In southern Western Australia there is a highly regulated amateur fishery for the Marron (Cherax tenuimanus), which has been ratedby gourmets as one of the finest-flavoured crustaceans. The Inland Yabby (Cherax destructor) is commercially fished in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Farming of Australian freshwater crayfish began with Marron and Inland Yabbies.
The two primary land-based aquaculture species are Marron and Yabbies (Cherax tenuimanus and Cherax destructor). Marron (originally from south-west Western Australia) is one of the largest freshwater crayfish in the world and is commercially produced on Kangaroo Island. Most Marron production on KI comes from semi-intensive earth dams or ponds.
Yabbies are smaller freshwater crayfish and were introduced to KI earlier this century possibly in the 1920’s. There are 121 licenced land based aquaculture farmers, however only 29% of them are currently operational. A further 9% have been operational, but have stopped farming due to either their operation not being viable or change of business direction. And approximately 6% have never been operational.
Freshwater crayfish have a much milder flavour than saltwater prawns. Their flesh is soft with a high moisture content (75-80%) and freezing for any length of time may cause a loss of taste and texture. The most common ‘yabby’ recipe is exceedingly simple - ‘Boil fora few minutes in salty water, then serve with bread and butter’. Vinegar, lemon, wine, or beer are often used as additives.
The life-cycle of freshwater crayfish is very different fromtheir distant marine relatives. In marine crayfish and lobsters, newly hatched eggs are released into the sea as planktoniclarvae, whereas freshwater crayfish hatchlings continue to develop on the swimmerets under the female's abdomen.The yolk of the egg is retained by the young hatchlings as a yolk sac, supplying food during early growth
The mother's swimmerets move gently to provide a supply of well-aerated water necessary for the survival of the developing young. Only when the yolk sac has been completely absorbed and the young resemble miniature adults, do they leave the mother and commence free-living.
The period of maternal care varies between species - Murray Lobsters (Euastacus armatus) may carry their young for 1 to 2months. Marron (Cherax tenuimanus) for 4 weeks and Inland Yabbies (C. destructor) for only 10 days. Breeding and growthperiods are usually seasonal, with a peak in spring/summer. The length of the season varies between species and from one localityto another.
Marron tend to be on the move around December/January, and that marron is in fact an exotic species. As a result, if you catch a marron, it’s an offence to return it to the water. It is also an offence to relocate marron from one site to another.
Recreational fishers are allowed to catch marron using specific gear, such as yabbie pots (including Opera House nets), hoop nets or drop nets. It’s an offence to take marron from the wild for sale or to keep marron taken from the wild without the appropriate permit. Fines of up to $5,000 may apply for these types of offences.
It’s also illegal for farmers to take marron for aquaculture purposes from a river traversing their property. To do this they need a special exemption, irrespective of any permits or licences they hold with respect to their aquaculture operation.
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