Freshwater Sponges (Family: Spongillidae)

Freshwater sponges are very primitive organisms, members of the phylum Porifera (which means “pore bearer”). They have relatively soft bodies full of channels and pores allowing water to circulate through them. Their bodies are a network of fibres and branches with needle type projections – quite weird under the microscope.

Freshwater sponge-this one was on a stick- you can see the hole in middle where stick used to be
Freshwater sponge NSW – this one was on a stick – you can see the hole in middle where stick used to be

I’m not a spongiologist and typically just look and don’t touch, however, recently with the increasing drought, dams, lakes and rivers are drying up and the sponges which would normally be in deep water are becoming exposed and this has attracted my interest.

There are over 20 species of freshwater sponges in Australia, this one is from central west NSW. I’ve no idea of the species, if anyone knows I’d be interested in your knowledge. Typically, the sponges I see are on rocks and logs and usually a thin mat of sponge (<1cm thick) covering a broad area. These sponges are closer to the saltwater sponges I’m used to.

These sponges only seem to grow on submerged sticks and logs at depth. They seem to like the cooler deep water and shallow hot water seems fatal to them. If we move these sponges into warm water they “dissolve” and form gemmules.

Image 1 Gemmule. Freshwater sponge forming gemmules
Image 1 Gemmule. Freshwater sponge forming gemmules

Formation of gemmules is asexual reproduction. Gemmules are small round tough-coated dormant cluster of embryonic cells that can survive harsh conditions and await the return of favourable conditions when they will “hatch” and grow into a genetically identical copy of the original “parent” sponge.

Image 2 Gemmule. Asexual reproduction = gemmules
Image 2 Gemmule. Asexual reproduction = gemmules

Sponges seem slow growing, don’t know how long these ones live for, but they must by many, many years old. They are filter feeders so help clean the water and their loss on mass across the dams, lakes and rivers of eastern Australia due to the unprecedented drought will take many years to recover and be a loss to water quality when the water returns for many years. Another long term negative consequence for our freshwater ecosystems from the drought.

Image 3 Gemmule. The sponge basically dissolves with all its energy going into the formation of gemmules
Image 3 Gemmule. In adverse conditions the sponge basically dissolves, with all its energy going into the formation of gemmules for the future

AABIO 2018 another year in review

Aquaculture Consultancy

Australian aquatic Biological and its subsidiary RBM Aquaculture has had another extremely busy year with numerous consultations.

We designed and assisted with approval for a new Redclaw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) Farm in Queensland this year. Interest in Redclaw aquaculture continues to grow in Queensland with continued investment. We designed a new aquaculture facility with 12 nursery ponds (25 x 10 m), 35 growout ponds (50 x 20 m), 4 sediment ponds (75 x 20 m), plus a water storage dam and purging facilities, etc. This consult was successfully completed this year with approvals from DAF, DSDMIP and Council being granted.

Consultation with a new Murray Cod farm just over the border of NSW in Victoria was completed this year. This consult also provided the opportunity for a holiday in Victoria for the wife (Cheryl), the family dog (Binx) and myself.

We designed and assisted with the licencing of a new Yabby (Cherax destructor) Farm in NSW. NSW DPI instigated a new regulation this year requiring a Farm Biosecurity Risk Management Plan to be created, submitted and approved prior to aquaculture permits being granted. This was something new from NSWDPI and over the year we generated a number of plans but each time they were rejected and the department required greater information. The problem was that DPI didn’t have a template or much direction and being the first to submit a plan we became the test case. We worked with DPI on not just this biosecurity plan but others as well for our other clients and finally this project was completed with approval granted and aquaculture permit issued.

We designed and assisted with a new Yabby (Cherax destructor ) and Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) Farm in NSW this year.

This facility has 19 growout ponds (50 x 20 m), 2 sediment ponds (75 x 20 m), water storages, irrigation areas and purging facilities etc.

Pre approval from NSW DPI Fisheries has been granted but this consult is ongoing into 2019 as it was submitted to council in December 2018.

 

 

 

We have designed a new Murray Cod, Silver Perch, and Yabby Farm for NSW this year.

It’s in the developmental stage at the moment with designs, applications, SOMP and Biosecurity Plan created but this project will be ongoing into 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long term consultancy with the Queensland Government has continued throughout the year. AABio has been engaged to supply expert opinion on freshwater crayfish and land based aquaculture to the Qld DSDMIP and DAF. This consultancy is ongoing and will continue in 2019.

Long term consultancy with Jamie Williams of Yabbydabbadoo Yabby Farm was terminated in early November 2018. 

Basin View Gardens. Regular services and support for the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution’s award winning aquaponic garden at Basin View, NSW has continued this year. Paul Van der Werf designed the integrated garden and then Paul and I built the Garden at RFBI Basin View Masonic Village back in December 2011. Since completion the aquaponic gardens have flourished being the subject of praise from all quarters, and a number of scientific studies commissioned on the health benefits of the gardens for the Retirement Village Residents. At the time this was the largest aquaponic garden in the southern hemisphere and won an International Academy of Design and Health Award. The International Academy for Design & Health is a global, interdisciplinary knowledge community dedicated to the stimulation and application of research concerning the interaction between design, health, science & culture.

Since construction AABio has conducted regular service and maintenance of the garden. Significantly this year, the last of the Silver Perch were removed from tank 3 and replaced with ornamental fish (Koi & Goldfish). The ornamental fish supply a better visual stimulation for the village residents compared to the silver perch that only became clearly visible at feeding time. Our thanks to my mate Craig at Albatross Aquaculture for the supply of all our ornamental fish. The garden continues to supply high quality organically grown leafy greens and vegetables for the residents, the hostel kitchen and excess for fetes, etc.

Numerous other smaller consultations have also been completed. Plus long term consultancy with a number of our previous major clients continued throughout the year.

 

Ecological Consultancy (major projects)

Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC).

Another year of monitoring streams and crayfish populations for BMCC has been completed. Our long term ecological monitoring program is collecting valuable data and assisting with long term management actions to improve aquatic and riparian environments.

This year our aquatic surveys were expanded to include the Springwood Creek catchment. Data collected over the last 4 years is being included in a scientific manuscript currently in preparation.

Additionally, this year we attended the Leura Swamp Fest, held at Peter Carroll Oval in September 2018. We did a number of presentations “Up Close with Freshwater Crayfish” presenting information on the crayfish species present in the streams of the Blue Mountains and their importance as keystone species.

 

Euastacus gamilaroi. The imperiled Gamilaroi crayfish, Euastacus gamilaroi Morgan (1997), was described from a single specimen collected in 1954 from the vague location of Hanging Rock near Nundle, New South Wales (NSW). Since 1954 no further specimens have been lodged in museum collections or any detailed account of any aspect of the biology and ecology of this critically endangered species. Our current project aims to fill this knowledge gap. Over the year we had 6 expeditions gathering information and we intend to finalize and publish our findings in 2019.

 

Undescribed Cherax
Undescribed Cherax

Cape York expedition 2018.

As part of the Australian Crayfish Project, AABio sponsored an expedition to Cape York in July and August. This was an extremely productive  expedition with a vast amount of knowledge gained that will take several years to be fully utilized.

Two new Cherax species and a number of papers on known species are currently in preparation. 

No scientific papers were published this year but several are nearing completion.

 

Books

Keeping Pet Yabbies
Keeping Pet Yabbies

No new books published this year, however, Keeping Pet Yabbies has been updated with a new edition. 

The 3rd Edition 2019 is currently at the printers and will be available in all good book stores by the 1st week of January 2019. (BUY PET BOOK)

A guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater crayfish continues as a best seller this year. 

A guide to Australia's Spiny Freshwater Crayfish
A guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish

 

 

 

 

 

RBM Aquaculture (Nets and Traps)

Net and traps sales continued this year with strong demand for commercial nets. The 14m super yabby trap continues with strong demand. We import these traps directly from the manufacturer in China and we only sell the heavy duty trap with the extra heavy duty cod end. This makes the traps expensive to purchase but if you want a trap you can use commercially every day year after year then these are the traps for you. Unfortunately, there are some very cheap, light weight 3.2 metre similar traps on the market that don’t catch much or last any time at all, “Buyer beware” “You only get what you pay for”.

Opera House trap sales have also gone through the roof this year. Commercial traps with no rings are the big seller. These type traps catch and retain far more yabbies than normal traps with a ring. We sell both a light duty and an extra heavy duty style trap. The extra heavy duty are the ones in huge demand by both commercial crayfish farmers and commercial fishers. Commercial fishers fit their own rings to these traps.  (BUY TRAPS)We have had a great deal of difficulty securing supply of these traps in any quantity from our traditional manufacturer that charges an arm and a leg for them. The two attempts with alternate Chinese manufacturers were both a failure as the sample trap they manufactured and sent to us were not to our specifications or an acceptable standard.

A warning for all you commercial crayfish farmers that like using opera house traps. All opera house traps are made overseas, we have had great difficulty dealing with manufacturers as opera house traps without rings are banned in Australia for recreational fishing and even ones with rings are banned in States like Victoria. If the anti opera house trap lobby has their way they will be completely banned from import into Australia. I expect it is only a matter of time before opera house traps will no longer be available, you should stock up now whilst you still can.

The large opera house traps NO RING have also seen a huge surge in sales. Traditionally used to catch eels from farm dams, more and more commercial fish farmers are using them to catch fish from farm dams. Murray Cod, Carp and Silver Perch farmers are snapping them up. Again, these are traps that may not be available in the near future.

 

Mid West Yabby & Fish Traders

A quiet year for Mid West with only small amounts, less than 250kgs of yabbies being traded.

This will increase in future years, a new holding and purging facility is currently under construction as part of the AustSilvers development.

Stainless steel holding/purging tanks are being utilised, these tanks are available as a speciality item through the RBM Aquaculture website.

Stainless steel tanks are 2000mm x 800mm floor with a 200 mm wall x 1.5mm 304 Stainless Steel with a 25 mm BSP drain.These are purging/holding tanks are $385 each plus GST ex Sydney or Swan Bay (2424) NSW. Just send me an email if you want any, typically, they are supplied to our consult customers but happy to sell to anyone.

 

 

AustSilvers

Construction of AustSilvers aquaculture facility began in late 2017. We have had a full year of development and construction occurring but we are still a long way from completing. This is a full aquaculture development being constructed from scratch.

First fully netted pond
First fully netted pond

Stage 1 ponds have been constructed. Each pond is gravity drainable, with its own independent water and air supply.

Bird netting frame work is under construction for all ponds and the first pond has been netted

The fish hatchery has been constructed and is in production with breeding of Silver Perch Bidyanus bidyanus being successfully achieved in the new hatchery.

First fingerling harvest

The first silver perch fingerlings were harvested in late December 2018  The first harvest was of larger advanced fingerlings that were the offspring of our best genetic lines. These fish will mostly be used as future broodstock and were restocked into our own dams and ponds. We have another 200,000 fish in the ponds ready for harvest in the new year. (BUY SILVER PERCH FINGERLINGS)

Freshwater mussel culture is well underway, both bottom holding trays and floating cages have been constructed and installed in the Silver Perch broodstock ponds. Each of the 2 current broodstock ponds holds 10,000 mussels.

The Silver Perch broodstock act as the host for larval mussels and some mussel breeding has occurred in 2018.

Mussels sales for private farm dams and koi ponds has been strong with over 12,000 sold this year.

Mussel holding cages suspended under floats
Mussel holding cages to be suspended under floats

The mussels are also part of a freshwater pearl project, however, the construction of new facilities has consumed all our efforts and no further progress was made this year on pearl culture, however, the infrastructure is being developed ready for the future.

(BUY FRESHWATER MUSSELS)

 

 

 

Cheers
Rob

 

Freshwater Mussels, Eastern NSW (2017-2018)

In 2017 the Hunter Region of NSW was suffering from the worst drought in 50 years. In late 2017 my local creek at Port Stephens dried up for the first time in the last 18 years since I’ve been here.

As the water dried out, I took the opportunity to investigate all the species that occur in my creek. The shallows of the creek dried rapidly but the deeper pools retained water through most of the 2017 period.

Interestingly, I observed freshwater mussels moving from the shallows into the deeper water. They use their foot which is tongue like to push themselves along. This leaves a trail in the sediments which you can easily follow to the mussel.

A freshwater mussel’s foot

I was quite surprised by the sheer number of them that were in my deeper pool that I would normally use as a fishing and swimming hole. Typically its over 3 metres deep but the drought saw it shallowing to less that 300mm. Freshwater mussels are great indicators of your streams health. They are sensitive to pollution and sedimentation so if you have healthy populations, your stream is more than likely healthy.

The water in the bottom of my pool was clear, warm and shallow so I decided to survey the freshwater mussels in it. I systematically, worked my way by hand through the bottom sediments, feeling for mussels and counting them.

Interestingly, I found around 2600 mussels in the pool. That’s great news and indicates my creek is generally health and has been so for quite some time. Mussels are very long lived 20-40 years and these were a good mix of small to large old mussels that I was finding, indicating healthy conditions for many years.

Unfortunately, I’m not a freshwater mussel expert but I have spent some time over the years with experts helping them collect mussels for identification. The mussels I found were all very similar in size, colour and shape. However, if you looked closely, occasionally, I would find something different.

The most common and abundant freshwater mussel was Hyridella drapeta

Freshwater Mussel Hyridella drapeta

Interestingly, in amongst the 2600 mussels were around 160 different ones, these were Hyridella australis.

Freshwater Mussel Hyridella australis

They look very similar but if you look closely they have v-shaped sculpturing on the beaks of the shells.

Freshwater Mussels Hyridella australis

Freshwater mussels are natural biofilters processing large volumes of water.  They remove large quantities of nutrients, algae, bacteria and organic matter which helps to clean water bodies. Both H. australis and H. drapeta are classed as river mussels. They need permanent and flowing water to breed and survive so generally found in permanent flowing streams.

Many people want freshwater mussels for their fish ponds or farm dams to help keep them clean. River mussels are not suitable and will eventually die in a static water dam or pond. However, there is one species that thrives in static water dams and ponds. That’s the flood plain mussel Velesunio ambiguus. This mussel will live and breed up to huge numbers in your ponds and helps to keep your water clean. This is a commercially, cultured species so available for purchase from aquaculture farms like AustSilvers or if you just want one or two for a fish tank then check with your local aquarium shop.

Freshwater Mussel Velesunio ambiguus

BTW, If you want to start a sustainable population going in a farm dam you will need several hundred as initial stock.

Cheers
Rob

Freshwater leeches feeding on Crayfish

A WA Marron suffering from Leech attack
A WA Marron suffering from Leech attack

Freshwater blood and fluid sucking leeches can pose a serious problem for freshwater crayfish. Typically it’s the common yabby (Cherax destructor) that you find leeches attached to or they have a nasty round scar indicating a leech has had a feed. The scar remains until the crayfish moults but the scar itself can create difficulty in moulting and can lead to the death of the crayfish. From an aquaculture perspective, leeches in your ponds are a big NO-NO and every effort should be made to catch and remove them as the unsightly scars on crayfish make them unsellable.

The Marron and its leech attacker
The Marron and its leech attacker

Most leeches can ingest several times their own weight in blood at one feeding and swell to a large fat size. Leeches attach to their hosts and remain there until they become full, at which point they disengage and fall off to digest their huge feed. Crayfish are most vulnerable when they are freshly moulted. Freshly moulted crayfish are already stressed out and weakened by the moult process, the additional blood loss from a leech feeding could be fatal. This risk of mortality is greatly increased if the crayfish is small and the leach large.

Below North Dandalup Dam, WA
Below North Dandalup Dam, WA

The example Marron with a leech attached was found in the swimming hole below North Dandalup Dam, WA.

Images compliments of Tegan & Josh Moylan

Cheers
Rob

Second Hand Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) For Sale (July/August 2017)

Weaning tanks with auto feeders
Weaning tanks with auto feeders

SORRY – THIS SYSTEM HAS BEEN SOLD

A complete fish hatchery and grow out recirculating aquaculture system is currently for sale. If you are thinking of entering the Recirculating Aquaculture Industry and can’t afford the $500K price tag for a brand new system, then purchasing a second hand system at 30% of the new price may be the perfect option for you.

Some of the grow out tanks
Some of the grow out tanks

Second hand systems coming on the market are rare so you need to act quickly when they do come up. Now due to retirement of the owners a complete RAS system is currently offered for sale.

Part of the filtration system
Part of the filtration system

The system belongs to Glencoe Fish Hatchery (GFH) which supplied weaned pellet feeding Murray Cod fingerlings to other RAS grow-out systems of the commercial aquaculture industry, plus grown out Barramundi for the restaurant and market trade in Melbourne. All fingerlings produced in the RAS by GFH came with a veterinary certificate to guarantee their health. Glencoe Fish Hatchery are proud to be one of the first hatcheries to have inside brood stock of Murray Cod which guarantees when they breed, their offspring will be of a high quality and health standard as the internal brood stock are not live caught but born and bred in tanks which means their natural instincts have changed and they live wholly on a pellet feed diet.

First larval rearing tanks
First larval rearing tanks

Glencoe Fish Hatchery was aimed at the commercial market with the system’s capacity around 100,000 fish per batch and several batches per year. Glencoe Fish Hatchery strived to have the best fish on the market in both health and appearance.

Grading Murray Cod
Grading Murray Cod

EQUIPMENT LIST “Click Here”

The complete system as a single unit is for sale.

The system is currently intact and complete available for viewing. The owners will dismantle and make it ready for transport by the purchaser. Each section would be labelled ready for reassembly by the purchaser.

For Further Information
Contact:
Andre Henry
Phone: 0427 640 844
Email: glencoefarms@outlook.com

All equipment is viewable by appointment only, at:
Glencoe Fish Hatchery
2333 Loddon River Road,
Appin South
Victoria 3579

Murray Cod brood stock
Murray Cod brood stock

For further information “CLICK HERE”

Euastacus vesper – a NEW Euastacus for NSW

Research Project 100007 initiated in 2008 has finally been completed. This project has been ongoing for the last 10 years, but has at last culminated in the publication of a description of a NEW Euastacus species for the western drainage of New South Wales, Australia.

The Cudgegong Giant Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus vesper
The Cudgegong Giant Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus vesper

The Cudgegong Giant Spiny Crayfish Euastacus vesper is described from the upper reaches of the Cudgegong River, east of Kandos NSW. The description was published in May 2017 in the international journal Zootaxa.

Euastacus vesper sp. nov., a new giant spiny crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia
ROBERT B. MCCORMACK & SHANE T. AHYONG
DOI: https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4244.4.6

This new species seemingly has a very small distribution and faces a large range of serious threats. The next Project will to systematically survey the surrounding area and accurately define the exact distribution of the species and then publish a paper of its conservation status, something we consider based on the available information, would be “Critically Endangered”.

Research Project 100084 has been generated to designate a conservation status for this new Euastacus species.

Euastacus vesper (McCormack & Ahyong 2017)
Euastacus vesper (McCormack & Ahyong 2017)

For another article on E. vesper, see: 

http://www.austcray.com/2017/03/euastacus-vesper-new-euastacus-nsw/

Central Highlands Burrowing Cray Engaeus affinis (Smith & Schuster 1913)

Engaeus affinis from a communal burrow, Healesville, Vic
Engaeus affinis from a communal burrow, Healesville, Vic

This species is endemic to Victoria with a relatively small distribution known at this time (estimated extent of occurrence of approximately 200 km2). Found in the upper Yarra, Acheron, Yea and Big Rivers. An area roughly from Kinglake to Eildon to Jamieson to Noojee to Hoddles Creek. Central Highlands Burrowing Cray Engaeus affinis has been assessed on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient. 

Engaeus affinis, Healesville, Vic
Engaeus affinis, Healesville, Vic

It’s a robust species and at many sites relatively abundant. Typically, it’s a communal burrower, both type 2 & 3 burrows with multiple surface entrances (20 or so) over a square metre. Both fans shaped entrances and chimneys. Surface openings descend into large central burrows. Central burrows are relatively large in diameter (150 to 200 mm), typically water filled and tending horizontal and descending and converging into a larger chamber.

Engaeus affinis, Badger Creek, Vic
Engaeus affinis, Badger Creek, Vic

Typically, the easiest way to capture is to excavate down to the water level, usually from 200 to 600 mm deep. Once water is found, wait, (patience required), larger males will come to investigate the disturbance and you can grab them, otherwise, every 5 minutes or so, shove your hand down the burrow and feel around in the water. If you are lucky and have good feeling in your fingers you should be able to grab one every 5-10 minutes. That’s the way we collected the specimens for this article.

Burrow entrance, Badger Creek, Vic
Burrow entrance, Badger Creek, Vic

Those from Healesville were in a yellow clay on the slope beside a creek approximately 1.2 metres above the creek water height (7 metres from creek bank) but had water at 650 mm in the burrow system. Those from Badger Creek were in a fine silty material in a seepage area in the tree fern forest with water only 100 mm below ground level and over 100 m from Badger Creek.

Engaeus affinis, Badger Creek, Vic
Engaeus affinis, Badger Creek, Vic

Happy Yabbying

Cheers

Rob

Lowland Burrowing Crayfish Engaeus quadrimanus

Also known as “The Mernda Land Yabby” Engaeus quadrimanus (Clark 1936) is a relatively widespread and locally abundant species. It’s a lowland species generally found under 250 m a.s.l. from just north of Melbourne, east along the Victorian coast to just before the NSW border. Engaeus quadrimanus has been assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Engaeus quadrimanus - note the burrow entrance behind
Engaeus quadrimanus – note the burrow entrance behind

This specimen is from the west of the range. Collected from the bank of Fish Creek a tributary of the Tarwin River crossing Meeniyan-Promontory Rd, Fish Creek, Victoria.

A very robust and adaptable species that usually has large colonies with the area being riddled with burrows. Typically, burrows are round to oval in shape and open with excavated material at the entrance (see photo). In some areas they can create a pelleted chimney but for many areas it’s just an open hole in the ground as the excavated material has been washed away with flood waters. Burrows are type 2 and relatively basic with only 2-3 surface entrances descending to a horizontal corridor then a deeper burrow to water table. Typically most of the burrow system is flooded and typically they are individual burrows with both males and females having their own burrows. One of the keys to the species is that they are intersexed so hard to determine which are males and which females. Breeding season is autumn and they can be found sharing burrows together then. The species is extremely active during flood events and uses the creeks to migrate and find mates, etc.

Fish Creek
Fish Creek

For a similar article on this species and images from populations further east, go to: http://www.austcray.com/2015/09/engaeus-quadrimanus-from-cann-river-victoria/

Cheers
Rob

 

A New Spiny Crayfish in Western Drainage, NSW.

Project: 100007 started back in 2008 final draws to a closure. The project that started out as an unidentified Euastacus crayfish species has been found in western drainage of NSW has been finalized with the completion of the project going to press.

The New Euastacus species for NSW showing an unusual colour variation
The New Euastacus species for NSW showing an unusual colour variation

A scientific manuscript title; Euastacus sp. nov., a new giant spiny crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia, by Robert B. McCormack & Shane T. Ahyong has been completed and submitted to the journal Zootaxa.

The New Euastacus is a true spiny crayfish with numerous large sharp spines
The New Euastacus is a true spiny crayfish with numerous large sharp spines

The new species is described from the upper Cudgegong River, New South Wales, Australia This new species occurs in the western drainage of the Great Dividing Range, and is most closely related to E. spinifer (Heller, 1865), which occurs on the eastern side of the range. The new species differs from E. spinifer by its considerably smaller maximum size, greater degree of thoracic spination loosely arrayed in three instead of two rows, genetic sequence divergence in COI and unusual colour variations.

The new species is small in size with the majority of the female population breeding each year
The new species is small in size with the majority of the female population breeding each year

Both Euastacus armatus and the new Euastacus species occur in the upper Cudgegong River and this has led to much confusion in the past. Recent research by Whiterod et al., 2016 indicates that the E. armatus population in the upper Cudgegong is a translocated population.

In our present study, we formally describe this new Euastacus species, increasing the number of species of Euastacus to 53.

Cheers
Rob McCormack

Disused Aquaculture Ponds Wanted to Lease

Got an aquaculture facility that’s not operational or not making the amount of money you desire. Why not lease your farm or your ponds? We have clients in desperate need of ponds now.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing primary industry in Australia. Demand for aquacultured produce is skyrocketing and new production methods are increasingly improving profit margins making modern land based aquaculture an increasingly lucrative enterprise.

Unfortunately, difficulties in obtaining approvals for new ponds and the ensuing time delays in receiving approvals and then building ponds makes the interest level in existing ponds extremely high.

Existing yabby and fish ponds are wanted now so that large scale commercial farmers can expand their production by using your ponds. They come to you, use their staff, their equipment and technology, to get your ponds into commercial production. They don’t need you to do anything at all, you do not need to expend one cent towards the enterprise. They just rent your ponds or property nothing more.

If you have ponds not producing much or haven’t been in production for years then contact us for further details. Perhaps we have a lucrative solution to create a substantial, reliable income without any effort or expense from your end.

Contact

Rob McCormack

RBM Aquaculture

rob@rbmaqua.com.au

The Australian Crayfish Project Team Visits Tasmania

In early May four members of the ACP visited Tasmania.  We are also members of the NSW Aquaculture Association and one of the reasons for visiting Tassie was to visit Huon Aquaculture. For an article of Huon see: http://nswaqua.com.au/huon-aquaculture-sea-cages/  Whilst in Tassie we took full advantage of the opportunity and travelled the country from one end to the other. We flew into Launceston and hired 3 campervans, Paul and I had one each and the Burnes brothers shared a van. Despite the constant rain, snow and wind we had a great time in Tasraina.

Our first camp site
Our first camp site

The first night saw us camped at the end of a small track on the Great Forester River. We didn’t have any bait so dragged a bit of road kill (dead wallaby) and tied that up on the edge of the river to see if it attracted anything.

The bait-a dead wallaby
The bait-a dead wallaby

Paul Burnes with a 1.5kg Astacopsis gouldi
Paul Burnes with a 1.5kg Astacopsis gouldi (eastern Tasmania)

Surprisingly we managed to attract a 1.5 kg giant Tasmanian lobster. It was a bit of a surprise and only quick action by Craig saw it captured by hand. It was a female but not berried even though I would have expected it to be breeding season. After a photo shoot we release here back into the river, but a great start for us.

Galaxias were common and abundant
Galaxias were common and abundant

We observed large numbers of eels in the creeks and lots of Galaxias as we spotlighted the creeks and rivers at night.

Opportunistic surveying
Opportunistic surveying

We didn’t have a plan as such we were just driving around checking out the country side and stopping at likely spots to see if we could find a crayfish and have a photo shoot of the catch of the day.

Tasmanian Engaeus laevis
Tasmanian Engaeus laevis

Engaeus crayfish were quite common and the first specimens we found were Engaeus laevis.

Engaeus fossor
Engaeus fossor (green tint)

We also found a number of Engaeus fossor. Interestingly we found quite a large colour variation in the species.

Engaeus fossor
Engaeus fossor (Tan tint)

Engaeus crayfish are relatively easy to find, their presence is given away by their chimney shaped burrows. They are a deep burrowing crayfish so knowing where they live and then actually getting a specimen out of the burrow is a very different matter.

Looking for Engaeus crayfish
Looking for Engaeus crayfish

Large parts of Tasmania suffered from bush fires over summer. This however made it easier for us to find the burrows.

Engaeus burrows
Engaeus burrows

Its always good to find something new. Paul V managed to catch an Engaeus lengana. Thats the first time I’ve ever seen one so very happy with that catch.

Engaeus lengana
Engaeus lengana

Just being tourists an traveling around the whole state we didnt have much in the way of survey equipment, basically it was all capture of crayfish by hand.

Looking through a creek
Craig looking through a creek

Small creeks in remote areas produced a surprising number of crayfish species. This creek was full for Astacopsis tricornis.

Astacopsis tricornis
Astacopsis tricornis

Unfortunately, the weather was less than cooperative with high winds and rain. The state was in drought till we got there. Once we arrived the heavens opened.

Blocked roads were a repetitive theme
Blocked roads were a repetitive theme

Nearly all our travels through Tassie were on the back roads. Unfortunately, with the high winds and rain, trees down were a huge problem for us. The boys managed to clear this fallen tree with the saw on a pen knife. We managed to get another 2 km up the road before we were stopped by huge fallen trees that completely blocked the road.

Another roadside campsit
Paul V (left) and Paul B (right) at another roadside campsite

We were fully self sufficient so we would make camp, survey the area around the camp and await rescue by someone with a big chainsaw.

Rob McCormack with a Giant Tasmanian Lobster Astacopsis gouldi
Rob McCormack with a Giant Tasmanian Lobster Astacopsis gouldi

One of the highlights of the trip was spending some time with Todd Walsh and researching the Giant Tasmania Lobster Astacopsis gouldi. We all had a great time with Todd who was a wealth of information on this iconic species. If you would like to read more about our time with Todd see: http://www.austcray.com/2016/06/tasmanian-giant-freshwater-lobster-astacopsis-gouldi/

Paul Van der Werf with a 2.5 kg Astacopsis gouldi
Paul Van der Werf with a 2.5 kg Astacopsis gouldi

Despite the rain Craig Burnes is happy with this Astacopsis gouldi he caught
Despite the rain Craig Burnes is happy with this Astacopsis gouldi he caught

I had a fantastic time in Tassie with a great bunch of mates. We were cold an wet most of the time, spent long hours going short distances, spent hours digging holes, trudged up and down mountains, had to abandon camp in the middle of the night just before the floodwaters washed us away, cleared fallen trees off the road with a penknife, and spent endless hours at the end of the trip cleaning the mud out of our campervans, but despite all that- I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Cheers

Rob

East Gippsland Survey Season Commences 2016

Euastacus crassus
Euastacus crassus upper Murray River

The high country of East Gippsland is a difficult area to survey as the window of opportunity is small. In summer it’s too hot and subject to bushfires and road closures. In winter, it’s too cold and the crayfish have retired to their deep burrows being extremely difficult to find. This just leaves the spring and autumn crayfish survey season.

Our surveys in East Gippsland are targeted to answer a number of questions we have concerning the species present and their distributions. Unfortunately, the more we research the more questions are raised and we don’t seem to be making much forward progress despite accumulating huge amounts of new information.

 

1st Survey

The first survey was conducted in March by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack, of the upper Murray and upper Snowy River tributaries in the Victorian Alpine National Park.

New Euastacus crassus Little River
New Euastacus crassus Little River

They surveyed the start of the Murray River from its most eastern and southern point in the Alpine National Park of Victoria. They were looking for Euastacus rieki, Euastacus claytoni and Euastacus crassus which occur in tributaries of the Murray River further north. What they found most closely matched Euastacus crassus in morphology but had a gastric mill count closer to Euastacus claytoni. Morgan 1997 did record lower TAP counts from specimens further west from the Bogong High Plains but genetic analysis will be very interesting.

Gastric mill upper Murray River
Gastric mill upper Murray River

Craig and Rob also surveyed the adjoining drainages of the upper Snowy River. The Little, Suggan Buggan and Buchan rivers were surveyed providing comparative material. Specimens from the Little River a tributary of the Snowy River for example vary in morphology but the gastric mill more closely resembles the norm for Euastacus crassus.

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)
Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Specimens collected from each drainage will be included in a broad genetics study including specimens from the Tambo River in Victoria and the new population of E. crassus discovered in the Shoalhaven drainage. Stay tuned for results.

For further information on Euastacus crassus from the upper Murray & Snowy rivers see http://www.austcray.com/2016/04/alpine-national-park-victoria-new-euastacus-crassus/

 

2nd Survey

Surveys of the eastern tributaries of the Snowy River have been completed and resulted in the redescription of Euastacus diversus.

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

In that paper we identified the species occurring within the next drainage east – the Bemm River as being a potentially new species. This has generated a species specific project, requiring the surveying of the Bemm and adjoining eastern drainages.

As part of this project an ACP survey team gathered to survey the Arte River drainage a major tributary of the Bemm River. We hadn’t surveyed this river before so it was essential information needed as part of the project to help increase our knowledge base.

Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside
The Team – Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The team consisted of Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards and Jim Reside. We met up in Orbost and Kuark Forest to survey the tributaries of the Arte River.

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv - Spec 5737
Euastacus sp. Arte Rv – Spec 5737

We surveyed a large number of streams and were successful in finding Engaeus, Euastacus sp, and Euastacus kershawi. We were specifically targeting Euastacus sp and the specimens collected will be used for our morphological and genetics program for this species. Further surveys are needed in the other tributaries of the Bemm and adjoining drainages, hence, this project will continue for some time.

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria
Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria. Spec 5739

My thanks to the team members who guided us through the back roads of the forest despite many of them being disused and overgrown.

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road
The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

Clearing the forest road
Clearing the forest road

The 3rd Survey

Was conducted by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack of tributaries of the Cann and Genoa Rivers. This survey again created more questions than answers. We were expecting to find Euastacus bidawalus and we were successful in finding them with the ones we found matching the morphological description of E. bidawalus. Then however, we found specimens in the Genoa River catchment that did not match the current description. This is a dilemma, is this just morphological variation between populations 1 km apart or two separate species. Instead of answers again more questions and further research needed.

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)
Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)
Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

It’s always a pleasure investigating the East Gippsland forests and streams; we will be back as soon as we can to do it all over again.

Cheers

Rob McCormack

 

 

Orbost Spiny Crayfish paper finally published

Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines
Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines

Started in 2005 the quest to rediscover the Orbost Spiny Crayfish Euastacus diversus has been a long and intriguing journey cumulating in the publication of this paper.

This story began back in 1959 when one of Australia’s foremost expert on freshwater crayfish at that time, Edgar Riek, discovered this small freshwater crayfish species in the east Gippsland region of Victoria. Then in 1969 he described the species and named it Euastacus diversus. Since that day this crayfish has remained a rare and elusive species.

In 1986, the then current expert on the genus Euastacus, Gary Morgan, searched for this species but was unable to find any in the wild. As a consequence he redescribed the handful of original specimens collected by Riek in 1959 that are held at the Australian Museum. Gary Morgan’s detailed description, published in the Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria 30th May 1986, was the latest scientific publication on this species and forms the basis of all current information and opinions until now.

In 2005, the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) was started, involving one of the largest projects researching freshwater crayfish ever seen in Australia. Between 2005 and 2007 we also failed to find any specimens of Euastacus diversus for the type locality general area 40 miles north of Orbost. Then in 2007 we changed our methods and successfully started finding more and more specimens. Up to 2011 a considerable number of E. diversus and other Euastacus species were found in the wild. The project has been very successful in finding this and other crayfish species, and large areas of southern NSW and eastern Victoria were systematically biologically surveyed specifically for freshwater crayfish. We found Euastacus specimens everywhere and most did not match the description for the known species leading to much confusion. However, genetic analysis by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the USA helped clarify the situation resulting in the thorough redescription of E. diversus and the discover of a number of new species.

Euastacus diversus redescription 2015
Euastacus diversus redescription 2015

The research culminated in this paper titled “Re-description of the Orbost Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in Eastern Victoria, Australia” published in the journal “Freshwater Crayfish”. The paper redescribes Euastacus diversus to include the Bonang River crayfish (previously thought to be a new species).

The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution
The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution

The Bonang taxon represent a morphologically distinct population of Euastacus diversus that is genetically 1.95% divergent from the E. diversus type locality populations.

Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek
Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek

The research extends the distribution of the species to the Brodribb, Yalmy, Rodger and Bonang River drainages at elevations ranging from 350 – 950 m a.s.l., with an overall Extent of Occurrence of 465 km2. Research continues on E. diversus which will surely increase the Extent of Occurrence. Research also continues on the new Euastacus species and hopefully the first of the new species descriptions will be published later this year.

Citation:

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

 

.

Second Hand Yabby Hatchery, Purging, Holding and Display System For Sale

SOLD-THIS SYSTEM HAS BEEN SOLD

The disposal of a complete yabby aquaculture set up has become available. This is a Yabby Hatchery/Holding/Purging and display facility. It represents a unique opportunity to purchase a complete recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) at an affordable price.

Two complete rooms are available:

ROOM 1

The first room consists of 12 rectangular fiberglass tanks hooked up to a RAS system. Water is supplied to each of the as new fiberglass purging/holding tanks (2.37 m long x 0.64 m wide x 0.3 m deep) by 40 mm PVC water supply pipes. Water enters each tank through 6 x inlet hoses c/w control valves. Each tank has additional aeration supplied by the diaphragm air pump and airstone in the tank. Water flows into the tank, through and then out via a stand pipe that sets the waters depth in the tank. Water is filtered by the Pantera sand filter and U filter. Recirculated around the system by the Onga Pool Pump. This complete system is available for only $5,500 ono.

For further details and photos “Click Here”

Fiberglass Yabby Holding Tanks
Fiberglass Yabby Holding Tanks

ROOM 2

The second room is an aquarium and packaging room. 82 glass display aquaria are included c/w stands, bases, filters and lids. Many unused in immaculate condition. The Aquaria are drained by hose and electric pump. The pump is activated by an electric switch. Just press and the hose sucks and when empty press again and the pump shuts off. You can drain and clean each tank in seconds. There are also a large assortment of stainless steel, sinks, benches and tanks. The complete room and everything in it is available at only $5,500 ono.

For further details and photos “Click Here”

Aquaria For Sale
Aquaria For Sale

ADDITIONAL

Additionally there are 6 full bales and one half bale of bird netting available, and 440 pairs or 880 individual plastic yabby containers available.

For further details and photos “Click Here

Yabby cages
Yabby cages

This complete system represents many years of work which has been abandoned due to ill health. It is all still assembled and functional. Potential purchases would need to inspect to value and make an offer. We are located at Seymour Victoria, adjacent to the Hume highway:

Contact:

Linda McKenzie

BOORANDARRA FARM

Ph: 0414 418766

Email: linda_mckenzie@bigpond.com

An expedition to Victoria –November 2015

I had the pleasure of traveling to Victoria to present a lecture on “The Freshwater Crayfish of Victoria” to the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club. They were great crowd and I had a great time chatting with them.

Bendigo Field Naturalist Club
Bendigo Field Naturalist Club

Whilst in the Bendigo area I sampled the local creeks and streams, only finding yabbies Cherax destructor.

Cherax destructor from Bendigo
Cherax destructor from Bendigo Creek

The following day I had an aquaculture consult in the Seymour area and whilst there I took the opportunity to sample the local creeks and streams. Again abundant Cherax destructor but then a very nice surprise. I found a colony of Engaeus lyelli. This was excellent as I also managed to capture berried females, something I haven’t come across in this species before.
For a full article on Engaeus lyelli “Click Here”

Engaeus lyelli
Engaeus lyelli

Travelling south to the Otways the following day I sampled creeks, streams and rivers, finding mostly Cherax destructor and glass shrimp Paratya australiensis. One nice surprise in the Campaspe River were Australian Basket Shell Mussels Corbicula australis. They are a widespread and common species but usually hard to find so finding them easily was a pleasing result.

Australian Basket Shell Mussel
Australian Basket Shell Mussel

Further south around Waurn Ponds another nice surprise was the capture of a berried female Engaeus merosetosus. Enagaeus merosetosus are relatively common and widespread in that area however, females with eggs are exceptionally rare so the capture of one greatly increases the general knowledge on the species. For a full article on Engaeus merosetosus “Click Here”.

Engaeus merosetosus
Engaeus merosetosus

I spent several days at Otway Crays, Bellbrae, Victoria with the owner Steve Chara. Steve is a mate and we spent a few days together surveying the general area. Mostly we were finding Cherax albidus and Geochara gracilis. Both species were abundant and we found thousands. For a full article on Geocharax gracilis “Click Here”.

Geocharax gracilis
Geocharax gracilis

We also found Engaeus sericatus at a number of sites.

Engaeus sericatus
Engaeus sericatus

Steve Chara is one of Victoria’s largest yabby farmers and I spent some time with him sorting, grading and packaging yabbies.

Cherax albidus in a holding net
Cherax albidus in a holding net

Pumkin used to feed Cherax albidus
Pumpkin used to feed Cherax albidus

Steve had a bi-coloured yabby in a tank, this is a rare treat as these are extremely rare animals. For an article on Bi-Coloured Crayfish “Click Here”.

Bi-coloured Cherax albidus
Bi-coloured Cherax albidus

Unfortunately the expedition was over all too soon and I had to head back to the office.

2015 Expedition to Far North Queensland

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk
Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Early September 2015 four volunteers on the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) met at Townsville Queensland for a crayfish research expedition. We met at Cocoa Creek, on Cape Cleveland approximately 17 km east of Townsville. We all got there pretty much together just before sunset. Cocoa Creek is a small muddy deep water creek flowing through the mangroves. Last time we were there it was full of fish, mudcrabs and rumour had it one small (1.2 m) crocodile.

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes
Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

As soon as camp was set up we started having a fish just on dark. Karl dropped in a couple of crab traps and after 35 minutes he pulled the first out and jackpot, 4 mudcrabs. We failed to catch many fish that night but what was biting we biting midges or sand flies. They were in abundance and a major hassle as nothing repelled them.

The following morning Karl and I headed for Mt Elliott whilst Paul and Phil held the fort and stayed at base camp on Cocoa creek.

Base camp, hiking hammocks between trees
Base camp, Mt Elliot, hiking hammocks between trees

Karl and I made it to the base of Mt Elliot at the falls, set up a camp and then started climbing the mountain. We made it well up and then back that day, just blazing a trail and flagging a track ready for the early start the following morning.

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek
The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

We were climbing Mt Elliott to research the Mt Ellliot Crayfish Euastacus bindal one of Australias most endangered and rarest freshwater crayfish species with a small knowledge base.

Euastacus bindal
Euastacus bindal

The ACP has been researching this species since 2008 and this is our 5th expedition up the mountain. Once again we gathered more information which has been added to our paper and eventually we will publish our findings. Unfortunately, we will need further expeditions up the mountain so stay tuned.

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam
Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

After Mt Elliot we headed to Koombooloomba Dam, some 28 km south south east of Ravenshoe, Queensland. The dam has been constructed on the Tully River and we set up a base camp there to research the Cardwell Hairy Crayfish Euastacus yigara. One of the least known and researched Euastacus crayfish species in Australia. Our research on E. yigara was very successful and eventually we will publish our results. For an article on E. yigara “Click Here”.

Euastacus yigara
Euastacus yigara

Paul brought his boat which we launched on Koombooloomba Dam and we were able to access all the feeder streams that drain into the dam. We would motor up to the end of a bay, hop out and follow the stream into the rainforest and research E. yigara.

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex
Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara
Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

We also found both in the dam streams and those we surveyed in the wider area, Cherax parvus, Zebra Shrimp, another Caridina shrimp species, Rainbow Fish and Trout Gudgeons.

Euastacus parvus
Euastacus parvus

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda
Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra
Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Between researching crayfish we also had a fish in the dam. Sooty Grunter were plentiful and we caught quite a few for dinners at night after a hard days cray chasing.

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter
Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

For 5 days we researched E. yigara then we moved to Hinchinbrook Island.

Our base camp at Lucinda
Our base camp at Lucinda

We made camp at Lucinda opposite the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island in the “Wanderers Holiday Village”. Camping was at a premium and we only just managed to get a space squeezed in between caravans. This was our base camp for daily expeditions across the bay to Hinchinbrook Island. We would motor across to Hinchinbrook then follow the creeks up into freshwater and survey for freshwater crayfish.

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island
Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

It was a great trip and we will do it again next year. I drove 5,500km to get there and back so 2 days each way just gettings there. Hopefully, next year we will do a fly in and fly out trip.

Cheers

Rob

Yabby Farming Field Day – Karuah NSW – “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm – 8th August 2015

A Yabby Dabba Doo/CSIRO Super Yabby
A Yabby Dabba Doo/CSIRO Super Yabby

NSW Aquaculture Association in partnership with “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm and Aquatic Engineering Australia is holding a yabby farming field day on Saturday the 8th August, 2015. Everyone is invited to share in this education and information day.

The days theme, is the commercial aquaculture of yabbies (Cherax destructor) in purpose built earthen yabby ponds. Join us around the ponds to see how they are constructed to suit the yabbies requirements for maximum production. These are not farm dams but commercial yabby ponds. See how to construct commercial earthen ponds, control their overflows and make the ponds gravity drainable at minimal cost.

Cooked, "Yabby Dabba Doo" Yabbies
Cooked, “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabbies

Once yabbies are captured they need to be held ready for sale. You need somewhere to store yabbies for a week or two ready for sale and be able to purge the yabbies on demand. See a simple commercial purging recirculating aquaculture system in operation; see how it’s constructed and how you can build yours at home. Discuss the pros and cons of this basic construction with Paul Van der Werf, one of Australia’s leading experts on recirculating aquaculture systems.

Commercial Yabby Ponds
Commercial Yabby Ponds

When you start growing commercial quantities of yabbies at densities far greater than that which occurs naturally in nature then perimeter fencing of your ponds becomes an important priority. Commercial yabby ponds need external perimeter fencing to ensure yabbies don’t wander from the ponds and to keep predators like turtles and eels from getting into the ponds. Join us to see the fencing and discuss the options and requirements.

One of the major predators of yabbies are birds. The main culprits are cormorants or shags which can devastate commercial yabby ponds. The easiest remedy is to net your ponds. Join us on the day around the ponds to see the bird netting erected over the ponds. See how it’s erected, and discuss alternatives with the experts.

First thing in the morning we will be setting traps in the ponds. We will be using a variety of traps from those used by recreational fishers to the special traps only used by commercial farmers. The traps will range in size from the small box traps for catching small bait yabbies to the large super traps for catching bulk loads of 20-50 kgs/trap. Later in the day we will harvest the yabbies from the traps. See how it’s done and what you can catch in the different traps.

A commercial pond with bird netting over and hides within the pond
A commercial pond with bird netting over and hides within the pond

For commercially viable yabby production you need to add shelter to the ponds. Yabbies only use the floor of the pond which limits the number of yabbies which can physically survive in the pond. If you add shelter to the pond you can double, triple or quadruple the production from that pond. Join us to see the types of shelters used and how they are set for easy removal from the ponds and additionally used for juvenile harvesting etc.

Small Bait Yabbies
Small Bait Yabbies

A clean reliable water supply is an essential requirement for any commercial aquaculture facility. Aquatic Engineering Australia will be demonstrating their “Ultra Filtration Mobile Unit”. Join us to see the unit in operation with demonstration of its sediment removal capability. See how this demonstration unit can turn turbid dam water into clear, clean water.

Our Aquaculture Policy Officer from Fisheries NSW will be there to discuss the government requirements in getting started. Find out all you need to know and it’s a great opportunity make contact with the man you will need to lodge your application with.

Once you have grown and harvested your crop of yabbies, you will need to sell it. See the different size yabbies the different markets require. Discuss the markets for each size and grade of yabby, and the current market prices for your produce. Learn where you can sell yabbies and what you can expect in return for your produce.

This is a great opportunity to meet with some of Australia’s leading industry experts. All are there to answer all your questions. (Industry consultants can charge $100-200/hr for consultancy; you have them there at no extra charge so make good use of them).

There will be drinks and a sausage sizzle or similar after the event so another opportunity to stay back and network.

Key speakers include:

Jamie Williams, Owner of “Yabby Dabba Doo” Yabby Farm and “Marron-U-Wanna” Marron & Koi Farm in WA.

Rob McCormack, Research & Aquaculture Director, Australian Aquatic Biological P/L and Secretary NSWAA.

Paul Van der Werf, Director, Earthan Group and President NSWAA.

Graeme Bowley, Aquaculture Policy Officer, Fisheries NSW.

Chris Young, Aquatic Engineering Australia (AEA)

Tickets are available now, only limited attendees so order now before sold out.

Members $35

Members Partners $15

Non Members $50

Non Members Partners $25

Plus a $1 fee/ticket

Pre registration is essential.

Bring your gum boots and umbrella if its wet.

To Purchase Event Tickets “Click Here”

To download and Event Program “Click Here”

As secretary of the NSWAA  l’ll be running a Yabby Farming information and education day at “Yabby Dabba Doo“, hope to see you all there.

 

 

Ellen Clarks Crayfish Euastacus clarkae Paper Published

Euastacus clarkae
Euastacus clarkae

Between 2005 and 2012 the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) has been researching an IUCN listed Critically Endangered species Euastacus clarkae. Then in 2013 the ACP received a Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZSCF) grant (Project 12054688) and I am extremely grateful for their generous support. The MBZSCF is a significant philanthropic endowment established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field of species conservation and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate (http://www.speciesconservation.org/). With their valuable support and the support of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service we were able to complete this massive project.

Ellen Clark's Crayfish Euastacus clarkae
Ellen Clark’s Crayfish Euastacus clarkae

The entire Hastings River catchment some 3846 km2 was surveyed and established the Extent of Occurrence for E. clarkae at only 200 km2. This project not only supplied critical information on E. clarkae but documented the distribution of all Parastacidae species occurring in the catchment. The research on the rest of the catchment is ongoing but so far in proposed follow up scientific manuscripts we will remove one Euastacus species currently listed as occurring in the Hastings Drainage and add 2 new Euastacus species never previously recorded – stay tuned.

Berried Female E. clarkae
Berried Female E. clarkae

Pages from 12. JCB_2315W_McCormack (1)

The E. clarkae paper was published in the prestigious Journal of Crustacean Biology (JCB). The Journal of Crustacean Biology is the official journal of The Crustacean Society for the publication of research on any aspect of the biology of Crustacea & other marine arthropods. It is a peer-reviewed, scientific journal containing papers of broad interest on crustacean biology and other marine arthropods, biographies of renowned carcinologists, book reviews of works on Crustacea, and pertinent announcements. As a member of The Crustacean Society I would recommend that you all join us as members if you are interested in Crustacea. The mission of the Crustacean Society is to advance the study of all aspects of the biology of the Crustacea by promoting the exchange and dissemination of information throughout the world. http://www.thecrustaceansociety.org/

 

A B S T R A C T

The imperiled Clark’s crayfish, Euastacus clarkae Morgan (1997), was described from a handful of juvenile specimens collected from one location in 1981. The Australian Crayfish Project recently completed an intensive field survey project to better define its distribution, habitat, biology and conservation status. Euastacus clarkae is restricted to headwater reaches of highland streams feeding the Hastings and Forbes rivers, at elevations ranging from 670-1150 m. The entire Hastings River catchment (3846 km2) was surveyed and established the Extent of Occurrence for E. clarkae at 200 km2. The distribution was almost entirely located within Werrikimbe National Park where the species was locally abundant. We recommended conservation down listing from Critically Endangered to Endangered and present information to support future conservation efforts and allow specific management plans to be drafted for this rare, highland species. To assist with identification we provide a key to this and other Euastacus found in the Hastings and adjoining drainages.

McCormack, R.B. (2015). Conservation of imperiled crayfish, Euastacus clarkae Morgan, 1997 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), a highland crayfish from the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’s World Heritage Area. Journal of Crustacean Biology, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 282 – 291. DOI: 10.1163/1937240X-00002315

 

The ACP visits Tasmania

During a recent trip to Tasmania I had the pleasure of seeking some freshwater crayfish between looking at the local tourist attractions. I was there as a tourist for my first look at Tasmania but between traveling to the next tourist attraction I took some time out to look for crayfish and I wasn’t disappointed. Tasmania has an abundance of crayfish species and without too much effort I managed to find a few.

Astacopsis gouldi
Astacopsis gouldi

I was excited to find my first Giant Tasmanian Freshwater Lobster Astacopsis gouldi. Although only juveniles I was very interested in their morphology, I’m looking forward to returning and finding a monster one.

http://www.austcray.com/2015/03/the-giant-tasmanian-freshwater-lobster-astacopsis-gouldi-clark-1936/

Engaeus fossor
Engaeus fossor

The first Engaeus species I found was what seems to be Engaeus fossor. I’m unfamiliar with Tassie crayfish so relying on Horwitz 1990, it keys out as Engaeus fossor, if anyone thinks otherwise please let me know. For an article on this species see: http://www.austcray.com/2015/03/burrowing-crayfish-engaeus-fossor/

Ombrastacoides leptomerus
Ombrastacoides leptomerus

My next find was totally unexpected, I was delighted at finding this Ombrastacoides crayfish in a small swampy drain on the side of a bush track. This was my first Ombrastacoides crayfish and as per Hanson and Richardson 2006 and it seems to be Ombrastacoides leptomerus. I found a number of these in very different habitats. For an article on Ombrastacoides leptomerus see: http://www.austcray.com/2015/03/ombrastacoides-leptomerus/ or http://www.austcray.com/2015/03/ombrastacoides-leptomerus-2nd/

Engaeus mairener
Engaeus mairener

Engaeus mairener is endemic to north-eastern Tasmania, and seemingly abundant being relatively easy to find and with burrows only 60-70 cm deep, relatively easy to dig. For an article on Engaeus mairener see: http://www.austcray.com/2015/03/engaeus-mairener/

Cheers
Rob

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aquaculture/Aquaponic Equipment For Sale

ian add-26-2013-08-15 00.09.02

One of Australia’s premium aquaculture farms is selling excess equipment as part of a farm upgrade. Spare tanks, pumps and filters, etc., are all for sale at the right price. Save thousands on this equipment clearance sale. See attached PDF for details (Click Here).

If you are starting a hatchery or in need of a tank for your home aquaponic system then this is your chance to pick up aquaculture tanks or equipment at the right price.

The NSWAA is having a field day at Griffith NSW on the 13th and 14th of March and a good opportunity to pick up some equipment whilst attending the field day. For information on the fish/yabby/aquaponics field day go to www.nswaqua.com.au  If you are interested in aquaponics or aquaculture then don’t miss this field day, the first day is lectures and the second is farm visits. Some of Australia’s foremost experts on aquaponics, yabby farming and fish farming are there so pick their brains to get all the advice you need for your venture.

For further information and details on the equipment for sale:

Contact:
Ian Charles
Silverwater Native Fish
Grong Grong, NSW
+61 2 69562305
0427 695662
silverwaternativefish@gmail.com

Translocated Cherax paper published

Translocated Cherax destructor from Mount White, NSW
Translocated Cherax destructor from Mount White, NSW

Based on the results of the Australian Crayfish Project a scientific paper on the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, has been published in the scientific journal “Australian Zoologist”. The Royal Zoological Society publishes a fully refereed scientific journal, Australian Zoologist, specialising in topics relevant to Australian zoology. The Australian Zoologist was first published by the Society in 1914, making it the oldest Australian journal specialising in zoological topics. The scope of the journal has increased substantially in the last 20 years, and it now attracts papers on a wide variety of zoological, ecological and environmentally related topics.The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales is a non-profit, scientific organisation dedicated to the study and conservation of native Australian fauna.  http://rzsnsw.org.au/

Translocated Cherax destructor from Piles Creek, Gosford, NSW
Translocated Cherax destructor from Piles Creek, Gosford, NSW

Abstract

The blue claw yabby Cherax destructor is a native of the Murray Darling drainage basin in the interior of south-eastern Australia. In New South Wales (NSW) the species naturally occurs west of the Great Dividing Range but recently, it has become established in eastern parts of NSW, outside of its natural range. The potential threats and translocation of this species into eastern NSW was first documented at 20 sites by Coughran et al. (2009). This paper builds on their initial work and documents a further 52 translocation sites (Table 1) recorded over the last four years. In an effort to further our understanding of the threat, we present information on the dispersal of this species together with observational information on interactions with freshwater crayfish (Parastacidae) species and suggest recommendations to help slow the translocation process.

McCormack, R.B. (2014). New records and review of the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist. Volume 37 (1) 85 – 94. ISSN 0067-2238 (Print). http://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2014.006

Yabbies make great pets and are excellent eating, but unlike the endemic freshwater crayfish in eastern drainages, they grows fast, mature early, breed frequently and have a shorter gestation period. These are traits that equip it to potentially out-compete the endemic freshwater crayfish. Their rapid proliferation, aggressive disposition and invasive habits tend to rapidly displace the endemic eastern crayfish. The NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee has listed ‘The introduction of fish to fresh waters within a river catchment outside their natural range’ as a Key Threatening Process (KTP) under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (FM Act), and the yabby is certainly a threat in eastern NSW. This paper documents ACP research over the last 4 years and is a must for those interested in the conservation of our endemic eastern crayfish species.

 

A Day in the Swamps of Katoomba Chasing the Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea
A Male Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

In late December 2014, I met up with Dr Ian Baird one of Australia’s foremost experts on Giant Dragonflies and we spent the day together wandering selected swamps of the Blue Mountains hunting this rare and elusive species. This was an eye opener for me and I had a fantastic day learning all about Giant Dragonflies. The following information on the species was provided by Ian.

The Survey Swamp at Katoomba
The Survey Swamp at Katoomba (880 m a.s.l

Petalura gigantea, commonly known as the Giant Dragonfly or Southeastern Petaltail is a very large dragonfly which may have a wingspan up to 13 cm. It is recorded from selected peat swamps, bogs and seepages (mires) along the coast and ranges of NSW from Nadgee Nature Reserve near the Victorian border, to near the Qld border in and around Basket Swamp National Park and Boonoo Boonoo State Forest. It has also been observed in nearby Girraween National Park in southeastern Qld.

It has been recorded in swamp habitats from near sea level to 1240 m elevation. Listed as endangered in NSW under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, with habitat loss and degradation identified as the main threats to the species.

Ian Baird photographing a Giant Dragonfy caught in a spiders web
Ian Baird photographing a Giant Dragonfy caught in a spiders web

In addition to the large size and widely separated dark eyes, the species (and genus) is characterised by a long pterostigma (darkened cell) towards the distal end of the leading edge of the wings, and large petaloid superior anal appendages in adult males. Adult females lack the conspicuous petaloid appendages and are somewhat bulkier than males.

A dragonfly perching in the swamp
1. A dragonfly perching in the swamp

A Giant Dragonfly perching on a stick
2. Closer up perching on a stick

The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea
3. The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

The family is unique amongst dragonflies, in that larvae excavate burrows which extend below the water table in soft peaty soils in mires, seepages or along stream margins. The larvae (mudeyes) occupy and maintain these burrows for their entire larval period, generally surviving on creatures captured within the burrow system, or perhaps ambushed at the burrow entrance. Larvae may leave their burrows to hunt under favorable conditions, but this behaviour has not been confirmed. Petalurid dragonflies have very long larval stages, which are known to extend for at least five years in two overseas species. Extrapolation from recent studies by Ian and Dr John Trueman, suggest, respectively, a larval stage of at least six years, and possibly 10 or more, in P. gigantea. Ian was extremely skilled at locating burrows and he found 10:1 to what I did. I was desperately searching for an occupied burrow but only ever found those recently vacated.

A burrow
A burrow

After this extended larval stage they emerge (October-January) and climb the nearest shrub or sedgeland vegetation to undergo emergence, usually leaving their larval skin (exuvia) attached to their shrub or sedge emergence supports. Ian and I surveyed the Katoomba swamp and I was astounded at the number of exuvia we found amongst the sedges. Ian indicated that this was an unusually large emergence event for this swamp patch.

The lava emerge from burrow, climb up and emerge from exuvia into dragonflies
The larva emerge from burrow, climb up and emerge from exuvia to become adult dragonflies

Exuvia from a dragon fly larva
Exuvia from a male dragonfly larvae

Adults live for a maximum of one summer flying season, which extends into February at least, with occasional late flying individuals having been observed on one occasion as late as mid-March in the Blue Mountains.

Giant Dragonflies mating in late December 2015
Giant Dragonflies mating in late December 2014

My thanks to Ian for a most enjoyable and informative day. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Giant Dragonflies in the future.

Cheers
Rob McCormack
 

Selected references for Petalura gigantea

Baird I. R. C. (2012) The wetland habitats, biogeography and population dynamics of Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae) in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney, Australia. Available from http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/509925.

Baird I. R. C. (2013) Emergence behaviour in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae): confirmation of upright emergence. International Journal of Odonatology 16, 213-8. doi:10.1080/13887890.2013.798975

Baird, I.R.C. (2013). Larval habitat and behaviour of Phenes raptor (Odonata: Petaluridae): a review of current knowledge, with new observations. International Journal of Odonatology, 16, 79-91. doi:10.1080/13887890.2012.757723

Baird, I.R.C. (2014). Larval burrow morphology and groundwater dependence in a mire-dwelling dragonfly, Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology, 17, 101-121. doi:10.1080/13887890.2014.932312

Baird, I.R.C. (2014). Mate guarding and other aspects of reproductive behaviour in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology, 17, 223-236. doi:10.1080/13887890.2014.979333

Baird I. R. C. & Burgin S. (2013) An emergence study of Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology 16, 193-211. doi:10.1080/13887890.2013.798580

Baird I. R. C. & Ireland C. (2006) Upright emergence in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology 9, 45-50.

Benson D. & Baird I. R. C. (2012) Vegetation, fauna and groundwater interrelations in low nutrient temperate montane peat swamps in the upper Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Cunninghamia 12, 267-307. Available from http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/science/Scientific_publications/cunninghamia/contents_by_volume/volume_12#twelvefour

Davies, D.A.L. (1998). The genus Petalura: field observations, habits and conservation status (Anisoptera: Petaluridae). Odonatologica, 27, 287-305.

Fleck G. (2011) Phylogenetic placement of Petaluridae and basal Anisoptera families (Insecta: Odonata). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde A Neue Series 4, 83-104.

Hawking J. H. & Theischinger G. (2004) Critical species of Odonata in Australia. International Journal of Odonatology 7, 113-32.

NSW Scientific Committee. (1998) Giant dragonfly – endangered species listing. NSW Scientific Committee final determination. Available from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/determinations/GiantDragonflyEndSpListing.htm

NSW Scientific Committee. (2007). Petalura gigantea – endangered species listing amendment. NSW Scientific Committee determination to add Petalura litorea to Part 1 of Schedule 1 (Endangered species) of the Threatened Species Conservation Act. Available from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/listings/PetaluraGiganteaAmendment.htm

Theischinger G. (1975) Ein “Dreigespann” von Petalura gigantea Leach. Tombo 18, 45. (In German, with English summary).

Theischinger G. (1999) A new species of Petalura Leach from south-eastern Queensland (Odonata: Petaluridae). Linzer biologische Beiträge 31, 159-66.

Theischinger G. & Endersby I. (2009) Identification Guide to the Australian Odonata. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Hurstville, NSW.

Theischinger G. & Hawking J. H. (2006) The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia. CSIRO, Collingwood, Vic.

Tillyard, R.J. (1909). Studies in the life-histories of Australian Odonata. 1. The life-history of Petalura gigantea Leach. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW, 34, 256-267.

Tillyard, R.J. (1911). Studies in the life-histories of Australian Odonata. 4. Further notes on the life-history of Petalura gigantea Leach. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW, 36, 86-96.

Ware, J.L., Beatty, C.D., Sanchez Herrera, M., Valley, S., Johnson, J., Kerst, C., May, M.L. & Theischinger, G. (2014). The petaltail dragonflies (Odonata: Petaluridae): Mesozoic habitat specialists that survive to the modern day. Journal of Biogeography, 41, 1291-1300. doi:10.1111/jbi.12273

 

Super Yabbies and Yabby Farming in NSW

The humble aquacultured yabby Cherax destructor

As an industry consultant and a member of the original CSIRO Steering committee for the CSIRO/RIRDC CSA-17A Super Yabby Research project I am still involved with requests for further information and participation in current projects relating to the CSIRO SUPER YABBIES and yabby farming generally.

The CSIRO Team Chris Dennis and Ian Purvis. The Steering Committee Greg Williams, Brian Royce and Rob McCormack
The CSIRO Team Chris Dennis and Ian Purvis. The Steering Committee Greg Williams, Brian Royce and Rob McCormack

In addition to my commercial ventures, recently I had cause to review the project and provide information for a forthcoming Yabby Farming Field Day at Griffith NSW being held by the NSW Aquaculture Association Inc. (NSWAA)  www.nswaqua.com.auin March 2015. As secretary of the NSWAA I compiled the following. Some of the following is what you will also find on the NSW Aquaculture site with a lot more commercial farming information added in this article. If you would like to see the NSWAA article http://nswaqua.com.au/super-yabbies-developed-by-the-csiro/ The NSWAA article contains all the scientific information, papers, photos and reports but only available to members via their member’s library. This article is more general information without the reports and scientific manuscripts.

Back in 1998 the CSIRO Livestock Industries at Chiswick near Armidale NSW self-funded a research project aimed at increasing the productivity of farms through genetic improvement of yabby stocks. Historically the CSIRO at Armidale (http://www.csiro.au/Portals/About-CSIRO/Where-we-are/New-South-Wales/FD-McMaster-Lab.aspx) started as a sheep research facility in the 1950’s. However, due to the decrease in wool and other commodity products that occurred in the mid 1990’s the CSIRO was looking for something sheep farmers could diversify into and identified yabbies/aquaculture as the option with the most potential. In mixed farming situations, risk spreading strategies such as diversification outside the traditional commodity mixes, can enhance economic stability and yabbies seemed ideal.

The research program was led by Dr Dean Jerry whose vision and dedication to the aquaculture industry drove this project. Dean was an industry hero at the time and had the full support of the NSW Aquaculture Association and Industry.

Dean started with an extensive search for naturally fast growing strains of yabbies. He finally selected 5 basic strains of yabbies from very diverse environments. From western Queensland, north western NSW, western NSW, the NSW Snowy Mountains and western Victoria yabbies were collected and sent to the CSIRO animal laboratories at Chiswick NSW.

The Aquacultured Yabby Cherax destructor
The Aquacultured Yabby Cherax destructor

Dean and his team started with these different strains of yabbies but found very early on that 2 of the strains grew exceptionally faster, compared to the others (Jerry et al. 2001). Different strains of yabbies from different populations have a remarkable variety of different genetic traits, some of these are advantageous and some are not so attractive. The main trait that the CSIRO was interested in was growth; they did trials between the different strains and selected the two fastest growers which showed the most promise. Now you can speculate on the reason for this but coincidentally both of the faster growing strains where from the upper reach tributaries of the Murray Darling Drainage Basin. Yabbies are native to the Murray Darling drainage basin of Australia and thrive throughout the whole basin. The Murray Darling Basin covers one seventh of the Australian continent, over one million square kilometres, it includes 20 major rivers including the 3 longest, the Darling 2740 kilometres, the Murray 2530 kilometres, and the Murrumbidgee 1690 kilometres.

The two strains selected came from the Warrego River in south west Queensland which is at the headwaters of the Murray River and the Tumut River which is at the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River.

The research identified that there are significant differences in growth rates amongst wild populations of yabbies (Jerry et al. 2002). In fact the two fastest growing populations they evaluated grew up to 42% faster than the slowest one (which by the way is C. albidus destructor from the Wimmera region in Victoria). The Victorian yabbies, however, had longer tails than all the other strains. For commercial purposes tail meal is a major consideration as those that savour the flavour of yabbies want bigger tails to get more meat. However, for the CSIRO initial trials they were only selecting for growth

They selected the 2 fastest growing strains of yabbies (Cherax destructor) and in 2000 started a selective breeding program with these 2 varieties. They started with 28 families of yabbies plus controls (over 300 yabbies initially). The controls were grown with the selected families to ensure accurate results, but tagged to identify them. The idea was to use these selected strains as the genetic base for a selective breeding program to further improve growth rates and to use the controls to monitor the progress. The process was quite simple with single sire mating occurring in glass aquariums. This allowed full control of the breeding process and ensured that inbreeding was not a problem. Juvenile yabbies were then raised in the CSIRO hatchery till they were between 0.4 and 1 gram. The juveniles were then tagged with an elastomer insert and transferred to the outside ponds for the growth trials.

The CSIRO constructed 6 earthen ponds each 0.1 ha in size. The ponds are fenced and netted and are designed to replicate commercial yabby ponds, so results obtained will be the same as those received by industry. Typically for commercial yabby farming the minimum pond size is 0.1 ha and the maximum is 0.5 ha (see the book Commercial Yabby Farmer for further design details http://www.rbmaqua.com.au/bookshop.shtml)

A CSIRO yabby aquaculture pond
A CSIRO yabby aquaculture pond

The first F1 generation of yabbies at an average weight of 0.59 gram were stocked into the earthen ponds and grown for 78 days. Overall 62% of yabbies stocked survived and the mean weight of the crayfish harvested was 30.7 gram. There was a vast difference in individual size with for the males the largest was 52.6 gram and the smallest 16.5 gram. However, the bottom line is that the selected yabbies grew 14% bigger than the controls. The individuals both male and females with the best growth were then selected as broodstock for the next generation.

In 2001, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) who are supportive of rural industries and had a bit of vision, agreed to fund the CSIRO for an ongoing 3 year research project. This was the same year the first generation of animals were evaluated and selected for growth and progeny. With a bit of support from the RIRDC and lots of interest and enthusiasm from industry and the community the CSIRO started on the second generation under the leadership of geneticist Dr Ian Purvis.

An F2 generation Super Yabby and control
An F2 generation Super Yabby and control

F2 yabbies were hatched in the glass aquariums, grown to an average weight of 0.43 gram, elastomer tagged and released into the ponds in the first week of January 2002. They were allowed to grow for 205 days this time till mid July which is the heart of winter. Survival this time was only 55% all up but a longer grow out time and two months of winter, plus the drought all took a toll. Mean crayfish weight this time was 70.1 gram with the smallest being 43.8 gram and the largest 133 gram. In 2002, this second generation of animals where harvested from the CSIRO earthen ponds and measured for 11 different characteristics (weight, carapace length, tail length, tail width and claw size, etc). The results were remarkable, in a nutshell the selected yabbies grew much faster than the standard control. As expected female yabbies grew slower than the males but still averaged a 10% increase in growth rate per generation. The big improvement, however, was in the males. Male yabbies in the first generation grew 14% faster than the standard controls. Male yabbies in this second generation grew 14% faster than the controls again. So, in just 2 generations they had a 28% increase in growth rates, imagine what this will be like in 10 generations time.

The best of the animals harvested in July were over wintered in an internal recirculation system and then bred to produce the third generation F3 which went into the ponds at 0.5 gram in mid December. They need to be 0.5 gram to allow tagging for identification to occur. Yabbies were grown in the ponds for 163 days and survival again was 55%. Average mean weight was 64.8 gram and ranged from 55.7 to 105.2 gram (Jerry et al., 2005).

The funding so generously supplied by RIRDC finished so the project wound up and Dean published a paper in 2005 on the genetic breeding program. The last harvest of the F4 generation proved hard to interpret as initial indications that this generation only had a 10% increase of growth instead of the 14% expected. The problem is that in the pond this time is a far greater number of yabbies than expected. Uncontrolled in pond breeding is a major problem that plagues the commercial yabby farming industry. Typically, yabbies can breed from a small size and only 5-6 months of age. A 10 gram, 24.5 mm OCL yabby can have 150 eggs. Generally, the smallest size yabbies harvested are 30 gram so if yabbies waste energy breeding and then thousands of extra yabbies enter the pond population then they consume resources further slowing the growth of the whole pond population.

It may be that with these improved strains that because they are growing so much faster, they are now also maturing faster, so breeding earlier and as they are bigger having more young when they breed and those young are growing incredibly fast, so the pond biomass just explodes which strains the available food sources, limiting growth of the pond population as a whole except, for the more aggressive dominant males that still get more than their fare share. This may account for the vast differentiation in size with the F4 generation which varied from 40 gram to 180 gram.

Typically for extensive and semi intensive yabby farmers you would harvest your yabbies by using yabby traps. In NSW it’s traditionally the opera house traps but not the standard ones with a steel ring entrance, commercial farmers use opera house traps with NO ring. These type traps are only available for commercial farmers and not for use in public waters as they catch everything; turtles, fish, platypus, etc. Commercial farmers can purchase no ring opera house traps here, http://www.rbmaqua.com.au/aqua-shop.shtml

Purpose built commercial yabby ponds
Purpose built commercial yabby ponds – Mudgee NSW

The CSIRO research was spectacular and an eye opener for many yabby farmers. Unfortunately, the yabby industry as a whole has not been genetically improving their stock in a consistent manner; in fact most are doing the opposite. Yabbies are in tremendous demand and as a rule every yabby farmer in NSW and Victoria just never has enough yabbies to meet the overwhelming demand. Most farmers catch their yabbies in opera house traps, these traps tend to capture the larger yabbies first. There is a certain amount of yabby etiquette in yabby ponds and it is just common courtesy and safer for the smaller yabbies in the pond to allow the larger yabbies to have a feed first. Now yabbies by character are sneaky, so if a smaller yabby can pinch a bit of food whilst the big boys are not looking they will, but generally it’s the big boys that feed first as the males are the ones that grow the fastest. When you drop a trap into the pond you capture the largest fastest growing yabbies first and generally it’s large ones you need, so these yabbies tend to get sent off to market and any small sneaky ones capture returned to the pond.

Typical aquacultured yabbies straight from the ponds
Typical aquacultured yabbies straight from the ponds

Unfortunately this leaves the smaller slower growing yabbies to breed so you are actually selecting for smaller slower growing yabbies. This is a common problem on most farms that do not have specific broodstock ponds or selective breeding programs.

Those semi-intensive yabby farms growing yabbies in purpose built ponds would stock with a set number of yabbies, grow-out for a set amount of time and then drain harvest the pond. This type production would achieve production of approx. 2500 kgs/ha/year. (see “The Commercial Yabby Farmer book http://www.aabio.com.au/products-page/  )

The CSIRO finished the research project and printed the final report in April 2006 (Purvis, 2006). The CSIRO to help the yabby farming industry not only release the research results to industry but they released the Supper Yabby. This was a fantastic boon for industry as these F3 and F4 generation yabbies are like getting a stud bull or ram. You can use these to breed up a whole new generation of improved super yabbies. Just one good male can look after dozens of females, so a few hundred improved yabbies to every farmer could go a long way to improving the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, Fisheries NSW classed the super yabby as genetically modified and had concerns for the indigenous species of crayfish if the super yabby escaped into the wild. There are over 140 different species of freshwater crayfish in Australia (go to http://www.aabio.com.au/crayfish-list/ for a current list of all species) and most are nowhere as tough and hardy as the common yabby let alone a super yabby. In NSW the common yabby Cherax destructor is already creating havoc where it has been translocated into eastern drainages (Coughran et al.,2009; McCormack, in press). For industry to be allowed to culture the super yabby in earthen ponds strict environmental regulations were imposed by Fisheries NSW to protect the environment to ensure the super yabbies never escaped into the wild.

Fenced Yabby Ponds are mandatory for super yabbies
Fenced Yabby Ponds are mandatory for super yabbies

As a thankyou to the NSW Aquaculture Association for their support and assistance over the course of this research project the CSIRO only released the super yabby stock to members of the NSWAA. With the strict Fisheries NSW restrictions and prior inspection of the properties by Fisheries to ensure the premises complied with the new regulations only 5 commercial farmers received this incredibly valuable super yabby stock. Now in 2014 only 2 of those farms/NSWAA members have maintained the genetic integrity of their super yabby stock, one here in NSW and another in Victoria. Neither of these two farms are selling their “Super Yabby Stock” but holding it for future development. However, one of these farms is on the verge of a major project to revamp the Super Yabbies and achieve the industry holy grail of an F10 generation.

In NSW we have a “Class E” licence from Fisheries NSW that allows individuals to harvest yabbies from multiply sites. Yabbies (Cherax destructor) are indigenous to western NSW and most farm dams can support populations. Typically, farm dams can be harvested at 300-600 kgs of yabbies per hectare of surface water per year. So if you have 10 only 1000 square metre surface area dams, this equates to a hectare in total. If you have 10 properties each with 10 dams then you can harvest 3000-6000kgs of yabbies per year. With a market price of $20/kg there is the potential for a nice living to be made.

Floating Holding Cages in a farm dam
Floating Holding Cages in a farm dam

 

Yabbies in a floating holding cage
Yabbies in a floating holding cage

It’s not so easy as not every dam has yabbies, some are full of carp or spangled perch, etc. and only have a few yabbies. Distance is a big obstacle, as vehicle and fuel costs are a major consideration. Also weather is one of your greatest threats, droughts dry dams out, and wet weather makes driving through paddocks to get to the dams impossible. Add the fact that this is just a harvesting operation and most Class E operators have not learnt from the CSIRO research. They just trap, which selects the larger yabbies and harvest them so leaving the smaller yabbies to breed thus year by year slowly reducing the volume of harvest.

Your next option is to have an extensive yabby permit from Fisheries NSW for your own property. Known as a “Class C” extensive aquaculture permit only allows you to grow and harvest not to feed your yabbies with artificial foods. This means you can manage your yabbies and dams better but only at natural levels as without additional food you are limited to the natural food available and production of the 600-800kgs/ha/year would be the maximum. You can however do some selective harvesting and actually, increase your harvest every year.

A holding cage full of yabbies ready for sale
A holding cage full of yabbies ready for sale

Your final option is for the professional farmer that wants to maximise his yields and use artificial feeds to boost his production. This requires a “Class D” intensive aquaculture permit from Fisheries NSW and comes with a number of restrictions to ensure the environment is protected. When you add food to a pond there is a greater risk that something can go wrong. If for example you add too much food and it’s not eaten then you can pollute the water. That polluted water is not allowed to escape the farm and must be irrigated, etc. Additionally, you are now growing higher densities than occur naturally and the risk from disease becomes a problem. Yabbies are relatively disease free but the same permit conditions apply regardless of species and fish can get any number of diseases; if they do the licence conditions ensure that the disease does not escape and impact the fish in the local creek, etc. The same goes for the CSIRO super yabbies, you would need a Class D permit for these with additional restrictions all aimed at protecting the environment.

The NSW Aquaculture Association is holding a field day at Griffith NSW in March that covers everything above. If you’re interested in yabby farming then you should attend.

If you’re interested in attending the Yabby Farming Field Day at Griffith NSW you can sign up here   http://nswaqua.com.au/yabby-farming-field-day-griffith-nsw-13th-march-2015/ and we will send further information by email as it becomes available. Ill be chatting to attendants about yabby farming on the day – “hope to see you there”.

Cheers
Rob

 

 

References and Further Reading

Coughran, J., McCormack, R.B., Daly, G. 2009. Translocation of the Yabby, Cherax destructor, into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist. Vol 35 (1); http://dx.doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2009.009
 
Jerry, D.R., Piper, L.R., and Purvis, IW. 2001. Differences in growth parameters among populations of the yabby Cherax destructor (Clark). Proc. Assoc. Advmt. Anim. Breed. Genet. Vol 14
 
Jerry, D.R., Purvis, I.W., and Piper, L.R. 2002 Genetic differences in growth among wild populations of the yabby, Cherax destructor (Clark). Aquaculture Research 33: 12, pp 917–923
 
Jerry, D.R., Purvis, I.W., Piper, L.R., and Dennis, C.A. 2005. Selection for faster growth in the freshwater crayfish Cherax destructor. Aquaculture, 247 (1-4). pp. 169-176.
 
Purvis, I.W. 2006. Breeding Bigger Yabbies – Developing a genetically improved yabby to facilitate farm enterprise diversification. Report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation RIRDC. Publication No 06/042. RIRDC Project No CSA-17A. ISBN 1 74151 305 7.
 
McCormack, R.B. (in press). New records and review of the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist.
 
McCormack, R.B. 2005. “The Commercial Yabby Farmer” RBM Aquaculture, Karuah, NSW, Australia. ISBN 0 9576524 1 X
 
McCormack, R.B. 2008. “The Freshwater Crayfish of NSW Australia” Australian Aquatic Biological Pty Ltd., Karuah, NSW. ISBN 978-0-9805144-1-4
 
McCormack, R.B. 2008. “Keeping Pet Yabbies” RBM Aquaculture, Karuah, NSW, Australia. ISBN 978-0-9805144-0-7 (Reprint 2010, Second edition 2011, 2013)
 
McCormack, R.B. 2012. A guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria. ISBN 978 0 643 10386 3
 
 

Riek’s Crayfish Euastacus rieki (first breeding record)

Berried Euastacus reiki from Namadgi National Park, ACT
Berried Euastacus rieki from Namadgi National Park, ACT

The ACT Aquatic Team  from the ACT Government’s Conservation Planning and Research Unit sent me this photo of a berried Euastacus rieki and I just had to share it with you all. It’s the first female with eggs recorded and a tremendous leap towards filling the huge knowledge gaps on this cryptic species.

The Aquatic Team from the ACT Government’s Conservation Planning and Research Unit have been surveying subalpine bogs as well as creeks and rivers in the ACT to determine potential methods for a broader distribution survey of two species of spiny crayfish.

The current project is stage 1 to test methods for a program to determine the distribution and relative abundance of Euastacus crassus and Euastacus rieki. Despite being the type location for Euastacus rieki, very little is known on the distribution or habits of these two species in the ACT or elsewhere.

Among the more than 50 crayfish collected the team discovered two berried E. rieki (42 & 53mm OCL) with 100, 3.5mm orange eggs. Both crays were collected in a subalpine bog (approximately 1600m a.s.l) in Namadgi National Park.

This is the first breeding information regarding E. rieki and indicates that berried females remain active and are likely to hold their eggs over winter, despite the frequent snow cover and sub zero temperatures. Improved monitoring of alpine areas will be important in understanding potential impacts from climate change

The project was directed by ecologists from the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate of the ACT Government. The work has been supported through ACT Government climate change funding.

Euastacus rieki from Yarrangobilly, NSW
Euastacus rieki from Yarrangobilly, NSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Southern Lobster Euastacus yanga

The Southern Lobster
The Southern Lobster
Euastacus yanga

We have finally finished our aquatic surveys of the lower Clyde River, NSW. It’s an exciting area with mostly pristine clear flowing streams full of aquatic life. The results of the survey have been extremely interesting and have resulted in some significant findings. We have identified 3 different freshwater crayfish species in the lower Clyde River and they all match the known descriptions for all three species. Interestingly, the specimens of Euastacus crayfish previously collected from the upper Clyde are generally morphologically different to those in the lower Clyde. Eventually we will get the genetics done on all the specimens collected and then work out whether the upper Clyde specimens are a morphological variation or a separate species. Stay tuned for further updates. The full results of the aquatic biological surveys will be complied into a report and issued to the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

The Lower Clyde River NSW
The Lower Clyde River NSW

We surveyed 57 sites and at 43 of those we captured freshwater crayfish. A total of 149 Euastacus yanga were captured, examined, weighed, measured, and released during this survey. Euastacus yanga has the third largest distribution of any Euastacus species in Australia after E. spinifer and E. armatus. Found in south-eastern New South Wales from Robertson all the way south to north-eastern Victoria. It’s distribution extends from the Shoalhaven River in the north, then south through the Clyde, Deua, Tuross, Brogo, Murrah, Bega, Towamba, Womboyn, Wallagaraugh and Genoa rivers, as well as all the smaller coastal rivers and creeks running into all the inlets, lakes and bays down the coast. Found from 50 m to 895 m a.s.l it is a widespread and abundant species.

Berried female Euastacus yanga in a small clear feeder stream
Berried female Euastacus yanga in a small clear feeder streams

We observed Euastacus yanga to commence breeding in mid May in water temperatures between 11.3-12.1°C. The berried females nurtured their eggs and young till mid November to mid December when they released their brood into the streams. A huge amount of information was gathered as part of the surveys and this will be compiled into a peer reviewed scientific manuscript.

A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish wins a coveted Whitley Award

A Guide to Australia's Spiny Freshwater Crayfish wins a Whitley Award
A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish wins a Whitley Award

A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish wins a coveted Whitley Award. The winners were announced by the Royal Zoological Society of NSW at a ceremony held in the foyer of the Australian Museum in Sydney on Friday 11th of October 2013. The Whitley Awards are for outstanding publications dealing with the promotion and conservation of Australasian fauna.

A Guide to Australia's Spiny Freshwater Crayfish
A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish

We were successful in receiving an award for our latest book. A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish published by CSIRO Publishing was awarded a Certificate of Commendation for Best Book in its Category, Invertebrate Guide. This was a great honour and we thank all those that nominated the book and voted for it to win the award.

To purchase a copy go to: http://www.aabio.com.au/products-page/

 

Recirculating Aquaculture and Aquaponics Short Course

Updated 06/07/2013

The NSW Aquaculture Association, in collaboration with NSW Fisheries and sponored by Pentair Aquatic Ecosystems are holding a two day Recirculating Aquaculture and Aquaponic Short course in Newcastle NSW on the 21th and 22nd of September 2013.

Please follow this link to purchase tickets and secure your seat.

We will be covering a range of topics suitable to anyone wanting to learn more about designing and operating recirculating aquaculture or aquaponic systems of any size over the intense two day short course presented by Dr Tom Losordo and Dr Wilson Lennard.

Some of the topics that will be covered during this workshop (Full list of topics to be confirmed):

System design and management

  • Aeration
  • Plumbing
  • Components
  • Construction Techniques
  • Operation

Fish production

  • Stocking
  • Feeding, growth and survival
  • Harvesting and processing
  • Water quality

Plant Production

  • Seedling production
  • Importance of pest identification
  • Disease and insect control
  • Nutrient dynamics

Economics and Marketing

  • Aquaponics economics
  • Effect of scale vs Available market
  • Marketing Fish
  • Marketing Plants

About the Presenters:

Dr. Tom Losordo is the Director of Aquaculture Systems Engineering for Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems. Dr. Losordo has a Bachelor degree in Biology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Having been involved in aquaculture for more than 38 years, Dr. Losordo recently retired as head of a program of applied research and extension at North Carolina State University in the area of recirculating aquaculture production systems.

Dr. Wilson Lennard is the Director of Aquaponic Solutions and has been studying aquaponics for the past 10 years. He is a PhD graduate from Australia (RMIT University, 2006) with practical commercial aquaponics experience and knowledge. Wilson also has scientific and engineering skills and experience in associated aquatic disciplines, including freshwater aquaculture, marine aquaculture, hydroponics, integrated aquatic farming systems, freshwater aquatic ecology and environmental biology. These skills and experience have been accumulated over a professional scientific career of almost 20 years.

Venue and cost

The venue will be the Soldiers Point Bowls Club, 118 Soldiers Point Rd, Soldiers Point NSW 2317

We are arranging for discounted accommodation rates which are located next to and across the road from the club (walking distance). So hold off on booking your accommodation.

Registration Costs

  • Refreshments and lunch will be provided/included on both days.
  • Course workbook and proceedings are included.
  • We are organising a separate meal at the club on the Saturday night as an option for us all to get together
  • General registration will be $280 total for the two days
  • Aquaculture Association members will be $210
  • Students registration will be $230 (a copy of your student ID card will need to be sent prior)

Please follow this link to purchase tickets and secure your seat.

 

Regards
Robert McCormack
Secretary NSW Aquacutlure Association