Issue 4
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Shannon Burchert is investigating the quality of shellfish produced in a tropical rock oyster farming trial near Goulburn Island
Shannon Burchert is investigating the quality of shellfish produced in a tropical rock oyster farming trial near Goulburn Island

Student examines shellfish quality

By Leanne Miles

The quality of shellfish produced in a tropical rock oyster farming trial near Goulburn Island is being investigated by a Charles Darwin University Honours student.

Shannon Burchert is looking into the potential issue of naturally high heavy metal loads in black-lip oysters grown near Goulburn Island off the coast of Arnhem Land, as part of a larger collaborative project aiming to develop coastal-based aquaculture enterprises.

“Throughout Northern Territory waters there are naturally high levels of metals, particularly due to the coastal mineralogy and geological process that occur in the region and continuous heavy rainfall over the wet season,” Shannon said.

Her project follows on from research conducted by CDU bioscience experts in collaboration with staff from the Darwin Aquaculture Centre (DAC) of the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries that found varying levels of heavy metals in oysters from different locations.

“I am hoping to develop a method to manage metal levels in tropical black-lip rock oysters, Saccostrea mytiloides, to ensure compliance with the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code.”

Shannon, who works as an aquaculture technician at the DAC after graduating last year with a Bachelor of Environmental Science from CDU, is conducting trials on Goulburn Island and in tanks at the DAC. She will then analyse the tissue samples in the labs at CDU.

“I am working with the Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation’s Indigenous aquaculture trainees to set up the trials on Goulburn Island, and collect water and tissue samples,” she said.

“I am also looking at whether moving oysters to ‘low-metal’ locations or aquaculture systems will have a positive impact.”

Shannon said she also was working with colleagues at the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“Australia has very strict food standards that govern the growing and sale of shellfish, which may include a period of depuration or purging to ensure the oysters are high quality,” she said.

“This project is aimed at making sure Territory oysters can meet those standards and I am hoping to develop novel techniques that can be used in remote communities.”

The project is collaborative between CDU, Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation, and the NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries with support from the Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The program aims to support aquaculture initiatives, including metal management strategies, in remote communities to aid the development of an industry that is socially, culturally and economically sustainable.