Animal Health Australia visits an Australian Prawn Farm

Animal Health Australia (AHA) is a not-for-profit organization that deals extensively with the preparation and response in an emergency animal disease event. They also undertake numerous projects on surveillance and bio security planning with and on behalf of its members.

The ten member AHA Board visited Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture (GCMA) April 14, 2015 to see firsthand what an Australian prawn farm looks like, how it operates and to learn of the issues and risks facing the Australian industry.

Nick Moore, General Manger of GCMA – hosted the visit and kept members enthralled on how he transitioned from working in the chicken industry to prawn farming – the learning curve and the perils of knowing what to look for and what not to do. Dr Matt Briggs, Technical Project Manager at Ridley Aqua feed and Helen Jenkins, Executive Officer of the APFA were on hand to respond to questions raised by the board.

The farm visit lasted for about 3 hours and the members were most impressed by the operations, water quality and treatment – and 46 peer reviewed research papers undertaken by CSIRO, the domestication program, genetics & family lines, global disease risks, broodstock, new sustainable feed options, how Australian farms compare to international farms, what it means to be an Australian prawn farmer, not to rely too much on technology – visual and constant monitoring are essential, stocking densities, how this farm and others have partnered with key researchers for advancement in breeding and other technologies, mangroves are not destroyed they are prolific, we need clean healthy water to be able to produce a crop – effectively taking in dirty water, cleaning it during the farming season and discharging it cleaner than intake.

Importantly the nutrients that seem to worry a lot of government departments and agencies – left at the bottom of the pond post harvest was just a big dark circle, no mound. If the pond conditions and feeding ratios during grow out are correct what’s left is an inorganic substance that is easy to remove and allow the pond to dry out during winter months.

Members were treated to a special hands on experience – handling some domesticated broodstock and marveled at their size and how tame they were.

The members enthusiastically kept wanting to know more and more and towards the end asked the usual question posed by politicians and dignitaries after a farm visit – why don’t we have more prawn farms in Australia?

The response was that there is no National Aquaculture Policy that encourages investment in Australia, the regulatory restrictions on prawn farming are onerous but achievable, this industry is disadvantaged because it has a discharge point that has to be tested and analyzed to ensure no environmental harm. This is not expected from any other agriculture sector, neighboring or otherwise. That there has been no new investment in Australia since 2001 and has taken one farm 14 years for a new development. The Australian government both State’s and Federal seems to be one of let’s just import more seafood rather than allow the aquaculture industry to develop here and provide more Australian seafood, grown under Australia’s environmental standards.

This industry is not understood.

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