Substantial boost for Western Australia’s fish health capabilities

On the edge of the ocean at Watermans Bay, in Perth’s northern suburbs, a suite of new laboratories, examination and sampling rooms are now fully operational and providing vital support for Western Australia’s fast-growing aquaculture industry.

The new facilities provide fish health and research services that aim to grow WA’s aquaculture industries and support job growth.

WA fisheries minister Dave Kelly said the new aquatic animal health facilities will be vital to grow and protect a strong and sustainable aquaculture industry that will deliver jobs and opportunities along WA’s coastline.

“Just last month, we announced that Huon Aquaculture will be setting up a 2,200-hectare yellowtail kingfish farm off Geraldton and that has the potential to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs,” he said.

READ: Western Australia lobster industry gets boost

“We have enviable environmental credentials that underpin finfish and shellfish projects, but we need to ensure we can diagnose, manage and overcome future fish health challenges.

“Enhancing our applied health research capacity, by investing in these Watermans Bay facilities, complements existing disease diagnostic and aquaculture services provided to industry by government,” said Kelly.

Managed by aquatic animal health scientists from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the facilities will bring together government, university partners and industry to develop new aquaculture research and development.

The facilities include a high-tech DNA laboratory and a cell culture laboratory, which will help to identify emerging pathogens and understand their distribution and dynamics as well as their potential to cause disease.

High-throughput sample processing robots will also help speed up large-scale pathogen molecular studies, and new equipment will enable rapid assessment of fish and shellfish immunity by examining individual cells from samples.


Western Australia lobster industry gets boost

The Western Australian government plans to grow the lobster industry and boost local lobster supply.

In early-November, the government explained there could be a potential growth of 500 jobs and economic growth within the industry.

Fisheries minister Dave Kelly said more than 95 per cent of commercially caught the region’s rock lobster is exported to China.

“Little flows into our local market for the enjoyment of Western Australians and tourists.

READ: SafeFish gets $855,000 to help Australia’s seafood sector grow

“Scientific studies show that this sustainably certified community resource is in excellent shape. This presents us with an opportunity to use the unfished lobster resource to return greater benefits to the WA community,” said Kelly.

The western rock lobster fishery was the first fishery in the world to be certified as ecologically sustainable by the international Marine Stewardship Council.

Since then, the fishery has been successfully recertified three times with the last assessment in 2017.

Recent scientific studies have confirmed the Western Australia resource is once again in a healthy state.

The western rock lobster resource is currently worth more than $5 billion, however, the net return to the Western Australian government through licence fees for this community resource is only $10m per annum.

The state government has now begun consulting with the peak industry body, Western Rock Lobster, and other stakeholders to explore options to grow the fishery, including increasing the supply of lobsters for Western Australian families and tourists.

“Benefits will include the opportunity to create hundreds of new jobs in regional communities, improve lobster supply and provide a greater economic benefit to all Western Australians,” said Kelly.

“While exploring these plans, we are committed to the sustainable management of our world-class lobster fishery, growing its value, and ensuring the future economic contribution of this natural resource,” he said.

Another initiative being considered is the establishment of an annual western rock lobster festival, which would provide locals and tourists alike with the opportunity to purchase lobsters and taste this delicious seafood.

Discussions will also include other initiatives that may benefit the industry, such as establishing a spiny lobster research institute.