THE release of new aquaculture sites in Port Phillip and Western Port bays needs to be matched with onshore infrastructure, says mussel farmer Geoff Newing.
The State Government recently announced a record allocation of 41 crown lease sites within seven existing aquaculture fisheries reserves including those in Dromana, Mt Martha and Flinders.
Mr Newing, of Peninsula Fresh Seafood, has a 8ha mussel farm in Dromana.
He believed two of the 41 4ha sites were within the Dromana fisheries reserves, but said he wasn’t tempted to put in a tender.
“Releasing new water is all well and good, but without the appropriate onshore infrastructure, it’s not worth much,” Mr Newing said.
“I think that if someone who understood mussel farming and did the due diligence they would come to the conclusion that it wasn’t financially viable.”
Mr Newing said the lack of infrastructure made it difficult and costly to get harvested mussels to shore with most piers, with the exception of Mornington, not equipped to cater to commercial finishing operations.
“After you get them to shore you still have to get them to the public and if you’re trying to sell them direct you need a spot,” he said.
The extra sites are included in a new Victorian Aquaculture Strategy.
They will be allocated via a public tender process starting on May 1. Successful investors will be awarded long-term registered crown leases for up to 21 years.
The new sites are predicted to double the area available for mussel, oyster and abalone aquaculture in the two bays and will supply Melbourne’s restaurants and export markets.
Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said the plan was good news for foodies.
“Melbourne is the food and wine capital of Australia, and with 41 new crown lease sites available, consumers can look forward to even more premium oysters, abalone and mussels on their plate,” she said.
“This will be the largest allocation of new sites for aquaculture ever undertaken in Victoria, providing significant expansion opportunities.”