Floating research centre for Port Stephens

THE establishment of an offshore research farm at Port Stephens aiming to improve seafood production in NSW is one step closer.

Plans have gone on display for the research lease that will be  3.5kilometres off Hawks Nest for  five years and run by Port Stephens Fisheries.

The lease would allow Fisheries NSW researchers to extend their marine hatchery work at Port Stephens and monitor species like  yellowtail kingfish.

‘‘To learn about the commercial culture we need to go offshore. There is no infrastructure on the water at the moment,’’ aquaculture manager at Port Stephens Fisheries Ian Lyall said.

 He said 85 per cent of seafood  bought in NSW was imported and demand  was increasing. 

‘‘Aquaculture research is vital to secure a viable and sustainable aquaculture industry for NSW,’’ Fisheries NSW executive director Geoff Allan said. 

The lease would contain eight floating sea cages. A cage can house as many as 100,000 fingerlings and 5000 larger fish at one time. 

Consultation with stakeholders in the Port Stephens area – such as environmental groups, local government and indigenous leaders – began late last year.

Fisheries NSW will host a ‘‘drop-in’’ session during the current exhibition   for additional consultation  from 10am to 2pm on November 15 at Port Stephens Fisheries Institute. The research lease proposal can also be viewed on the Department of Primary Industries website until November 29. 

Final approval for the aquaculture lease rests with the NSW  Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard. 

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