A major problem facing abalone farmers in temperate Australia is the high operating costs associated with holding animals for 4 years until they reach market size. In other shellfish, selective breeding has substantially, and in some cases radically improved a number of traits (particularly growth rate and disease resistance). The existing selective breeding project was funded for 18 months and will finish in November 2001. This can be regarded as a step-up towards establishing selectively bred stock. In this project a protocol manual was produced, technical officers trained, and families established is SA and Victoria., A business model was developed for the future commercialisation of stocks. The industry and subprogram are confident that the selected model for establishing families on-farm where the onus is on industry to maintain families is a successful one. Consequently, the renewal of the current project has been approved for continuation by the Abalone Aquaculture Steering committee.
An appropriately designed selective breeding program could produce abalone with growth rates enhanced by up to 30% over 3 generations of selection (6-8 years). This could shorten the production cycle by over a year, and thus substantially reduce farm operating costs.
With the continuing enthusiasm for abalone aquaculture both on-shore across southern Australia, as well as developing in northern Australia, significant growth of the industry can be expected. Within the next decade it is possible that abalone aquaculture production will exceed the wild fishery in value.