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Work has started on the Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development project with oyster collecting equipment deployed off the Dampier coast this week.
Pilbara Development Commission Chief Executive Officer Terry Hill said it was an important milestone not only for the project, but also for the development of aquaculture in the Pilbara.
“Oysters naturally grow in abundance along the Pilbara coast, so there is a significant opportunity to establish a commercial industry which would result in new regional jobs and economic growth,” Mr Hill said.
“On paper, the conditions, climate and market demand make it a no-brainer. Now we’re getting on with collecting the scientific evidence we need to prove it’s economically viable on a commercial scale.”
The three-day installation, managed by Maxima Pearling Company, was completed in time for peak spawning season to maximise the collection of oyster larvae, known as spat.
Maxima Pearling Company General Manager Steven Gill said there were two oyster species found on the Pilbara coast.
“In this trial, we’ll target the Tropical Blacklip oyster as it has been shown in other regions to have a rapid growth rate and good market attributes, including size and taste,” Mr Gill said.
The project site, located 30 kilometres north of Dampier in Flying Foam Passage, consists of four trial sites marked by buoys.
Mr Gill said most of the equipment was not visible from the surface and reminded recreational boat users in the area to be vigilant.
“The project will have no major impact to boaties travelling through the channel, however it’s important to remind the community that it’s an offence to interfere with aquaculture equipment.”
The Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation will support the project by providing monitoring and sampling through the Ranger program.
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation Chair Raelene Cooper said it was an exciting opportunity for the broader activation of the national park.
“We’re committed to sharing the rich cultural assets of the park with visitors from around the world,” Ms Cooper said.
“The potential opportunity to show tourists our sea country and then serve up freshly shucked local Pilbara oysters would be a truly unique experience.”
It will take three to four months for the spat collection to be completed. The oysters will then be transferred to grow-out baskets where they will grow until they are a marketable size, which may take around two years.
Maxima Pearling Company received an aquaculture research permit from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in September 2017.
The Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development Project is a partnership between the Pilbara Development Commission, Fisheries Research Development Corporation on behalf of the Australian Government, City of Karratha, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and Maxima Pearling Company.
FRDC project reference: 2017-061 Pilbara rock oyster research and development program.