At AIM we encourage as much industry as possible to far North Queensland. The decision by Tassal to start operations there is very welcome news by us and we are aware this is simply the tip of the iceberg as far as the abundance of opportunities go. All Queensland Governments have totally neglected this area because of the low voting power of the cities yet very quick to rake in as much cash as they can and give nothing back. With AIM we propose to change this inequity.
Tasmanian seafood giant Tassal expands into tropical north Queensland
A massive new prawn farm to be built at Proserpine in north Queensland could herald a new era in aquaculture.
Tasmanian seafood giant Tassal will expand its Gregory River prawn farm, north of Proserpine, to eventually produce 20,000 tonnes annually.
Head of Supply Chain at Tassal, Ben Daley said the company had already begun its investment in the region, and it would continue to invest over the next five or six years.
“Northern Queensland provides the environment that is suitable for growing the tiger prawns that we’ll be bringing into the market, due to the warm temperature,” Mr Daley said.
A processing plant and new hatchery will also be constructed as part of the plans, with up to 400 hectares of ponds to be eventually built at the site.
About 1,000 jobs will be created as part of the construction process, while 700 ongoing jobs will be maintained by the farms, bringing Tassal’s total investment to about $100 million.
Confidence in the domestic market
Tassal had been seeking to diversify from its Tasmanian salmon business amid controversy over the environmental impact of pens in the state’s estuaries.
“From our point of view, what we grow is a very sustainable product down in Tasmania that’s heavily supported in the market,” Mr Daley said.
“We’ve seen 10 per cent growth in salmon demand per year for the past 10 years.
“Salmon and prawns make up 70 per cent of seafood sales in Australia, and we also sell prawns now, we just haven’t seen supply growth coming on prawns.
“We can now help come and stimulate supply growth into those same markets that we’re supplying our salmon into,” he said.
Queensland minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries Mark Furner said the investment represented confidence in the growing domestic seafood market, half of which was imported from overseas.
“The growing demand for great Queensland seafood means there is more than enough room for a strong sustainable commercial fishing industry and a strong, growing and sustainable aquaculture industry in our state,” he said
Mr Daley said the support from the Queensland Government was important to Tassal’s expansion into the state.
“We think it’s a quite an under-developed industry that we can really help facilitate the growth from. We’re hoping that with us coming in, it will stimulate some more investment in aquaculture,” Mr Daley said.
The State Government is planning a shake-up of the wild-catch sector to bring new limits it says will ensure the sustainability of the industry.
Concern among commercial fishers
But Bowen seafood retailer Terry Must said the plans to establish quota for the inshore fishery were misguided.
He said commercial fishermen were concerned about the impact new fishing reforms, to be announced next month, could have on wild-catch seafood.
“I think it’ll be the same as the what happened in 2004 when the coral reef line plan came through, things got harder and harder more fishermen left the industry,” Mr Must.
“We would have done a bin of fish a day, that’s about 500 to 1,000 kilos. There were three factories processing fish in Bowen Harbour then.
Mr Must said less than half of the coral-reef fin fish quota was being caught, reducing the public’s access to reef fish.
“Today we’re catching only 44 per cent of what the allocation was set [in 2004] on 1996 catch levels.
“The demand is huge. They come here for fresh local seafood and we see less and less — we have buyers every day of the week seeking local fish.
“We can’t get too expensive.
“It’s like your finer cuts of meat, not everyone can have that,” he said.
Mr Must said that recent regulations like Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) placed extra burdens on an industry existing with limited government support.
“There’s definitely less investment, it’s just getting harder and harder.
“We see a resource that’s very good, just not enough people catching them,” he said.