Fishing skills

It’s Not Your Fishing Skills – Gene Pool Problems Hit Taupō Shrimp Park

Huka Shrimp Park

Matthew Martin/Waikato Times

Huka Shrimp Park

Don’t blame your lack of skill for not grabbing a tasty morsel at Taupō’s iconic Huka Prawn Park – turns out a shallow gene pool might be to blame.

The shrimp farm is still for sale as a working business, but it’s only missing one thing, a viable population of shrimp.

The park was founded in 1987 where it raised Malaysian jumbo prawns using geothermal water from Contact Energy’s nearby Wairakei Geothermal Power Plant as a heat source.

However, the shrinking gene pool has resulted in low shrimp survival rates, with many shrimp developing an aversion to light and an inability to convert food to body mass.

Prawn fishing was halted in December 2020, with the best prawns being used in the park’s restaurant alongside prawns sourced from other suppliers in New Zealand.

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Prawn Park co-owner Richard Klein said securing new spawners was a priority and the park was still open to businesses focusing on the restaurant and other water-related activities.

“We hope to have a new breeding stock of shrimp from Thailand or Israel soon, and we are working with the MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) who have shown great interest in seeing this happen.

“We still have plenty of prawns but they are not suitable for fishing, and we are about to start another breeding cycle.

“We need to refresh the gene pool, that’s the name of the game right now.”

Klein said reproductive issues had slowed reproductive rates and affected survival rates.

“It’s slowed them down, they also lose their ability to convert food to body weight, and they’re not as light resistant, so the overall survival rate goes down.

“Expanding the gene pool is really important and we are doing our best with this gene pool, but we have to refresh ourselves.

“We are lucky to have lots of other things to do at the park, the demand is always very high at the restaurant and the people are really supportive of us.”

Fishing ponds at Huka Prawn Park remain empty of shrimp due to breeding difficulties

Matthew Martin/Waikato Times

Fishing ponds at Huka Prawn Park remain empty of shrimp due to breeding difficulties

As the tenders for the company closed in November last year, Klein said they were talking to a few interested parties who were going through their own due diligence process.

“This Omicron thing has stopped people from traveling, there’s some interest there, but it’s taking time.”

In the meantime, the park’s owners have applied for a renewal of its resource permit to continue using geothermal water to heat their pools, and for the discharge of water into the Waikato River and Wairakei Creek, as part of a joint application with Contact Energy.

If approved, the consent would allow the park to use geothermally heated water for another 35 years.

Klein said he doesn’t see any issues with the consent process.

“It’s going well, we’ve never had any breaches and we have a close relationship with Contact Energy and the regional council.

“It’s much easier to renew consent than to start a new one, so that should be fine.”

Klein, who is a 50% shareholder in the company along with the Wellington-based Toomey family, said he had been considering selling the business for about five years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Huka Prawn Park’s lease runs through 2029, with an option to extend through 2039, and sits on 12.8 ha of Crown land in the Wairakei Tourist Park north of Taupō.