Support extended for prawn project

A multi-billion dollar prawn aquaculture project, expected to create 1,600 jobs in Northern Australia, has been granted a renewal of its Major Project Status.

Project Sea Dragon will produce Black Tiger prawns, mainly for the Asian export market, and involves five sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said her government will renew support for the project, being developed by Seafarms Group.

“This project is expected to generate $3 billion in export revenue, helping to boost our economy further,” Andrews said. “Stage 1 of the project is expected to create 1,000 jobs – at full scale this will rise to 1,600 jobs.

“Ultimately, the project will involve construction of about 10,000 hectares of ponds with the project to span more than 90 years, and about 15,000 tonnes per annum of prawns will be produced in the project’s first full stage of development.”

The project includes a partnership with major international seafood company Nissui, and has strong support from Indigenous stakeholders and local communities who will benefit from jobs, training and protection of sites and the environment.

This Major Project Status renewal comes as the Liberal National Government announced $420,000 in funding to develop a comprehensive plan for the aquaculture industry in Northern Australia.

Project Sea Dragon is land-based and has five core sites. The Legune Station prawn farm in the Northern Territory will be supported by a wild-caught prawn stocking and quarantine centre at Exmouth, WA; a Core Breeding Centre and Broodstock Maturation Centre at Bynoe Harbour near Darwin; a commercial hatchery at Gunn Point near Darwin and a processing plant at Kununurra, WA.

Over the next 12 months researchers from James Cook University will work with CSIRO, Blueshift Consulting, the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association, Australian Prawn Farmers Association and the Indigenous Land Corporation to develop the plan.

The Northern Territory and Western Australian Governments are also providing priority support to the project.

Northern Territory declared banana freckle free

Queensland banana growers have avoided a serious biosecurity risk with the Northern Territory today officially declared banana freckle free.

The successful eradication follows a five year joint effort between the Australian, state and territory governments and the banana industry.

Banana freckle is a pest of banana leaves and fruit caused by a fungal pathogen.

Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the announcement would boost confidence for Queensland growers and the $1.2 billion Australian banana industry.

“Eradication is a tough business so this is a big win for some 700 banana growers across the country,” Littleproud said.

“Growers were staring down the barrel of up to $24 million a year in additional management costs.

“The disease posed a real threat to the livelihoods of many banana growers but swift action saw it contained to the Northern Territory before it was eradicated.”

The fungal disease isn’t a health risk but does stunt the growth of the plant and causes spotting on the fruit, making it less appetising and harder to sell, Littleproud said.

“Had the disease spread to Queensland strict controls would have been put in place and no fruit would have been able to leave the region to be sold to supermarkets across Australia,” he said.

The federal government contributed $6 million to the national response program led by the Northern Territory and assisted with surveillance, monitoring and response planning.

“The partnership between the Northern Territory and the Australian Banana Growers Council was an essential component of the eradication program. The efforts of banana growers who participated in the program in the Northern Territory should also be commended,” Littleproud said.

“Queensland is the powerhouse of the Australian banana industry. In 2016­­­­­­­­­­–17 North Queensland produced 94 per cent of Australia’s banana production for the year.”