Business dries up for crayfish farm

HIGH AND DRY: Redclaw farmer Bill Keast sits on the jetty and contemplates his dry crayfish ponds.
HIGH AND DRY: Redclaw farmer Bill Keast sits on the jetty and contemplates his dry crayfish ponds. Tanya Easterby

BUSINESS is drying up for the Wolvi district red claw crayfish industry, as the normally lush area faces one of its longest dry spells.

Bill and Rhonda Keast spent six months researching the area, including Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data, before settling on Wolvi as an ideal area for redclaw aquaculture.

"One of our drivers was it was wet here," Bill said yesterday. "But it's been a long dry spell."

As the Queensland drought reaches in to one of the wettest coastal areas in the south-east, Mr Keast's business is looking at lean times.

"In February last year we had 487mm of rain, but we've only had a drizzle since," he said as he showed the dry ponds at his Ironbark Redclaw operation in Verne Rd.

Last month's rain came to only 3mm, compared to 374 in January last year.

"We've got big ponds and 15 are empty. We're having to empty some ponds to fill others."

BILL and Rhonda Keast are praying for rain as much as anyone in the parched interior of the state.

Their Wolvi aquaculture operation will quickly recover if rain comes soon, but things will be grim if the dry goes on much longer.

"Maximum growth and breeding is in summer, but we sell constantly throughout the year.

Now as the water diminishes and it's time for next year's generation, we're stuck," he said.

"We're having to shift water around and water quality is becoming harder to maintain.

"In aquaculture, water quality is everything," he said.

With fewer ponds in operation, the remaining ponds are more heavily stocked than usual and there are limits to how long that can continue.

"Because we're not turning over our water as much, control of water quality is taking up most of our time.

"Having ponds so dry means they are susceptible to cracking and leaking and that needs rain too.

"After a while it expands and it's not all bad.

"It rejuvenates the soil and stops disease cycles."

But that, as they say, is looking on the bright side.

They can restock quickly thanks to new breeding technology, but that will not help unless it rains soon.

Topics:  wolvi

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