Fresh Australian fish may not be on the menu in more households if prices continue to rise and supply continues to fall, according to the peak body representing Western Australia’s seafood industry.
- A popular fresh fish shop on the WA coast closes, despite increased demand for fish
- Prices are skyrocketing, pushing some types of Australian fish out of household budgets
- The peak fishing industry body says this is symptomatic of a supply and demand challenge facing the fishing industry
WA Fishing Industry Council chief executive Darryl Hockey said demand for some iconic WA fish such as pink snapper and dhufish is outstripping supply.
“Anyone who is a regular consumer of fish can see that over the last six months or so prices in particular have gone up quite significantly,” he said.
“It’s not because [fishers] charge more for fish, it’s because there’s a growing demand from restaurants, fish and chips and fresh fish shops to try and get the quantities they need.
“What’s happening is that we as an industry are no longer able to meet the public demand for fresh fish.”
Australia currently imports 70% of seafood consumed nationally, but Mr Hockey said the industry has noticed a shift in consumer behavior towards buying more locally caught seafood.
“Since COVID has arrived and people are walking around there, it’s become a bit of a dining experience that you go to a particular area and want to see some of the local produce, whether it’s wine, produce agricultural or fish,” he said.
“That loyalty to WA products has increased, and that’s a very healthy thing.
“But our concern is that our industry will not be able to provide the same food at the same price as we have in the past, which means that consumers in Western Australia are being deprived of it.
“Most people have always thought of fish and chips as a cheap family meal and we would hate to see it end up in the gourmet section.”
The fresh fish store closes
Despite increased demand and domestic travellers, at the end of this month the only fresh fish shop along a 300 kilometer section of the coast between Perth and Dongara will close.
Laura Hooton said she made the decision to close due to rising fish prices and the difficulty of finding a reliable supply of fish to sell.
“The demand for fish to supply the Perth market is driving up costs,” she said.
“We have to compete with much higher prices; this pushes the price of fish too high for the general public.
“Four months ago I could sell filleted pink snapper for $62 a kilo, now I’m down to the $70 a kilo bracket.
“You’re supposed to eat fish, it’s good for you, but it’s getting too expensive to eat.
“It’s pretty sad that you come to a coastal town and you can’t access fresh fish.”
Ms Hooton said with the 50 per cent reduction in the total allowable fish catch in the West Coast demersal scale fishery, she could not see fish supplies improving.
However, Ms Hooton said it was important that sustainability measures to boost fish stocks had been taken in the West Coast fishery, which stretches from Kalbarri to Augusta.
She and her partner had noticed declining fish stocks in the fishery several years ago, which eventually forced them to shut down the fish side of their commercial fishing operation.
Ms Hooton said she had noticed Perth-based fresh seafood retailers changing their products.
“Many of them have already moved away from line fish because it is becoming too difficult to access.
Many of them stock fish from the northern pot fishery, which is more affordable but nowhere as good as the quality of line-caught fish along our local coast,” he said. she stated.
State Planning Needed
Mr Hockey said he was concerned industrial projects planned for the WA coastline and marine parks planned for the Kimberley and South West could further reduce fish stocks available to the commercial sector.
“We have these industrial projects underway, like industrial salt in the Pilbara, seismic and oil and gas decommissioning works, a series of offshore renewable wind farms along the coast and offshore,” he said. he declares.
He said the fishing industry needed a “seat at the table” in early discussions to ensure that projects were not built on key habitats and that fishing industry activities fishing would not be restricted.
“We only have a limited supply of fish at the moment, but that quantity is itself under pressure,” he said.
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