Thousands of Yellowtail Kingfish ready to hit the Australian market
ABC Midwest - Chris Lewis 16 May 2016
The harvest of 15,000 fat and healthy Yellowtail Kingfish in a Mid West Western Australia aquaculture trial has started. The Yellowtail Kingfish currently swim in a pen located in Geraldton's Champion Bay waiting to be delivered to a local restaurant and markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
Indian Ocean Fresh Australia has been working with the Mid West Development Commission 2008 to determine if it is commercially viable to farm fish in the pristine waters off Geraldton's coast. This is the third commercial trial and Indian Ocean Fresh Australia Managing Director Erica Starling said they were getting closer to aquaculture becoming a commercial reality in the region.
"I think we are getting a much better handle on what is actually possible here now and I think we have a lot more confidence in what we can do and so we are getting a much stronger feel for what is actually achievable," she said. "I started this and I was blindly naive and naively optimistic as well. I had no idea what I was in for and I don't think anybody really does until you actually do it."
She said has been valuable working with the Mid West Development Commission because they had actually supported the research into the project. "I call these the fish that 30 people grew because we have such a support network of people out there," she said.
The fish are monitored and fed high quality pellet food daily. Harvest commenced last month and will continue weekly until September or October. Similar to other livestock the fish are given a condition score and matched to a market. Small fish will be served whole while the short fat ones, some weighing up to five kilograms each, will become the Japanese delicacy sashimi. Ms Starling said they were already receiving excellent feedback.
"We just got some feedback back from a Japanese wholesaler in Sydney and he said these fish are beautiful fish, they are oily, the fat content is good they look fantastic and they taste good," she said. The trial has cost $2.14 million as a well as hundreds of hours of in-kind labour invested by Indian Ocean Fresh Australia, Department of Fisheries, Marine Fish Farmers Association and the Mid West Development Commission. The proceeds of harvest sales will be returned to State funding partners.
"I am still learning, but when I wasn't sure what to do someone said to me, 'Erica they are like your pets you get to know them, if you think there is something wrong there probably is, trust your instincts." Indian Ocean Fresh Australia Managing Director Erica Starling
Farming fish a risky business
There are multiple risks for aquaculture projects including adverse weather, problems with feed supply and animal disease.
In 2006-2007 then publicly listed, Western King Fish Ltd invested $8 million into aquaculture ventures at Jurien Bay including a Yellowtail Kingfish project. The company went into receivership in less than 18 months due to disease outbreak in the fish stock.
The Geraldton Yellowtail Kingfish trial is taking no chances with fish health. Each fortnight blood samples are taken from a couple of live fish before the animals are dissected with samples stored to keep a record of animal health throughout the growth process.
Ms Starling said they had learned to go with the flow and use intuition as well as solid science to keep the animals healthy. "I am still learning, but when I wasn't sure what to do someone said to me Erica they are like your pets you get to know them if you think there is something wrong there probably is trust your instincts. I guess that has always stuck in my mind and I kind thought yeah ok we can do that," she said.