“The growing area of Flying Foam Passage is roughly the same size as Coffin Bay in South Australia. There is enormous potential to develop a significant industry in the Pilbara.”
John Hutton, Managing Director Maxima Pearling Company

Watch this short video about the oyster collection equipment installation in November >>

Pilbara Rock Oyster Research & Development Project

The Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development Project is the first step in developing a commercial oyster industry, which would create new local jobs and stimulate economic activity in the Pilbara. The project will establish a trial oyster farm at Flying Foam Passage on the Burrup Peninsula.

Rock oysters already grow naturally in abundance on the Pilbara coast, and studies have shown the Pilbara’s environmental conditions, freight networks and extensive coastline make it well-suited to rock oyster farming. This research will fill the knowledge gap to assist in attracting prospective aquaculture developers to the Pilbara.

About the project

The research and development project aims to grow locally sourced rock oysters under aquaculture conditions. The project will use modern oyster farming technology and aims to grow high quality rock oysters potentially suitable for domestic and international markets. The oysters will grow in baskets on an adjustable longline system attached to the seafloor. Rock oysters are filter feeders and improve the quality of the water that passes through the farm site.

The project will assess the following:

  • oyster species suitable to local conditions
  • growth to achieve market size
  • mortality rates and predation
  • seasonal conditioning for market
  • tidal height for optimal growth and hygiene
  • development of a shellfish quality assurance program
  • ensure food safety for human consumption

Outcomes of the project will be publicly released on completion to ensure the information is readily available to future prospective aquaculture developers. The final report will be used to promote the establishment of an aquaculture industry in the region by attracting private investors and commercial operators.

Latest news

24 November 2017: Oyster trial off to a swimming start
28 August 2017: Pilbara rock oyster research trial gets underway
20 March 2017: Pilbara oysters will be the most unique in Australia
15 February 2017: Oyster experts to visit the Pilbara

Project milestones

Australia's aquaculture industry

The Australian aquaculture industry is worth $2.5 billion per year and directly employs more than 14,000 people. Western Australia has the biggest coastline in the country, yet has one of the smallest aquaculture industries, presenting a significant growth opportunity.

  • Global seafood consumption is expected to double by 2050
  • Australian aquaculture industry directly employs about 14,000 people
  • Australian rock oyster industry is worth $100 million
  • 16.5 million dozen oysters were produced in Australia in 2007

Important information about the trial site

The Flying Foam Passage project site has an exemption to operate under the Fisheries Resource Management Act. Most of the equipment is not visible from the surface, so there is no major impact to boat users travelling through the channel. The site is a commercial operation and the public are reminded it is an offence under the Fisheries Resource Management Act to interfere with aquaculture equipment.

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

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