Western Australian barramundi could soon become a more common item on international menus, if a proposed major expansion of a Kimberley fish farm is successful.
Most important points:
- An international barramundi company plans to increase production of its Kimberley business 20-fold through the development of new sites in the Buccaneer Archipelago
- Barramundi Group says expansion will enable it to meet growing international demand for Australian barramundi
- Environmentalists believe fish hatchery growth will harm Kimberley’s pristine coastline
Singapore-based aquaculture company Barramundi Group has unveiled plans for a $300 million development near its Cone Bay operations off the coast of Derby.
The company, which runs barramundi farms in Singapore and Brunei, acquired Cone Bay in 2018 and operates 32 sea cages at the site.
The expansion would lead to the development of 13 new leases in the Buccaneer Archipelago, increasing production of Kimberley barramundi from 1,500 tons per year to 30,000 tons.
Andreas von Scholten, CEO of Barramundi Group, said the company is now able to scale and improve the profitability of its “loss-making” Kimberley operation.
“To justify that investment and the cost, you need scale,” he said.
“What makes us really excited about it is that of course we now have a few years of experience watching the fish thrive in the waters in the Kimberley in Cone Bay.
The proposed development would take place in three phases over a 10-year period, in steps of 10,000 tons.
Pending funding and approvals, Mr von Scholten said the first fish could be pulled from the new sites as early as 2025.
Once fully operational, it was expected to create 400 jobs.
Increasing demand for fish
Cone Bay barramundi was mainly consumed by Australia’s domestic market, with limited international exports.
But Barramundi Group had big ambitions to develop international markets for the popular restaurant dish, and there was already interest from customers from the United States, China and Singapore.
“There’s been pretty good feedback from the various consumers we’ve introduced the product to,” he said.
“We also believe that as supply increases, we will see more channels open in terms of demand.
Mr von Scholten said the company had not yet decided whether its new locations would produce fish for the Cone Bay brand, or whether it would launch a new product line.
Caring for the environment
While Barramundi Group was confident that its plans would have minimal impact on the marine environment, environmental groups were not convinced.
Martin Pritchard, executive director of Environs Kimberley, said the proposal would negatively impact the region’s relatively pristine coastline.
“The proposal to farm tens of thousands of tons of barramundi along an almost pristine coast means the introduction of significant infrastructure, large amounts of fish feed and waste and has the potential to pollute the marine environment, as this industry has done in many other parts of the world. the world,” he said.
“The internationally important Kimberley coast should not be sacrificed to industrial fish farming.”
Mr von Scholten said the company has been in contact with experts for years to formulate a proposal that would reduce environmental risks.
Barramundi Group referred its project plans to the Environmental Protection Authority last week, with six comments filed during the public comment period, which concluded on May 25.
The EPA will now consider whether it will review the proposal.
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