Geraldton lands big catch in $7m plan: fish farmer

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Indian Ocean Fresh production manager Justine Arnold with one of the company's fully grown Yellowtail Kingfish
Camera IconIndian Ocean Fresh production manager Justine Arnold with one of the company's fully grown Yellowtail Kingfish Credit: Erica Starling

The State Government has committed $7 million to build and operate an ocean finfish nursery at Batavia Coast Marine Institute in Geraldton.

It will be used to grow yellowtail kingfish for transfer to offshore fish farms.

Fish farmer Erica Starling, who has operated Indian Ocean Fresh for 11 years, said this would have many advantages for her business, which employed about 20 people.

Under current arrangements she said eggs from parent fish in Geraldton were sent to a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development facility at Fremantle to be hatched and reared for about three months, then transported back to Geraldton.

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Ms Starling said the new Geraldton nursery meant fish could be grown to a more robust size before transfer to her cages in the sea.

She said the tanks at the Fremantle hatchery could only grow a limited volume of fish.

“They can send them up a bit smaller and we can grow them out,” she said.

“Usually the larger and more robust juveniles, the better they perform in natural ocean conditions. The transport of bigger fish gets risky and expensive.”

Ms Starling said she had been flagging the need for this facility for 10 years since she began an industry collaboration with the Mid West Development Commission.

Making the announcement on Wednesday, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said kingfish grown at the Geraldton facility would also be available to Tasmanian seafood giant Huon Aquaculture.

Huon has a 2200ha ocean lease in the Mid West Aquaculture Development Zone and is awaiting Federal environmental approval for its venture.

Mr Kelly said the new nursery would help kickstart the industry to increase its growth potential, create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and attract capital investment.

Central Regional TAFE director David Cohen said students would be actively involved in operating the hatchery.

“Our lecturing staff are very proactive in working with industry and participating in community projects that will broaden the outlook and ability of the students,” he said.

“When students leave this college and go into the workforce they are extremely well prepared.”

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