Lake Awoonga is exempt from the current barramundi closure and it’s just as well because thirty-seven big and healthy barra raised by the Agricultural Studies students at the Mt Larcom high school are swimming around there right now ready to jump in your boat.
The fish were raised from fingerlings purchased from the Gladstone Area Water Board hatchery. Hatchery and fisheries manager Thomas Hayes was on hand as eight students released their fish into the lake yesterday.
Over the past two years, students have been responsible for the care and feeding of the fish, monitoring their growth rates, cleaning tanks and maintaining the aquaculture facility at their school and they have grown tenfold, from 4 to about 40 centimetres in length.
Norm Horan who runs the agricultural studies program at Mt Larcom, which is unique to this part of the region, says aquaculture is only one branch of rural industries to which students gain exposure:
“This will be the third year we have been running the program and aquaculture is just one of the subjects. In terms of livestock, we have cattle and sheep at the school we’re a registered Dorper stud and we show the cattle at local shows,” Mr Horan said.
Two of the school’s beef herd are going to the sale on Friday, with the proceeds funding feed costs for the next twelve months.
“It’s our aim to keep it sustainable,” Mr Horan said.
He says the study program is a good grounding for further study or rural employment:
“It’s only been running a couple of years, but we’ve got one guy who started his own business with farm machinery; another past student is studying at Emerald Agricultural College who we have a partnership with and one bloke who’s done his time to become a stock and station agent
“So overall we have a pretty good conversion rate.”