Aboriginal cherabin breeding project set for Australian first

18 Oct 2019

A Derby Aboriginal corporation is set to become the first organisation in Australia to commercialise the breeding of the northern Australian giant freshwater prawn, known as cherabin (Macrobrachium Spinipes).

Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation (ENAC) has completed a successful cherabin pilot project, becoming the first group in the country to successfully breed the northern Australian species.

Cherabin breeding project
ENAC Operations Manager
Ben Burton with a cherabin

ENAC has now secured land and funding from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) to establish a commercial aquaculture farm near Derby, which will include a commercial hatchery, grow out and processing facility.

ENAC Operations Manager Ben Burton said the project would not only provide opportunities for Aboriginal people, but also assist to preserve the species, which had been part of Aboriginal people’s lives, diet and culture for thousands of years.

“There was some concern in our community about depleting stocks of cherabin in the wild, and we saw this project as not only a chance to commercialise the species, but to help to protect the fishery into the future,” he said.

“We want to ensure that we are a leader in managing the fishery and preventing over-catching.

“As well as cherabin, we hope that down the track, we can create an aquaculture hub, expanding our current mud crab quota and breeding barramundi fingerlings, as well establishing a seafood processing and packing business.

“ENAC is also looking to expand into horticulture by establishing commercial fresh produce and native bush products enterprises.

“We hope to eventually launch a tourism business so that people can come to the property, tour our operations and sample freshly grown produce.”

Mr Burton said ENAC had already started talks with distributors, wholesalers and high-end restaurants to market cherabin as a premium product.

ENAC has been assisted by the ILSC, which has committed close to $2 million to purchase the property, along with capital expenditure and land development.

The ILSC and ENAC have entered into a four-year lease agreement on the property, and it is expected it will be divested to the group before the end of the lease.

ILSC Acting Group CEO, Leo Bator, said the aquaculture business would provide employment and training opportunities for local Aboriginal people.

“It’s expected that up to 20 new jobs and 12 training positions could be created for Aboriginal people, who will have the opportunity to work on their land in a sustainable operation,” Mr Bator said.

“The ILSC’s remit was extended earlier this year to enable it to invest in water projects as well as land projects, paving the way for the ILSC to support an increasing number of Indigenous aquaculture enterprises.

“We are excited by the opportunities our extended remit affords, and particularly opportunities to partner with Indigenous groups such as ENAC who are using their traditional knowledge to produce niche Indigenous products to bring to mainstream markets.”

The ILSC funding has also been used to purchase the Kimberley Turf Farm business, which currently operates on the property.

ENAC plans to develop and expand the business to generate income from the land while setting up the aquaculture infrastructure.

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