Giant clams bounce back at Darwin Aquaculture Centre

The view from above the Darwin Aquaculture Centre looking down on the 375 solar panels that have been installed to help save about $40,000 a year.
The view from above the Darwin Aquaculture Centre looking down on the 375 solar panels that have been installed to help save about $40,000 a year. Contributed

THE poor wet season has continued its path of disruption across the Territory, this time causing havoc for giant clams at the Darwin Aquaculture Centre.

In April, as well as reports of a mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, a similar event occurred off the Territory coast.

Indigenous Rangers around Groote Eylandt involved in a giant clam project discovered many of them had turned white.

Photographs of the region also showed large tracts of Territory waters where there had been a significant bleaching event.

The same situation occurred in large seawater fed tanks at the Darwin Aquaculture Centre.

The centre's manager, Damon Gore, who has been working there for about 15 years, said he had never experienced anything like it in all his time there.

"We lost quite a large portion of our stock because of the high temperature we had in the water,” Mr Gore said.

"The event was quite significant. We have never had water temperatures at 33 degrees and above here before.

"We tried all sorts of things to get the temperatures down, like shade structures.

"In the end the more sturdy animals survived, but we lost more than half of the stock. But the ones we have left are bouncing back now and are getting their colours back.

"Basically the reason we had the warming event was because of the poor wet.

"Normally you get three or four monsoon troughs that come through, but we really only had one good one that came through.

"They are key because the troughs cool the water down, not only from rainfall but also the cloud cover that comes with them.”

While the loss of the clams was tragic, Mr Gore said there was a positive side.

"The clams were excess to a project we had under way to breed the animals, so we have tried to get as much out of it as we can.

"At least we know this type of event can happen and we can pass on any information we have to commercial operators in the future so they can go some way to preparing for it.”

Mr Gore said the clams that survived would be sent to Gove, where they would be utilised by indigenous communities as either food or potentially as part of a new eco-tourism venture.

"A small percentage will be exported to the United States. Because there is still a huge demand for them overseas.”

Meanwhile the centre is set to save about $40,000 a year in energy costs thanks to the installation of a new solar power system.

"Our photovoltaic system converts sunlight directly into electricity to produce around 400 kilowatts a day. That's enough to power the equivalent of 20 homes - enough to run most of our operations during daylight hours,” Mr Gore said.

"As a dedicated aquaculture facility, we use a lot of filtered salt water, pumping up to three million litres every 24 hours - more than enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. We can also hold up to 900,000 litres in our many tanks of various sizes and shapes.

"We're committed to reducing our power consumption and the cost of our cyclone-coded solar panels will pay for itself within 15 years.''

Topics:  coral bleaching solar panels wet season

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