Prawn populations are receiving an academic boost, with experts coming to together to ensure the next generation thrives.

Researchers at the Challenger Institute of Technology have successfully cultured juvenile Western School Prawns (Metapenaeus dalli) in a laboratory, now a Murdoch University team are taking the next step.

The Murdoch researchers are now trying to determine how well laboratory-raised prawns will survive in the local Swan-Canning estuary.

“By evaluating current prawn stocks in the Swan-Canning estuary, we’ll be able to determine which parts of the river are most suitable for prawns,” he said.

“We need to find out what environmental factors drive their abundance, and how tolerant the Western School Prawn is to different environmental conditions.”

Experts say algal blooms can lead to a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment, something which crustaceans are very sensitive to.

“Fortunately, the Swan-Canning estuary is healthier than it has been in a while. The management has improved, people are now more careful with fertilisers and there are fewer algal blooms,” Dr Tweedley said.

“First, we need to know whether the laboratory-raised prawns would survive in the estuary. Then, we can determine whether the populations can be brought back up to a sustainable level, whether restocking is worth the effort,” he said.

The $200,000 project, jointly funded by the Fisheries Research Development Corporation (FRDC) and the Swan River Trust, could pre-empt a wider effort to restock the Swan-Canning estuary with prawns.

Staff from the Swan River Trust are also developing a community engagement program to encourage prawning as a pastime, in the hopes of getting the general public to contribute and cut costs.