The West Australian state government has canceled its plan to build an AUD 10 million (EUR 6.1 million /USD 6.6 million) yellowtail kingfish hatchery in Geraldton. According to reports, the government's decision is due to Huon Aquaculture's uncommitted involvement in the project.
According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC News), 2019 would be the first time the state government would announce the plan for the fish hatchery with an original cost of AUD 7 million. However, it would not be until 2020 when this same media reports that the West Australian government will oversee conducting the proposal after rejecting two other private proposals.
This decision, ABC News explained, was intended to manage the project's budget 'internally' and specifically to support the efforts of Tasmanian-based Huon Aquaculture to build new farms in the region.
Therefore, the original plan for the hatchery was to produce 200,000 juvenile yellowtail jack mackerel every two months. A quantity that would supply Huon Aquaculture and local commercial aquaculture operator Indian Ocean Fresh Australia.
However, ABC News reported that now it had all come to nothing. Fisheries Minister Don Punch confirmed that the project had stalled because Huon Aquaculture was not committed to expanding.
"Without that project, we don't have any demand for a finfish nursery," said Punch to the media. "They haven't told us that they are not coming, but they have not provided any information at all, despite requests that they are going to proceed with that at this point, so we will be talking with them about the future of the lease."
Punch said the lack of development in the aquaculture area and the cancellation of the hatchery did not amount to broken promises. "There is no point in building a hatchery when there is no agreement to buy the product," he said, referring to Brazilian meat processing giant JBS buying Huon in 2021.
The plan for the hatchery was developed after West Australia created the Midwest Aquaculture Development Zone in 2017. This plan would be in an open water area between Geraldton and the southern region of the Abrolhos Islands. The aim was to create investment platforms in these locations, which would be investment-ready and can create large-scale aquaculture.
Nevertheless, the work has not borne fruit. The region has not seen the development of yellowtail jack mackerel aquaculture expected. Neither by Huan nor by Indian Ocean Fresh Australia, although the story is different.
Indian Ocean Fresh Australia (IOFA) explained to ABC News in 2021 that the covid-19 pandemic was a tough time. For this reason, they resumed production the same year, and then, accidentally, they discovered that the government was developing a land-based aquaculture project with a different company for the region.
Starling, IOFA Owner, and Managing Director Erica Starling said at the time, "I've realized that all the work we've been doing is basically going to help those that come after us."
Huon Aquaculture, initially established in 1986 as the Bender family enterprise, underwent significant changes in its ownership and business model. In 1994, Peter and Frances Bender acquired full ownership and expanded the company by engaging in contract-growing salmon. However, in 2005, they shifted gears by independently cultivating, marketing, and selling their own Huon Salmon and Ocean Trout.
Today, Huon has a workforce of over 870 employees across Australia. They specialize in farming Huon Salmon and Ocean Trout and distribute their products both domestically and internationally. Moreover, the company leads the global aquaculture industry with cutting-edge technologies like its AI-driven smart feed system, ensuring zero waste.