Project number: 1999-328
Project Status:
Completed
Budget expenditure: $393,730.00
Principal Investigator: Brett Ingram
Organisation: Agriculture Victoria
Project start/end date: 25 Jul 1999 - 11 Jan 2005
Contact:
FRDC

Need

1. The Murray cod is highly valued and sought after as a table fish.

2. The current market relies on a small wild commercial fishery which provides limited quantities
of fish of highly variable quality on a seasonal basis.

3. A hatchery-based industry for fingerling production is already well established in Victoria
and NSW.

4. Methods are currently being developed by both industry and government (MAFRI) to
commercially produce market-size Murray cod in tanks and ponds with both natural and artificial
diets under a range of intensive/semi-intensive and ambient/controlled environment conditions.

5. A new market-driven R&D program designed to facilitate industry development of Murray cod
aquaculture is planned, which will involve strong government support and industry support and
participation.

6. Intensive commercial production and associated value-adding and co-operative marketing will
provide more consistent quality and supply of product, with the added advantage of being able
to target niche markets.

A vertically integrated Murray cod aquaculture industry is envisaged for Australia, with some elements, already in place. Key components include a conventional three tier Production component, viz. Hatchery, Nursery, Growout, tapping into a four tier market scenario, viz. juveniles (for recreational and conservation stock enhancement and as seed for nursery and/or growout operations; the latter ultimately for human consumption), sub-adults/advanced stockers (for sale to growout operations and also small numbers selected for genetically improved/domesticated broodfish), Table/plate size fish (for human consumption; includes both domestic and export, live and gilled and gutted/fillet consumption), and broodfish (small numbers of genetically improved stock for future domesticated commercial strains of juveniles specially selected for the growout market). Some Production levels may also undertake hatchery and/or nursery operations for their own and other industry needs as a fully self-contained, fully integrated business unit. The proposed R&D project will focus on three key tasks, viz genetics improvement, diet development and fish health, all of which are relevant to varying degrees to all production levels/markets of the developing industry. A schematic summary of the above is attached for information.

Specific industry needs for Murray cod R&D for the proposed project have been identified as a two part consultation process (see also Section B5), viz:

1. A workshop on 13 August, 1998, convened by MAFRI, involving relevant scientific, extension and management personnel from MAFRI, Deakin University, Victorian Institute for Animal Science and Fisheries Victoria, and some 30 delegates from industry from both Victoria and NSW (including both practising and proposed Murray cod farmers)(see copy of Workshop agenda attached). This meeting established a network of Murray cod farmers that would be interested in collaborating on a project, together with identifying and setting broad R&D priorities for future work. The initial FRDC Murray cod funding proposal was developed largely on the basis of this proposal.

2. A detailed questionnaire was faxed to a selection of existing and/or proposed Murray cod farmers in Victoria, SA and NSW, including the preliminary R&D consortium established at the September 1998 workshop, on 11 March, 1999 (see list attached). This questionnaire summarised an annotated list of six key R&D priorities as discussed at the September workshop and invited farmers to score the priorities in order of decreasing importance/significance/need etc (see copy attached). The results of the questionnaire have been collated and summarised (see copy attached), with the outcome being that three specific R&D priorities have been clearly identified by industry (accounting for 63% of the total vote). Accordingly, the present proposal has been revised to reflect the specific needs identified by industry through this consultation process (see revised Objectives, Methods, Budget etc). A schematic summary of the developing Murray cod aquaculture industry, identifying the areas in which the proposed R&D priorities/actions are relevant is attached.

In summary, the key needs are:
1. Fish health: Minimising stress from outbreaks and therapeutic treatments to maximise not only survival but longer term growth is critical. Disease induced checks to growth at key physiological development stages has profound impacts on future production. eg. up to 30% loss of suitable seed can occur during the weaning/immediate post-weaning phase due to fish weakened by infection; survival in fry ponds can be reduced from an average of 75% to as low as 5% due to disease outbreaks etc..
2. Genetic improvement: most broodstock currently in use for seedstock production is essentially selected from wild populations and/or first generation (F1) progeny randomly selected from hatchery fish. The breeding system is defined as an "open" system in which there is no/little effort to select hatchery progeny as future broodstock based on specific characteristics suitable for specific markets. Indeed, to date considerable effort has been extended to ensure genetic integrity remains intact for enhancement of wild populations by maximising/randomising genetic resources. Selection for improved growout performance at the same time as protecting wild genetic material is the imperative.
3. Diet development: established feed regimes and associated diets currently in use are based largely on production of seed for enhancement and rely heavily on natural food production. Increased production through intensification requires higher energy, more efficient feeds and feed practices. Artificial diets currently in use for this purpose are largely adapted from existing salmonid, barramundi and silver perch diets, and are not species specific formulated. Consequent problems include sub optimal FCR's and developmental problems such as lipidosis.

Objectives

1. To develop and evaluate best practice husbandry, nutrition and fish health for commercial production of Murray cod under extensive pond-based hatchery, and intensive tank-based growout conditions.
2. To develop and implement an appropriate extension and associated market strategy to ensure effective and efficient transfer of research outcomes and associated protocols and technologies to industry.

Final report

ISBN: 0-86905-817-7
Author: Brett Ingram

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