[singlepic id=409 w=320 h=240 float=left] Scientists at the world’s first commercial tropical rock lobster hatchery in Cairns are hoping their specially grown baby lobsters will make a huge splash with lucrative Asian investors.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin said scientists had spent 10 years perfecting innovative lobster life-cycle technology at the Northern Fisheries Centre.

“They are now seeking investors to expand the pilot hatchery into a full-scale commercial operation at an appropriate location in north Queensland,” he said.

“There is increasing local and international demand for Australian tropical rock lobsters.

“In particular, Asian markets prefer Tropical rock lobster attractive flesh texture, flavour and colour over other lobsters.

“This breakthrough technology adds a new product to the Queensland aquaculture industry and will help to grow the $91 million industry.”

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said this is a very exciting opportunity for Queensland to showcase our innovative technology and to keep it here.

“This commercial in-confidence technology could lead to significant export income and the creation of an important new industry for North Queensland.”

Mr Mulherin today officially opened the pilot hatchery and viewed where the larval Panulirus ornatus lobsters are housed in tanks for 150 days.

“This world-first technology supports the extremely delicate larvae through eleven distinct stages, then on to the baby lobster stage ready for grow-out to market,” he said.

Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Senior Principal Scientist, Dr Clive Jones, said he and his team had developed this breakthrough technology to meet growing world demand for seafood.

“Aquaculture is becoming more and more important to the global food chain, given diminishing fish supplies in many parts of the world and increasing demand,” he said.

“The life cycle of a tropical rock lobster is very complex. Our technology enables us to produce lobsters from egg through larval stages to juvenile size with a high percentage guaranteed to survive and grow to market size.

“In the ocean the adult female rock lobster will release hundreds of thousands of larvae, of which only a few survive to reach adulthood and continue to breed. In captivity we can manage the environment and food to generate much higher survival rates.”

Mr Mulherin said the Queensland Government had recently signed an agreement with Sydney-based company, Harvest Capital Partners, to seek investors, mainly from Asia.

“In places such as China, the tropical rock lobster is highly prized by consumers where it is the preferred species to serve at banquets, whole and uncooked sashimi style,” Mr Mulherin said.

“In Vietnam, the high price of lobsters has resulted in many coastal communities becoming reliant on lobster farming for their incomes.

“They rely on natural availability of baby lobsters, which is seasonal and unlikely to be sustainable.

“Our technology will generate a supply of baby lobsters to this ready market, which is sustainable and good business for Queensland.”