The South West coast is a very raw ocean and changes daily, according to Ocean Grown Abalone’s Ranch Manager, Joel Durell.
“It’s a unique experience and unlike any other aquaculture lease around. It’s not a supermarket where you can go and pick your produce off the shelves. It’s raw, wild seafood and that’s what makes it so unique. We are at the mercy of the ocean,” he says.
Joel grew up in the South West of Western Australia, is qualified in Marine Science and has worked as a diver in Queensland, within the lobster industry and Department of Fisheries in Western Australia, and at AQWA in Perth.
Joel says a lot of pre-planning goes into a dive, as divers have a limited breathing time of around 1.5 – 2 hours, to work at depth. When the weather is right, a team of four Occupational Divers harvest up to three days a week, with other maintenance work carried out throughout the ranch daily.
The ABITAT artificial reefs, which the Green Lip abalone grow on, have created their own unique ecosystem. There are 10,000 ABITATs sparsely deployed over 413 hectares in Flinders Bay.
“You need to supply a good house to live and grow and if you get all of the conditions right, the abalone do their best,” he says.
Joel says the best moments for diving are on a beautiful Summer day; “the sun shines on the crystal clear, clean, blue water and you can see down to the bottom, then you jump into the water you swim down and see the pyramid shapes of the ABITAT artificial reefs start to appear and then you get closer and closer, the fish and octopus come up to greet you. Quite often, the octopus and cuttlefish are usually very friendly and try to interact with you,” he says.
And sometimes, while working at depth, Joel is lucky to hear a rare aquatic orchestra; “in June and July, you can hear the distant songs of the whales, which provides a cool soundtrack while you’re working.”
“The only thing beneath us is the Antarctic, so you’re out there in the full elements,” he says.