1972 Marron farming begins in WA

Marron sleeping. Photo: Fred Harden

The marron (Cherax cainii) is a large freshwater crayfish native to the southwestern areas of Western Australia and was part of the traditional diet of Indigenous people.  Commercial fishing for marron was banned in the 1950s and the recreational fishery has been controlled to ensure the survival of the species. Marron farming began in 1972 at Lancelin, north of Perth and by 2016 the WA industry was producing around 60 tons per year.

Marron are a regional specialty in Western Australia and on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, where they are also farmed commercially and have been introduced to waterways. Restaurants wanting to serve marron can only buy from licensed farmers – in Western Australia, it has been illegal to sell wild marron since 1955.

The popularity of marron led to restrictions on the wild fishery. As well as banning commercial sales, regulations limit the season to just a few weeks, set bag limits and restrict the type of gear used to catch the crayfish. It is illegal to use a boat or diving gear.

Marron farming is not restricted to large aquaculture operations as many farmers stock their dams with marron to supplement farm income. Despite the growing production on Kangaroo Island, most farming occurs in Western Australia, with more than 300 licensed growers. Marron are sold live. They can live for a week out of the water and are best killed immediately before cooking. They have a unique delicate flavour and can be boiled, grilled, barbecued or used in any dishes that specify lobster.

In South Australia, the marron is regarded as a pest. They have been introduced to dams by human means and their ability to ‘walk’ across land has allowed them to colonise natural waterways.  Sightings in South Australia have to be reported to Biosecurity SA. “If you find this crayfish, you are not permitted to return it to the water or leave it on the bank; bag it, freeze it and bin it,” they say. Perhaps you could also eat it?

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