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World first as giant freshwater crayfish released. At an undisclosed location in Tasmania’s north east, almost 60 juvenile captive-reared giant freshwater crayfish have been released into the wild. The crayfish were raised at one of Huon Aquaculture’s hatcheries under a programme that aims to boost their numbers in the wild.

The captive-rearing programme is a partnership between Huon Aquaculture and Todd Walsh, a renowned Tasmanian ecologist and conservationist.

“The captive-rearing program was established to help with reintroducing the crayfish into areas where the species may have been extinct for generations,” said David Mitchell, Huon’s General Manager of Aquaculture.

The release marks the first time in the world that juveniles have been hatched from egg-carrying females, reared to a size that raises their chances of survival, and released. The Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish is the largest freshwater invertebrate and the largest freshwater crayfish species in the world—it is also vulnerable due to predation, poaching, sedimentation, and habitat loss.

“Huon became involved in the project as a way to help conserve the species, which is present in the waterways near our hatchery.  The team has been there at every step of the way alongside Todd so the release is the culmination of years of work and patience,” said David.

The juveniles are up to 10 times larger than when they hatched and their survival rate will have increased exponentially.

“This will be the first ever re-introduction of Giant Freshwater Crayfish juveniles back into the wild,” said Todd Walsh.

“The first captive breeding programme was at the Uni of Tas Aquaculture centre in the 1980’s, this is the second such programme.” The release site was carefully selected as it has large tracts of juvenile habitat, with a surplus of shelters for each individual crayfish.

“This is a significant step forward for the species, particularly for the north-eastern Tasmanian population,” finished Todd. The juveniles were tagged and measured prior to their release, and will be monitored by Todd over the coming years.

Photo credit: Huon Aquaculture