Prawn farming operations in the Northern Territory are set to recommence to support Territory producers thanks to a new selective breeding program at Charles Darwin University (CDU).
CDU aquaculture students are growing tiny Banana Prawns for use in NT Aquaculture, as part of a new partnership with prospective prawn farmers Barramundi Adventures at Berry Springs and Bynoe Barramundi at Sandpalms, Dundee.
Prawn farming is Queensland’s largest aquaculture sector providing the equivalent of over 600 full-time jobs and production valued at approximately $80 million. But there are currently no actively operating farms in the Territory, which means developing the industry would support NT jobs, the industry and the economy.
As a part of the selective breeding program, CDU will breed the prawns out to 15mm, where they will be sent to producers to grow out the prawns to then harvest them to size.
CDU Aquaculture Lecturer Morris Pizzutto said wild banana prawn broodstock have been collected from local waters, and post larvae is being produced by CDU for stocking to industry.
“We’re working with local producers to grow prawns and we’ve achieved an important milestone in the post larvae production of juvenile prawns this week as the prawns are now ready to be stocked out into farms this week to kick off the project,” Mr Pizzutto said.
CDU is responsible for the maturation and spawning of broodstock prawns, and larval rearing for three consecutive generations to produce post larvae for stocking to grow out ponds.
Barramundi Adventures and Bynoe Barramundi will be responsible for grow out of the post larvae to mature adult sized prawns to act as broodstock for the next generation.
After growing out, adult prawns will be selected from these ponds and returned to CDU to produce second generation larvae to create a commercially viable prawn for continued aquaculture production in the NT.
“It’s really exciting as nobody in the NT is currently producing prawns,” he said.
“We have many ponds in the ground that aren’t being used, and we thought we can link it in with our vocational training offerings and try and kick off the prawn farming industry.”
“Aquaculture is potentially a very big driver for the Territory that can be expanded. We have an opportunity here to develop an industry in the NT and develop it in a way that in a way that’s environmentally sustainable and produced locally,” he said.
“We hope to get local fresh prawns onto the market in the next 12 months and go from there. “
Bynoe Barramundi Owner Greg Cooling said the project would benefit producers and he was interested in exploring the potential for the industry in the Northern Territory.
“If we can prove that we can do it, it’s going to open up a lot of doors – it’s an industry with a huge amount of potential,” Mr Cooling said.
“Once they’ve been rebred several times, those prawns then become quite valuable, they become even easier to breed and some end up quite massive.
“A fresh prawn and a cold beer go down alright, so I’m sure Territorians will be happy to have fresh prawns, and we’ll be employing more people in the process.”