UniSA research takes bait on new seafood industry

The Advertiser, 30 September 2019


Dr Zoë Doubleday

UniSA research fellow Dr Zoë Doubleday is helping to develop an octopus fishery for South Australia with the owners and operators of SA Premium Octopus at Port Lincoln.

UniSA and SA Premium Octopus at Port Lincoln get kraken on new seafood industry

UniSA research is helping the seafood industry diversify and establish the first SA octopus fishery, following the ban on fishing snapper.

Clare Peddie, Science Reporter, The Advertiser


Octopus is emerging as the state’s next growth industry in the wake of the snapper ban.

UniSA research is helping the seafood industry diversify and establish the state’s first octopus fishery.

SA Premium Octopus at Port Lincoln has developed a new fishing method, while UniSA scientists are studying the biology and sustainability of the future fishery.

Project leader Dr Zoë Doubleday is a finalist in the Women in Innovation SA Awards. The winners will be announced on Thursday night.

“The State Government is all about a growth agenda, so this should really suit them,” Dr Doubleday said. “A new fishery in Port Lincoln will result in positive economic and employment outcomes for regional South Australia.

“This program is the first of its kind in SA and my goal is that it will help pave the way for developing other sustainable seafood industries.”

The first step is to identify the species, because there’s more than one type of octopus in SA. Preliminary laboratory results suggest the emerging fishery will target three species at Port Lincoln.

Then scientists need to learn about the key characteristics of the species, such as sex ratios, size, weight and reproductive potential, as well as likely catch rates.

“We’re looking at relative abundance between fishing zones and sanctuary zones and between seasons ... to look at how the population is travelling,” Dr Doubleday said.

She met Leon van Weenen of SA Premium Octopus at a National Science Week event last year.

He currently catches a very small species marketed as baby octopus under his scalefish licence, and saw the potential to shift away from snapper to focus on octopus.

They won a UniSA Future Industries Accelerator grant and support from the State Government for the research and industry development.


UniSA research takes bait on new seafood industry

Post doctoral researcher Jasmin Martino holding an octopus on a research vessel.


Now the team is waiting for the SA Research and Development Institute to grant the promised research fishing permit, before the next field trip this long weekend.

Dr Doubleday anticipates that within a year, Primary Industries and Regions SA will be willing to issue a developmental fishery permit, which could lead to licences for more operators down the track.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tim Whetstone, says the Marshall Liberal Government supports any diversification when it comes to fishing in South Australian waters.

“By encouraging fishers to look for lesser known species in South Australia we are supporting more sustainable fishing across the state,” he said.

“I commend those researchers who are helping the seafood industry diversify and look forward to hearing about further developments.”