Why a Cairns company is flying live coral trout to Taiwan
THOUSANDS of baby coral trout are winging their way to southeast Asia as part of a major export trial being undertaken by a Far Northern fish farm.
The Company One at Portsmith has sent its first ever shipment of 4000 live coral trout fingerlings to Taiwan, with a smaller batch of the coral reef species being sent to another Queensland fish farm.
The Chinese-owned business, formerly known as Finfish Enterprise Pty Ltd, has previously exported large numbers of Queensland grouper fingerlings, but not yet freighted live coral trout.
Coral trout, which is usually sourced from wild fisheries, is considered a seafood delicacy in southeast Asia where it can fetch more than $80 per kilogram.
The Company One fisheries biologist Ryan Rossi said the export trial was an exciting development for the Portsmith-based fish breeding facility, which began its life 20 years ago as part of the State Government's Northern Fisheries Centre.
"As far as we know, we're one of the first in the country to be doing this, in a commercial quantity," he said.
"We still have a lot to learn, and hopefully with a bit more time and research, we can become more commercially viable in the future."
The baby fish are shipped in styrofoam boxes, inside plastic bags filled with enough oxygen-rich water to last the 18-hour trip to Taiwan.
The farm has obtained specialised equipment from Germany to fill and seal individual bags.
Fisheries biologist Glenn Walters said coral trout were not as hardy a traveller as grouper.
"We've put a lot of time to simulate a boxing technique for the species, just to minimise as much stress as possible," he said.
The fisheries facility is capable of commercially breeding about 10 million grouper and coral trout fingerlings per year.
Mr Rossi said if the trial proved to be a success, they would be interested in investigating breeding other local fish species.
"There's definitely potential for other species, but we're not exactly sure yet, which ones," he said. "We'd love to see The Company One expand in Cairns to keep local jobs here."