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EXPANDING AQUACULTURE IN NORTHERN AUSTRALIA MAY THREATEN PEARLING INDUSTRY

24-02-2016
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The federal Joint Select Committee has raised concerns regarding a report from Northern Australia in regards to its expanding aquaculture, and the possibility of hazardous impacts of oil and gas on the pearling industry.

"There does seem to be good research that says that these seismic surveys that are done by oil and gas companies right over the top of oyster beds and their breeding grounds, do really impact on the productivity and the health and the reproductive capacity of the oysters," the committee's deputy chair Alannah MacTeirnan, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Infrastructure, told Vanessa Mills on ABC Kimberley Local Radio.

Ms MacTeirnan has raised questioned about the possible impact unregulated seismic testing could have on local economies.

"If we were to proceed to allow wholesale exploration over those beds, and then in turn what would that do to the broader, particularly Broome economy," she said.
"We've got to make sure that we can have these two industries co-existing."

She also added that the committee found that the pearling industry was already facing a number of issues and is in need of government support.

"It was just really a bit of a perfect storm for the pearl industry," she said.

"You had the GFC which battered the market place because the majority of pearls are at the high end.

"But at the same time you had the emergence of this dreadful oyster oedema disease, and we felt, on the committee, that there had not been a sufficient response from government."

Ms MacTiernan has said that the committee has recommended changes to country of origin labelling r to help the pearling industry.

"Pearling operations in Australia should have the benefit of being able to say not only are these Australian made, but [also] people being readily able to identify that others are not Australian made," she said.

She continued to say that exemptions to country of origin labelling for food prepared for immediate consumption were also a disadvantage for Australia's broader aquaculture industry.

"Producing fish in Australia is going to be higher [cost] than in other countries where the environmental standards are not as rigorous," she said.

"Australian producers should be able to leverage off that much higher environmental bar that they are required to cross."

Ms MacTiernan then likened northern Australia's aquaculture industry to north west Australia's iron ore industry in the 1960s, where she said initial government investment ultimately produced a highly profitable industry.

"There was government investment that went into various aspects of that," she said.

"But in the long term the benefit in terms of stimulation of industry, is potentially great."

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