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New research set to revolutionise redclaw crayfish industry 14 Jun 2013

It’s a delicacy from tropical Australia that most people wouldn’t have heard of but a ground-breaking research project on redclaw crayfish may see the crustacean become gastronomy’s next big thing.

With an appearance similar to that of a lobster, the redclaw crayfish is a tropical Australian animal, native to the freshwater rivers that flow into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The five-year study funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has developed innovative new breeding and production methods that will allow farming redclaw crayfish to be a successful and more viable business.   

The handful of small-scale redclaw farms operating in Australia have been hampered by disease, inbreeding and a general lack of research into optimal breeding practices and rearing techniques.

The research was conducted on-farm by redclaw farmers in Australia’s far north under the guidance of scientists at James Cook University and resulted in the establishment of a strain of redclaw called ‘Tolga’ that is faster growing, genetically diverse and free of disease. The research also resulted in the development of a production process called ‘S3J Farming’, which simplifies farming methods and can increase profits. S3J is short for ‘Stage Three Juveniles’, which is the descriptor for young redclaw that are reared in disease-free incubators as eggs and used to stock farm dams soon after they hatch.

Over five years, the genes of 11 genetically diverse strains of redclaw were mixed by cross breeding in strict accordance with a process called ‘Circular Mating Design’. Selections were made for the subsequent year’s mating on the basis of fastest growth.

The study’s principle researcher, John Stevenson said the results of the research have been extraordinary, with around 50 per cent gains in growth rates seen during the five years of the study.

“Without a doubt this research can revolutionise the redclaw farming industry and it has the potential to raise its profile to being a significant aquaculture industry that could be sending large volumes of consistent, quality product to markets domestically and around the world,” Mr Stevenson said.

“As a result of the research we now have faster growing breeds of redclaw, disease free stock and we’ve overcome the inhibitive issue of inbreeding.

“In addition, these faster growing redclaw provide a significant increase in production without additional infrastructure or effort."

RIRDC Managing Director, Craig Burns said the research laid the foundation for the growth of the redclaw industry and could provide a boost for the regions in which redclaw farms exist.

“This research will not only enable existing redclaw farmers to improve the viability of their operation but it could also attract new entrants to the industry and encourage the expansion of existing small farms,” Mr Burns said.

“This boost in the prosperity of redclaw farmers could flow on to the community at large, and may result in the generation of additional jobs and an increase in business for associated industries.”

The Queensland Crayfish Farmers Association is holding a “Redclaw Revolution Conference” in October to showcase the results of the redclaw research and explain how the benefits could flow on to industry. Details of the conference can be found on the industry website: www.queenslandredclaw.org

The ‘Redclaw selective breeding project’ report can be downloaded for free from www.rirdc.gov.au.