WA’s $500 million-a-year rock lobster industry has extended its suspension on fishing for several more weeks because demand from China has dried up amid the deadly coronavirus. Geraldton Fishermen's Cooperative chief executive Matt Rutter said its members were advised by text this evening there was still no demand from China, and the fishing suspension which started on Saturday, was now expected to last for “at least the next few weeks”. Mr Rutter, whose cooperative represents 60 per cent of the WA industry, said fishermen would likely head out to sea tomorrow to retrieve their pots, returning caught crays to the ocean. China buys 90 per cent of the State’s crayfish. “Fishermen are philosophical about this, it’s an issue (affecting seafood markets) world wide. When China sneezes the world catches a cold,” Mr Rutter said. “It’s a humanitarian issue first and foremost and we hope the people there are okay.” Mr Rutter said the GFC would meet its members tomorrow to update them and discuss options, including how to best supply remaining export markets. It was too early to know the financial hit the suspension - the first ever non-Government mandated stoppage - would have on the industry, involving 230 commercial operators who supply their catch to four WA processors. Mr Rutter said all permanent staff at the co-operative would continue to be paid but the large number of casual workers, and those who provided support services such as transporters, would be among those immediately affected. Western Rock Lobster Council chairman Terry Lissiman, who represents fishermen, said yesterday the quota catch system in WA softened the blow because fishers could catch their crays anytime in the year to fulfil their quotas, the 2020 season having only started this month. But he said the outbreak - having coincided with the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations - had struck at a time when demand is normally at its highest. The western rock lobster industry contributes $505 million to the State’s economy and supports more than 2400 direct and indirect jobs in WA.