The Mitris family started Pacific Reef Fisheries in 1998. Today it is a highly successful prawn farming business which operates in the tropical waters of north Queensland and fully embraces nature – even planting a mangrove forest to help filter its water.
The farm produces more than 1,000 tonnes of seafood each year from a 98 hectare facility in Ayr, immediately adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park where water is drawn to grow Black Tiger Prawns.
The company take the responsibility of farming in this privileged location extremely seriously and obtained ASC certification in May 2018. The certification cemented the vision of a farm which operated with environmental sustainability and social responsibility at its core.
Systems and Sustainability manager Wayne Di Bartolo said the company had developed innovative water treatment technologies, incorporating a mangrove forest, to ensure they operate sustainably.
“Pacific Reef Fisheries has a four-stage treatment process that enables it to sustainably treat its wastewater,” he said.
“Water leaves the production ponds, passes through a 23 hectare settlement system and finally through a 24 hectare constructed mangrove wetland before entering the environment.
“Parent company Pacific Bio, together with James Cook University, developed the world’s first water treatment technology using sand filtration and macroalgae to strip wastewater of nutrients and solids before it enters the external ecosystem.
“We also use this breakthrough technology to create nutrient rich products for plants and animals.”
The company implemented a number of changes in order to achieve ASC certification which included adding another water quality monitoring station and changing the way in which they screen for diseases.
“Originally we only did screening on our brood stock but ASC requires screening on the post larvae,” Mr Di Bartolo said.
“When they come from the hatchery at 20 days old, we screen them and know that they are disease free when entering the farm.”
As well as sustainability on site, the farm has also ensured the feed used does not contain any wild caught fishmeal. The feed is sourced from Ridley, a Queensland based feed manufacturer that offers sustainable feed options. Research in feed development is constantly undertaken to find protein replacements that do not impact wild fish stocks and the marine environment.
In order to engage and educate the local community, the company perform presentations to local school children about how the farm works and how it helps to protect the Great Barrier Reef. They are also present at local shows and through their support of community organisations such as the surf life saving club.
“The other way we engage is by providing stable jobs, 50 full time staff and 50 casual,” Mr Di Bartolo said.
“The staff are all local. It’s not a huge number but for a community of this size, it is pretty substantial.”