Fishing co-ops ready for ‘absolutely insane’ run to Christmas Day

Fishing co-ops ready for ‘absolutely insane’ run to Christmas Day

The term “silly season” takes on a whole new meaning for seafood sellers across Australia at this time of year.

Key points:

  • Australian prawns and oysters are in good supply this year, with NSW co-ops stocking tonnes ahead of Christmas
  • Co-operative managers said while demand is strong, customers are buying less due to cost-of-living pressures
  • The NSW Department of Primary Industries has warned customers to be vigilant of illegal sellers

“It goes absolutely insane,” said Newcastle Fishermen’s Cooperative retail manager Nathan Evans.

“It goes from running a normal, lovely, run-of-the-mill, day-to-day fish shop, to event management, with the sheer volume of people that come to get their fresh seafood.”

The Newcastle co-op is one of the largest in Australia, and has seen thousands of customers through the doors over the last few days.

Mr Evans said he was expecting a lot more before Monday, with customers expected to snap up several tonnes of prawns, including tiger prawns from Queensland.

“It is a bit of an issue this year, with the floods [in Queensland], getting the stock through, so it’s a little delayed but they should be here by Saturday,” he said.

workers restocking fish cuts in a display case

The team at Newcastle’s Fisherman’s Co-op have been stocking, and restocking, their displays.(ABC Newcastle: Keely Johnson)

“We also get salmon from Tassie, Barramundi from Queensland, kingfish from South Australia, mussels from South Australia.”

Town of Big Prawn big on prawns

It is no surprise the home of NSW’s Big Prawn, Ballina, is one of the big contributors to Christmas supplies in NSW.

a roadside sculpture of a giant prawn

Ballina, on the NSW North Coast, is home to the big prawn.(ABC North Coast: Kim Honan)

Ballina Fishermen’s Co-operative chief executive Evan Davies argued he has the best wild-caught prawns in Australia.

“On Christmas Eve, we expect to do around about 3.5 tonnes of prawns and about 1.5 tonnes of other crustaceans, crabs and bugs,” he said.

a man standing in a fish processing room smiles at the camera

Evan Davies said customers had been a little reserved with their spending this year.(ABC North Coast: Kim Honan)

He said seafood lovers will travel far for them … even from over the Queensland border.

“That’s testimony to the fact they want to jump in their cars and drive all the way down from Toowoomba to Ballina to get some,” Mr Davies said.

While prawns were a sought after item, Mr Davies said consumer demand had dampened this year and people were watching what they spent.

“I think they’ll be buying more thoughtfully with their seafood purchases rather than saying, ‘I’ll have one of everything’,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pottsville’s Daniel Fleming will be catching buckets of spanner crab to sell locally, and at the Sydney Fish Market.

a man holding a crab

Pottsville’s Daniel Fleming said spanner crab is a good, price-friendly, seafood option.(ABC North Coast: Kim Honan)

“Spanner crab is one of the more tastier [crabs] and, price per kilo, what you get with spanner crab is more affordable than lobsters,” he said.

He recommended serving the spanner crab whole, alongside some prawns and a beer or two, to start Christmas afternoon.

Illegal seller warning

With lengthy lines at seafood shops expected this weekend, NSW authorities are warning customers not to buy their seafood from potentially dodgy sellers.

The Department of Primary Industries [DPIE] has launched a joint operation with police and the NSW Food Authority to target the illegal sale and harvest of products like fish and oysters.

“When people purchase seafood or oysters from sources that are not legitimate, there’s no quality control over where that product has been harvested, how it’s been handled,” DPIE disheries compliance officer Joe Wright said.

“[That could] ultimately lead to the product causing everything, from medical issues to the people that consume it … right through to the impact on the environment in the longer term. 

Maximum fines of up to $275,000 will be handed to those participating in the black market oyster trade, with the department conducting covert patrols across east coast oyster farms.

Oysters looking good

After a tough few years with floods and QX disease, many oyster farmers across NSW are hoping for a big income boost this Christmas

NSW Farmers Oyster Projects manager Andy Myers said producers had been able to make a solid harvest, even with recent heavy falls.

an oyster being held in the palm of someone's hand

Oyster farmers are hoping for a solid financial return this Christmas season.(Supplied: Narooma Rocks)

“Pretty much the whole of the South Coast was closed to the harvesting of oysters, but those growers have worked really hard to get their water samples in, and everything’s looking good,” he said.

“We always encourage people to shop locally and support their local growers.

“[Christmas] is absolutely an opportunity for farmers to get back on their own two feet and put the last few difficult years behind them.”

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