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The intact oyster baskets, long lines and poles in Flying Foam Passage, photographed three days after Cyclone Veronica pass through the area. Photo: Pilbara Development Commission.
The Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development project survived its first test of extreme weather by seeing off Tropical Cyclone Veronica this week and in doing so, gave the partners further confidence in the potential of rock oyster aquaculture in the Pilbara.
Veronica passed directly through the trial site, in Flying Foam Passage on the Dampier Archipelago, as a Category 1 system.
While the residents of Karratha and Dampier bunkered down inside for a mammoth 56 hours of red alert, the trial site was battered by winds up to 132kmh and an extreme high tide caused by the combination of the biggest tide of the year and the storm surge.
The partners in the project are jubilant as oysters and equipment in the project survived with very minor damage.
Representatives from Maxima Pearling Company and Pilbara Development Commission visited the trial site on Thursday (SUBS 28/03/2019) with bated breath and were delighted to discover the oysters were thriving and no significant damage to equipment.
More than 120,000 oysters, born from parents collected in the region, are growing in the trial. Results so far have been very encouraging and as a consequence the further research and development is planned at several sites across northern Australia.
Maxima Pearling General Manager Steven Gill the company would continue to check on the health of the oysters but he was feeling buoyed by their survival in rough conditions.
“Veronica passed directly over the site as a Category 1 Cyclone so we were nervous,” he admitted.
“In other areas oyster farmers use 10 to 20 mm thick longlines to hang the oyster baskets, but we put in 32 mm longlines and larger than normal anchoring systems in preparation for cyclones.It is a decision that paid off in this case.”
“We lost just one basket and a pole came loose.”
Pilbara Development Commission Chief Executive Officer Terry Hill said the trial was providing useful practical findings for other rock oyster projects across northern Australia.
“Cyclone Veronica was a good initial test. This experience adds to the knowledge we plan to share with other rock oyster cultivation projects in development across northern Australia,” Mr Hill said.
The Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development Project is a partnership between the Pilbara Development Commission, Fisheries Research Development Corporation on behalf of the Australian Government, City of Karratha, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and Maxima Pearling Company.