Derby’s Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation (ENAC) is set to become the first organisation in Australia to commercialise the breeding of the cherabin, a northern Australian giant freshwater prawn.

With aquaculture being a fast-growing industry across Australia, ENAC has just completed a successful cherabin pilot project, becoming the first group nationally to breed the northern Australian species successfully.

The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) has funded the ENAC program to establish a commercial aquaculture farm near Derby, which will host a commercial hatchery, grow out and processing facility.

ENAC Operations Manager Ben Burton said the project would benefit and provide opportunities for Aboriginal people while also preserving the species.

“There was some concern in our community about depleting stocks of cherabin in the wild, and we saw this project as not only a chance to commercialise the species, but to help to protect the fishery into the future,” Mr Burton said.

“We want to ensure that we are a leader in managing the fishery and preventing over-catching.”

The future of the aquaculture project is set to expand, with Mr Burton saying ENAC is looking at other types of seafood and infrastructure for the project.

“As well as cherabin, we hope that down the track, we can create an aquaculture hub, expanding our current mud crab quota and breeding barramundi fingerlings, as well establishing a seafood processing and packing business,” he said.

“ENAC is also looking to expand into horticulture by establishing commercial fresh produce and native bush products enterprises.”

ENAC has been given a helping hand by the ILSC, which has committed almost $2 million to purchase the property, along with capital expenditure and land development. The ILSC and ENAC have a four-year lease agreement on the property.

ILSC Acting Group CEO, Leo Bator said the aquaculture business would provide employment and training opportunities for local Indigenous Australians.

“It’s expected that up to 20 new jobs and 12 training positions could be created for Aboriginal people, who will have the opportunity to work on their land in a sustainable operation,” Mr Bator said.

“We are excited by the opportunities our extended remit affords, and particularly opportunities to partner with Indigenous groups such as ENAC who are using their traditional knowledge to produce niche Indigenous products to bring to mainstream markets.”

ENAC plans to develop and expand the business to generate income from the land while the aquaculture infrastructure is being set up.