Chinese exports on hold over tensions
LOCAL rock lobster sales have taken off in Fremantle Harbour just as a Chinese trade halt has knocked the industry for six.
Legislative changes introduced in September allow 100 lobsters to be sold from the back of crayfishing boats, and the experience has proven so successful local fisherman Fedele Camarda wants the number doubled to encourage more boats to participate.
On Wednesday almost 30 people gathered at Fishing Boat Harbour with bags and eskies in hand to greet Mr Camarda’s boat Neptune III as it came through the heads just after 11am. On board were three generations of the family boasting a haul of the big, clawless crustaceans.
They quickly sold out, with those who hadn’t pre-ordered through the Western Rock Lobster Council website having to come back another day.
Mr Camarda, a board member of the council, says this is just an indication of the demand ahead.
“There is always demand in December,” Mr Camarda said.
“The way I’ve looked at it, I’ve always believed that we need to be able to sell to the public in December.”
Any increase in Christmas sales will help to offset losses created by the escalating trade dispute with China, although Mr Camarda says thankfully his business hasn’t been affected critically.
But lobster council CEO Matt Taylor said unless the full $700 million trade was resumed with China, “hundreds of family owned businesses in both countries may lose a valuable source of income and opportunity to economic growth”. Australia supplies over 90 per cent of China’s lobster demand.
The Chook bumped into Mr Taylor shortly after reports emerged from China that a $2 million shipment of lobsters had been held up by customs officers at Shanghai’s airport, although two-thirds were later released for delivery.
He said at the time the most difficult aspect was the lack of information on what was driving the delays, which resulted in all shipments to China being cancelled.
In a flurry of “export updates” to members, Mr Taylor said the council was “working hard behind the scenes to resume trade.
“We urge the Australian government to restore meaningful dialogue and communication with China in order to resolve the disruption to trade for Australian rock lobsters.”
Mr Taylor said the industry was looking to develop other markets in the meantime, but fishers “need to return to fishing in order to generate their income and support their communities”.
The next sale from Mr Camarda’s boat will be on Thursday December 3 from 10am in Fishing Boat Harbour.