Crabs take the tourist route

FISHED in WA. Shelled in Thailand. Shipped back to WA for sale.

An O’Connor seafood company’s frozen blue swimmer crab meat has caught the attention of a concerned Spearwood man, who likes to shop local.

Chris Gaudet wrote to the Herald last week, miffed by Focus Fisheries after stumbling across one of its crab products at a local supermarket.

The crabs had been caught at Shark Bay, frozen and transported by truck to Fremantle, shipped to Thailand for shelling, then transported back to Perth for sale.

“I thought it was crazy,” Mr Gaudet told the Herald.

Focus Fisheries client manager Phil Clark says, despite all the travel involved, it’s too expensive and “unrealistic” to shell its crabs in Australia and says the Thailand factory is better equipped to manage the work.

The Carrington Street seafood company sells about 50 tonnes a year at about $50 a kilo. Mr Clark says the price would likely double if Australian workers did the job: “We need to be cost-effective to survive,” he told the Herald.

“People can jump up and down asking, ‘why is this happening?’ but these guys (in Thailand) are doing them a favour. Doing the work in Thailand means people can afford the end product.

“Most of the work does get done here. The product isn’t any less Australian.”

He says the company’s other products—such as its sardines—are caught and processed in Albany.

Perth food activist Jude Blereau says consumer attitudes need to change: “That’s what happens when you choose food based on price. People need to stop and think about what they are willing to pay for.”

WA fishing industry council CEO John Harrison says it’s common for WA companies to send locally caught seafood overseas for processing.

“There are cost benefits with labour, factory and processing facilities that make it economically more attractive to process seafood overseas and transport it back to WA for sale,” he told the Herald.

“Consumers are the overall winners in that they gain access to a wider variety of seafood at a cheaper cost than would otherwise be the case.”


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