Fishery plan hatched

A FLEDGLING aquaculture business just outside of Denham in Shark Bay is diversifying into tourism to keep its fish hatchery dream alive.

WA Ocean Park owners Ken Gordon and Peter McKenzie met at university and dreamed of running an aquaculture business somewhere on the coast of WA.

After significant research and development Ocean Park was established, a snapper hatchery with the capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of baby snapper or fingerlings every year.

“We spent a long time looking at Cervantes because we liked the idea of a combined tourism and aquaculture business,” Mr Gordon said.

“But for one reason or another Cervantes didn’t happen … luckily an employee of CALM said ‘don’t give up go and look at Shark Bay’.”

The site at Shark Bay revealed a number of natural advantages, including a readily available and free natural power source – the wind – to provide power for the operation.

“We found a couple of different sites but it was important that it had to be close to the right environment for Pink Snapper,” Mr Gordon said.

The hatchery has developed into a burgeoning business but, with no grow-out businesses in the area, WA Ocean Park doesn’t have any on-going clients to buy its fingerlings.

And Shark Bay’s world heritage listing has affected the issue of commercial fishing licences in the area.

“We can grow the fingerlings, albeit in crude surroundings, and all the animal husbandry is taken care of but there’s no high tech stuff,” Mr Gordon said.

“Fisheries were our first customer. They ordered 10,000 fish and we grew them … but it has not advanced since then.

“The world heritage conservation listing seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of Fisheries WA to promote aquaculture in Shark Bay.”

Fisheries WA has dismissed claims the world heritage listing will prevent the issue of additional commercial licences in Shark Bay.

“There is a process in place for someone to apply for a commercial fishing licence. Obviously it’s a little more difficult with the world heritage listing but if someone goes through the process and meets the criteria it’s a possibility,” a Fisheries WA spokesperson said.

In the meantime, WA Ocean Park is looking to the steady stream of visitors to Shark Bay to support the business.

“It appears unlikely now that we’ll be able to start a stand-alone primary industry but we’re not giving up we’ll just change our direction,” Mr Gordon said.

And the new direction is an interactive fish farm, where tourists will be able to see some unusual fish from the area, and possibly even a fishing pond, where tourists could experience catching their own fish without going miles out to sea.

“Maybe we’ll only grow 10,000 fish and sell them to someone for $10 each, maybe to tourists to catch a fish out of a pond,” Mr Gordon said.

“Then maybe we’ll abandon growing hundreds and thousands of fish at 50 cents each and move to a few fish at a higher price.”

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