South East lobster prices take plunge

PRIZED CATCHES: Sky Seafoods' David and Andrew Lawrie display live lobsters which are destined for the export market.

PRIZED CATCHES: Sky Seafoods’ David and Andrew Lawrie display live lobsters which are destined for the export market.

PRICES for lobster have plunged by $45 per kilogram since near-record highs at the start of the season on October 1.

Volatility in prices is common at the start of each season due to market forces at work, while catch rates have been pleasing.

Robe-based fisher Steve Zadow told The Border Watch on Saturday his returns so far in the 2018/19 season had ranged from $120 to $75 per kilogram.

Mr Zadow has fished for almost three decades and his 58 pots have regularly returned 80kg of lobsters each day.

Sky Seafoods exporter Andrew Lawrie said the price on Saturday was $83.

“This is an artificial price created by in-fighting by two other buyers,” the Robe-based businessman said.

“It should be around the $75-$78 per kilogram mark.

“There have been very good catch rates since the beginning of the season.

“Some could catch their quota by Christmas.

“To improve the average price, fishers do not have to nail it by Christmas.

“Fishers should slow down to keep the prices up.”

Mr Lawrie has run Sky Seafoods since 1986 and it encompasses a retail outlet for the general public.

He said he was happy with the shop trade this season and anticipated a boost in sales from the start of next month when South Australian king prawns from Wallaroo become available.

Five Star Seafoods factory manager Tom Ryan – who is based at Port MacDonnell – said he was impressed with the prices of $120 per kilogram for the opening week.

“We were hopeful for big numbers this season as last year was not our best,” Mr Ryan said.

“But in previous years we have had pretty solid numbers throughout the whole season, so I was expecting something similar this year.

“Catch rates had not been super high in other regions, which meant the demand was definitely there.”

Although catch rates in other regions were down, Mr Ryan said the southern zone had seen varying rates.

“We have had some fishermen this week with bumper catches and others having a shocking start,” he revealed.

“Some just are not having a lot of luck at the moment, but we are hopeful things will only build from here.”

Deckhand David Vandepeer said he had already seen a rise in under-sized lobsters, which was a good sign for the sustainability of the fishery.

“We have been seeing a lot of under-size and spawny lobsters in our catch already,” Mr Vandepeer said at Port MacDonnell.

“Although we obviously cannot bring them in, it does mean our stock is rebuilding.

“The future of the catchment is looking very promising.”

The benefits of the recent free trade agreement with China have started to trickle through with Mr Ryan stating it had been a promising start for the industry.

“Being able to directly export to China has helped us as there is obviously a high demand for lobster there,” he said.

“It is a lot easier for us now, but there are still limited flights to actually get them there.

“Hopefully that will improve and the industry can continue building as it has been.”