Kingfish are being stocked at a new fish farm in South Australia’s Spencer Gulf which has promised economic benefits but also stoked fears of environmental damage.

Key points:

  • Clean Seas Seafood will stock more than 4,000 tonnes of kingfish at Fitzgerald Bay
  • The first fish are in the water at the site, near Whyalla
  • The project sits next to a cuttlefish breeding site

The development by Clean Seas Seafood in Fitzgerald Bay, near Whyalla, will hold more than 4,000 tonnes of kingfish.

The fish farm has been controversial in Whyalla, and a petition against letting Clean Seas use the nearest marina drew 600 signatures.

Locals have expressed a number of concerns about the project, ranging from the potential for escaped kingfish to become predators, to the volume of nitrogen discharged into the slow-flushing Upper Spencer Gulf.

The Conservation Council of SA said it was paying particularly close attention to the project because of the annual aggregation of Giant Australian Cuttlefish off nearby Stony Point, a spectacular event drawing tourists from across Australia.

A small marina with a boat ramp, a wharf and a breakwall.

The Whyalla City Council initially denied Clean Seas access to the Point Lowly marina.(

ABC News: Declan Gooch

)

“The Conservation Council remains very nervous about what the impact will be of such a high level of stocking in Fitzgerald Bay,” chief executive Craig Wilkins said.

“So we want all sides, the company and the government, to watch this incredibly closely, and if there’s any decrease in marine health then they intervene quickly.”

Clean Seas has frequently addressed the concerns by saying the development was cleared by several government agencies and would be closely monitored by environmental authorities.

It is not the first time the company has farmed kingfish in Fitzgerald Bay but says its practices have improved since the last attempt a decade ago.

Yellowtail kingfish

Yellowtail kingfish are sought after as a sashimi fish.(

ABC: Jo Prendergast

)

New fish due for 2023 harvest

Mr Gratton said the Fitzgerald Bay development would enable the company to eventually triple its kingfish output.

“Those fish will be in the water for about 13 to 15 months for retail channels,” he said. 

“So we harvest those at about three and a half kilograms for retail channels, and then we grow them an extra 12 months for restaurant channels, so the restaurants want a larger fish, a higher-yielding fish and a more flexible fish.”

A helicopter shot of a kingfish farm in a bay with hills in background.

Clean Seas has another kingfish farm further down the Eyre Peninsula from Whyalla.(

Supplied: Clean Seas

)

Mr Gratton said Clean Seas had diversified its business beyond luxury restaurants since COVID-19 caused business to drop about 80 per cent last year.

“Prior to the pandemic, most of our business was into the high end restaurants all around the world,” he said.

“The diversification started quickly, and within a couple of months we made some large shipments and the financial results that we reported at year end, we were actually trading up 17 per cent on pre-pandemic levels for that year.”

He said the company was now trading 80 per cent better than it was before the pandemic.

Posted , updated 

First kingfish in the water at controversial fish farm
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