After 10 years of careful breeding and research, Australian scientists have developed what could be the world's most perfect prawn.
Until recently, Black Tiger prawns found in oceans and estuaries could not be bred in captivity, so prawn farmers had to rely entirely on trawlers to catch wild prawn parents to stock farm ponds with their progeny each season.
Now CSIRO scientists and the prawn industry have bred an improved Black Tiger prawn which is producing record yields in aquaculture farms and winning awards. So good are these prawns that they have won five gold medals at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in the past two years, including ‘Champion of Show’, the highest award possible. The scientists from CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship have used DNA technology to ensure the breeding program captures the very best Black Tiger prawn stocks that nature can provide and boost the performance of stocks each breeding season.
17.5 tonnes per hectare
After eight generations of selective breeding, one of CSIRO's industry partners, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, has this year achieved average yields of 17.5 tonnes per hectare – more than double the industry's average production. Several ponds produced 20 tonnes per hectare and one produced a world record yield of 24.2 tonnes per hectare. Leader of the CSIRO Food Futures Flagship prawn research project, Dr Nigel Preston, said this specially bred prawn has the potential to revolutionise the local and international prawn farming industry. "The new prawn's yield has exceeded all our expectations. The average industry productivity for farmed prawns is only five tonnes per hectare, so this year's average yield of 17.5 tonnes per hectare is a major leap forward," Dr Preston said. "These huge yields can be replicated year after year which means consistent supply of a reliable and high quality product - all vital factors for the long-term growth and prosperity of the Australian prawn farming industry.”
Consistent and predictable output
If the rest of the Australian Black Tiger prawn industry adopted the new breeding technology Australia’s production could increase from 5,000 tonnes to 12,500 tonnes, adding $120 million annually to the value of the industry by 2020. The general manager of Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture (GCMA), Mr Nick Moore, said the partnership with CSIRO had assisted GCMA to breed successive generations of prawns in captivity, transforming their business from one plagued with seasonal fluctuations into a reliable primary producer with consistent and predictable output.
"Thanks to outstanding work by the staff here, aided by close collaboration with our partners at CSIRO, we have just finished a prawn breeding season that can only be described as staggering," Mr Moore said. "Not only have we achieved national and international yield records with no reduction in quality or taste, these prawns are grown in a specially designed, environmentally sustainable production system. This production system and the new breeds have produced a perfect prawn with beautifully textured meat, rich colour, robust size and a great taste.
With about 50 per cent of all prawns sold in Australia currently imported from countries such as China and Vietnam, developing an Australian prawn that breeds in captivity and is completely sustainable is a major gain for both the local prawn industry and consumers wanting to buy Australian seafood.