Tuesday, May 30, 2017

$2 billion prawn farm in Northern Australia another step closer

$2 billion prawn farm in Northern Australia another step closer

A facility is to be built at Legune Station, pictured, just across the border into the NT. Picture: Sue Neales
  • The Australian
Plans to build a gigantic prawn farm in Northern Australia have cleared another hurdle, with the federal government granting environmental approval for the first stage of the $2 billion project that is ultimately expected to create around 1500 ongoing direct jobs.
Perth-based Seafarms Group Limited hopes to build the world’s largest aquaculture development along the coast of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which at full capacity could produce over 100,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns annually for export.
Stage 1 of Project Sea Dragon is a “grow-out facility” to be built at Legune Station near Kununurra, just across the border into the NT. It involves 1,120 hectares of land-based ponds, 324 hectares of internal recycling ponds and ancillary facilities.
Stage 1 is expected to produce about 14,000 tonnes of prawns each year. A final investment decision on the project was expected in March but has not yet been taken. The main delays are understood to be related to securing funding and indigenous land-use agreements.
Seafarms Executive Director, Chris Mitchell, said the environmental approval was a critical next step towards establishing a new export industry for Northern Australia.
“This approval provides more certainty for the future of Project Sea Dragon, which would provide significant economic and social benefits,” he said.
Seafarms Group will be farming this type of black tiger prawn.
Seafarms Group will be farming this type of black tiger prawn.
The NT Environment Protection Authority recommended approval of Seafarms’ plans earlier this year. Today the company announced it had secured federal approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act as well.
The key conditions imposed as part of the approval involve developing and implementing a water quality monitoring and management program, establishing a scientific advisory group to help protect threatened species and precautions during construction and operation to avoid potential impacts to marine life, including turtles, sawfish and river sharks.
Dr Mitchell described the conditions as rigorous and in line with Seafarms’ expectations.
A statement issued by Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said Stage 1 of the project would “result in a nearly threefold increase in Australia’s farmed prawn production, and a 55 per cent increase in Australia’s total production.”
“Once fully implemented, it is anticipated Project Sea Dragon will produce over 100,000 tonnes of prawns each year and generate an export revenue of $1.6 billion each year,” the statement said.
“The environmental approval requires Seafarms to follow strict conditions to protect matters of national environmental significance including migratory birds, sawfish and the flatback turtle.”
“The company will carefully manage matters such as wastewater and impacts from light and noise. An independent scientific advisory group will be established to help monitor protection measures and make sure they are working.”
Seafarms expects the two-year construction period for Stage 1 to create about 400 fulltime short-term jobs followed by about 300 ongoing fulltime positions. At full production, Project Sea Dragon could involve about 700 local jobs at Legune Station, 300 jobs at a Darwin based hatchery and breeding facilities and 500 jobs in Kununurra, the company said.