FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why do we need ASI for this, why can’t the hatcheries do it?
A: The commercial hatcheries and ASI use a different breeding approach. Hatcheries use mass selection which means that pedigree is practically untraceable. They would be unable to track performance based on pedigree and therefore unable to make any gains in POMS resistance. ASI uses a pair mating breeding design where all pedigree is known. We can expose families to POMS in NSW and then breed from the best performers relatives in Tasmania. This approach is measurable, reproducible and most importantly can achieve genetic gains for POMS resistance.
Q: Is ASI technically equipped to do the job?
A: Yes. The ASI breeding approach may be relatively new for the Oyster industry but is the norm and has been for a long time for other industries such as cattle, poultry, salmon etc. Whilst ASI is a small company it draws strength through its well established collaborative partnerships with CSIRO, NSW DPI, EMAI, IMAS etc.
ASI has been reviewed by Dr Morten Rye from Norwegian salmon breeding company Aqvaforsk. This pioneering aquaculture breeding company has underpinned the growth of the Norwegian salmon industry into one worth $14 billion per annum. Of ASI Rye says “Australian Seafood Industry (ASI) now operates a technically well-designed and effective family based selective breeding program for Pacific Oyster, expected to produce significant genetic improvements for traits of key importance to the Pacific Oysters sector. The program structure is flexible and can also facilitate effective selection for improved resistance to diseases (e.g. POMS).”
Q: Why can’t we just keep going along like we have been with ASI using R&D grants to stay alive?
A: Unfortunately we have worn out the friendship in this area. ASI has been very successful in getting R&D grants which have to some extent helped us to stay afloat. The fact is that many of the tasks required to produce a POMS resistant oyster have gone through the R&D phase of development and are as such viewed by R&D providers as core business functions. Tasks such as production of family lines for testing, the actual field and lab based tests, genetic analysis of results etc are no longer able to attract matching federal funds. Unfortunately this means we have to go this one alone from here.
Q: We have heard the figure of $2.00 for the levy, where did $2.80 come from?
A: The $2.00 figure came from very early discussions with hatcheries where it was proposed by ASI that hatcheries form a direct relationship with ASI where we would have essentially become a service provider. This proposal was rejected by the 2 largest hatcheries and was therefore unviable. The hatcheries suggested:
Q: We heard that the hatcheries were going to collect the levy?
A: No. The hatcheries have stated that they will not collect the levy on ASI’s behalf. At this point it is most likely that a separate invoice will be issued by the hatcheries for the levy amount. The need for an independent ‘bagman’ for confidentiality reasons is still being discussed.
Q: How will progress be communicated back to growers?
A: We fully understand and accept that this level of investment from industry requires progress to be extremely well communicated to all. This will occur at several levels:
Q: Why has a 10 year levy period been suggested when you are saying it will only take 5? If ASI isn’t getting the job done are we stuck in this thing?
A: The fact is that the process to get a levy up is bloody hard work and we don’t want to go through that process twice if we don’t have to. The alternative was to build in review points over the course of the levy period and this was the option that was taken. The first of these review points comes at 3 years and the second at 7 years. The review will be undertaken by ASI shareholders and will serve as go/no go points. If it is felt that ASI is not hitting KPI’s then the levy can be halted. ASI is very confident that even if POMS is put to one side the improvements in other commercial traits in selectively bred lines over the next few years will make our role in industry unquestionable. A good way to think of it is that much of the work that has occurred over previous years is to get the program on a footing, in terms of program design and size, to achieve gains. This has happened and now is time to cash in.
Q: I have heard that the levy maximum is $2.80 per thousand and it may be less than this?
A: Yes, but in the short term (1-2 years) you should not expect that it will be significantly less than this. ASI directors will absolutely be exploring ways in which the desired outcomes can be achieved but this will take time and there is no guarantee. Whist the mechanics of the levy allow sufficient flexibility to change the quantum, this will not be done to the detriment of achieving the outcomes that industry has demanded.