Students hooked on Lincoln aquaculture

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By Ian Williams 

Port Lincoln students are being exposed to all sorts of fishy business in an innovative program that readies them for life after school.

Aquaculture is one of the main industries on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and local high schools are doing their bit to make sure students have a working knowledge of the sector.

But a hands-on aquaculture course doesn’t come cheap and in the case of Port Lincoln High School there are boats to run and a barramundi breeding program to operate.

To ensure the school has enough to keep funding the course, manager Chris McGown has been thinking outside the pond.

Three years ago he initiated an Adopt-a-Barra fundraiser and has also helped the school win a $40,000 government grant for the students to do some real-life research in the Tod River Reservoir.

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Alex Hogben with a Barramundi from the 2015 harvest

“People pay $20 to adopt a fish and give it a name and we give them an update every few weeks on how it’s growing and what we’re doing in the aquaculture area,” says Chris.

“It not only highlights what our course is all about but the students learn how to tag and handle the fish and look after them as they grow. They’re responsible for the whole process from the fingerling stage right through to harvesting and filleting or even smoking the fish.”

So far more than 330 people have joined the Adopt-a-Barra program, including Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove during a visit two years ago and the local Rotary Club which adopted 20 barramundi for an end-of-year feast.

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Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove adopts a barramundi

The fish are grown to about 500 grams when they can be collected by the adopters either alive, filleted or smoked.

The Tod River Reservoir research is proving invaluable in helping the students understand the sensitive ecosystem while providing important information to SA Water and State Government agencies on whether its suitable for recreational fishing.

The students are undertaking field trips to collect water samples for agencies to test the quality and to trap marine life to discover what lives in the waterway.

“We’ve also studied the plankton and the last trip we collected mud to check for pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals,” says Chris. “It’s giving the students a good understanding of what’s going on in there.”

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The information will help the government decide if it’s safe to open the reservoir for recreational fishing and the type of fish that could be introduced.

The multiple skills the students learn from the school program will qualify them for a Certificate II in aquaculture.

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