

We set up sep­a­rate sites in case of floods and other risk, not nec­es­sar­ily in case of ex­otic diseases

Nick Moore

Picture: DAR­REN ENG­LAND

Gold Coast Ma­rine Aqua­cul­ture gen­eral man­ager Nick Moore with a gi­ant fe­male breed­ing prawn in one of the farm's spawn­ing pond sheds

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