Far North puts groper on the seafood menu
YOU would have a hard time getting a Queensland groper this big on to the dinner table. But her tasty offspring are just the right fit - and they could be at the fish markets within months.
Scientists running a landmark project in Cairns have had remarkable success coaxing the creatures to spawn in captivity to produce young fingerlings.
It's hoped farming the protected fish will help net Queensland a bigger share of the live reef food trade, which is worth about $1 billion a year.
Asian diners have a growing appetite for grouper -- the groper's correct species name -- and researchers at the Fisheries Department expect Queensland's native species would fetch about $50/kg at the farm gate.
"In Australia, they're not really considered a food fish yet, but there's a huge market for grouper in Asia and they really are a good fish to eat," principal aquaculture scientist Richard Knuckey said.
The flesh is not the only prime cut on the grouper -- Asian cooks use the whole fish.
This 130kg female groper was getting routine injections of vitamins and antibiotics from department technicians yesterday, but it's the young ones that will eventually reach plates.
Groper weighing 800g to 2kg are served whole, and bigger ones are filleted.
After years of trying, the team has completed four successful spawning cycles since July and exported thousands of fingerlings to Queensland farms.
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Tasty morsel: Adam Reynolds attends to a groper involved in a spawning project. Picture: Marc McCormack