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A new tropical rock lobster aquaculture industry for Northern Australia

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Two Australian companies, Ornatas and Maxima, joined forces as part of a large cooperative effort to trial sea raft grow-out for tropical rock lobsters in Cone Bay. If successful, the project will open the door to create a whole new industry for Australia. 

The project is underpinned by world-first science and breeding technology, developed by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies IMAS, a technology that has closed the species’ complex life cycle and has paved the way for the establishment of a new sustainable tropical rock lobster aquaculture industry.

Ornatas has successfully commercialized this technology in partnership with IMAS and now has a fully operational tropical rock lobster hatchery in Northern Queensland. The next step is to grow the lobster to market size, this is what is planned for trial at the new facility in Cone Bay. To make this next step successful, this project will focus on six research areas: environment; raft design; translocation, lobster health and biosecurity; feeding strategies; lobster growth performance; and market acceptability.

“Ornatas and Maxima have teamed up with the best and brightest in Australia’s seafood industry and aquaculture research community. The project partners bring expertise across the production-to-market pipeline. Collectively we are investing over $4.5 million in this initiative in WA. We are all focused on making what was once impossible, possible,” said Scott Parkinson, CEO at Ornatas.

If successful, this will be a new 100% Australian grown product and the foundation of a whole new aquaculture industry. This project will create new jobs, and new opportunities, from systems fabricators, to hatchery and grow-out technicians, post-harvest, marketing, and supply chain specialists, researchers and business managers. Ornatas estimates direct employment in the sector for over 120 people in northern QLD, northern WA and Tasmania, with 100 of those jobs in Northern Australia by 2030.

“This project is a really unique and exciting example of Australian ingenuity, innovation and determination. This research into Raft Culture in Northen WA is a significant step forward toward a sustainable future for Australian aquaculture,” said Scott Parkinson, CEO at Ornatas.

The project is funded by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), as part of the Australian Government’s CRC Program, with additional support from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).


Photo caption: Juvenile tropical rock lobster - UTAS Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies.

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