Challenger aquaculture centre turning the tide in fish farming


Fish bred at Challenger Institute of Technology and transported to Geraldton are part of  the first harvest of a Midwest fish farm.

Cultivated at Challenger’s Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR), the yellowtail kingfish were put into a sea cage off the coast of Geraldton. Upon reaching maturity, the fish will be sent to markets across Australia.

This important Royalty for Regions project, aimed at developing a significant, marine-based aquaculture industry in the Mid West, has involved close collaboration between private enterprise and State government agencies. The Marine Fishfarmers Association (MFA) is the trial proponent, of which ACCAR is a founding member and Batavia Coast Maritime Institute, Department of Fisheries and Mid West Development Commission have all played a major part in seeking to demonstrate the potential of marine aquaculture along the WA coastline.

The two industry members of MFA, Indian Ocean Fresh Australia and Marine Produce Australia, are working with state agencies to make the trial a success sea cages off Geraldton, where an earlier successful mullaway trial had taken place, also sourced from ACAAR.

The potential of marine finfish aquaculture along the WA coastline is believed to be much larger than WA’s entire “wild-catch” fisheries, with the warm, clean, deep and semi-protected waters providing ideal conditions for many marine aquaculture projects. With significant funding from Royalties for Regions program via the Mid West Development Commission, the trial will establish the procedures needed to start an industry that grows market-sized fish from locally caught broodstock.

The trial commenced at Challenger Institute’s research facility at ACAAR, in Fremantle.  ACAAR spawned broodstock of yellowtail kingfish originally caught near the Abrolhos Islands, hatching their eggs and culturing them over a six week period.

At approximately one gram, the fingerlings were transported to Geraldton, where they were housed in nursery tanks at the Batavia Coast Maritime Institute in Geraldton until large enough, at five grams, to thrive in the sea cage.

ACAAR has 20 years of applied research and training experience in marine fish hatchery techniques and has some of the leading marine aquaculture specialists in the country.

“ACAAR has been conducting research into marine hatchery and live fish transport for nearly two decades, so is perfectly placed to contribute to a project that may change the way Australian’s source their seafood,” said ACAAR director Greg Jenkins.

“Yellowtail Kingfish remain a new and exciting species to cultivate due to their fast growth rates but despite this growth rate and good marketability of the fish, global production has only increased slowly due to a difficult hatchery production phase,” said Mr Jenkins. “ACAAR staff have more than 10 years experience in producing kingfish, including consulting to interstate and international commercial hatcheries and many of the initial hatchery bottlenecks associated with poor survival and deformity have been overcome,” he said.

All profits from the Mid West fish sales will be reinvested in aquaculture research and development.

Mid West Development Commission Chairman, Hon Murray Criddle, said the project was of great significance. “This provides outstanding potential for the region and WA to capture significant opportunity from an emerging industry sector,” Mr Criddle said.

“Supported by a business community with a long history and expertise in the fishing industry, the region is extremely well positioned to establish new “on-shore” and “off-shore” business and employment opportunities from marine aquaculture.”