Queensland Giant tiger prawns set to take over the world

Using advanced genetic technologies Australian scientists have been able to selectively breed fast-growing, high-health shrimp
September 4, 2008

Queensland Giant tiger prawns set to take over the world

New technology that can help shrimp farmers double their yields within three years is now available to Queensland farmers thanks to the support of the State Government.

Visiting the Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture facility last week, Minister for Regional Development and Industry Desley Boyle announced a $500,000 Smart State Innovation Projects Fund (IPF) grant to the CSIRO to advance a program of introducing Elite Giant Tiger Prawns to Australian Prawn Farmers.

"Using advanced genetic technologies scientists from the CSIRO Food Futures National Flagship have been able to selectively breed fast-growing, high-health prawns, in close collaboration with Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, one of Queensland's leading prawn farming companies," she said.

"These prawns possess all the genetic markers for success in terms of size, taste and the ability to thrive - and they take the guess work out for farmers who currently rely on the unpredictability of wild stocks.

"It's also a sustainability win with farmers having to rely less on trawling to replenish their stocks throughout the year and greatly lessens the impact of farming on marine ecosystems.

"This technology will further assist the aquaculture industry in Queensland to continue to be environmentally sustainable while providing high quality, highly nutritious seafood with excellent health benefits and positive benefits for regional communities."

Ms Boyle said the project, funded under the IPF's Research-Industry Partnerships Program, would help Queensland farmers meet a growing demand for tiger shrimp in the South East Asian region.

"In recent times there has been a strong decline in the production of large farmed prawns, particularly Black Tiger prawns, as well as a decline of natural stocks in the South East Asian region," she said.

"Increasing farm yields for Queensland farmers will give them a real market advantage and boost the State's aquaculture industry."

The funding will enable the CSIRO to expand its work with Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture to include additional farms, including Seafarm (based in Cardwell and Mossman) and Australian Prawn Farms near Sarina.

Project leader Dr Nigel Preston of the CSIRO Food Futures National Flagship based at Cleveland welcomed the support of the State Government. "This funding has brought the project forward at least three years and it's destined to bring great returns to Queensland."

Dr Preston said Queensland prawn farmers produced an average of 3, 200 tonnes of farmed prawns a year - worth $50M to the State. "Our work to date gives me confidence to predict that we can help prawn farmers to double their yield in three generations (three years)."

Dr Preston said breeding from the offspring of selected wild stock enabled farmers, with the help of technology, to breed prawns of the highest quality. "These offspring are domesticated which means that every generation we can select the best and healthiest performers. We can then use our genotyping technology to breed the ideal prawn for the consumer rather than farming the offspring of wild stocks each year," he said.

"The industry is keen to come on board with the CSIRO, we have the knowledge and the technology to enable farmers to make the most of their production."

Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture's (GCMA) General Manager Nick Moore welcomed the funding. The company, together with Seafarm and the Australian Prawn Farmers Association, has been working with the CSIRO since the early days of prawn domestication in the late nineties.

"We're looking forward to working with Dr Preston on further improving spawning rates and the genetic selection of prawn families that will produce high quality offspring on the farm," he said.

Mr Moore said GCMA, with a capacity to produce more than 400 tonnes of prawns annually, was working towards increasing the farms percentage of domesticated prawns from 30% in 2008 to 60% in 2009.

The Innovation Projects Fund is part of the Queensland Government's $300 million Smart State Innovation Funding Program, which aims to build world-class research facilities, attract top quality scientists to Queensland and stimulate cutting-edge research projects.