Diners catch on to lobster trial

Ellie HoneyboneGeraldton Guardian

A State Government trial to allow WA seafood lovers more access to the world-renowned western rock lobster has so far been met with enthusiasm in Geraldton, with local restaurants reaping the benefits of increased supply.

From mid-December to April, commercial western rock lobster fishers are permitted to catch and tag up to 50 extra lobsters each to sell directly to the local market.

Gourmet retailer Paula Purcher has been buying some of those trial lobsters and said people were responding well to the extra supply.

“So far the trial has been great for my business — we have sold out of the lobster dishes we were offering and it has been a nice initiative for us,” she said.

“Local fishermen supplying local businesses with local products to sell to Geraldton diners and tourists is just fabulous.

“We have a world-class chef who is able to really make the most of the product and we are able to proudly market the lobster as being freshly caught on our coast.”

Geraldton lobster fisherman Warren Kalajzich has been catching extra crays and selling them to Ms Purcher’s local business.

He said the trial has encouraged tourism and resulted in lobsters entering the community at realistic prices.

“It is quite exciting to see reasonably priced crayfish in Geraldton and I look forward to sharing my feedback with the Government when the trial period ends,” Mr Kalajzich said.

“Fifty extra crays at this stage is a good number but I don’t think it should be increased.

“We need to monitor the situation very carefully for the longevity of the species, which has gone through some tough years.”

Geraldton Professional Fishermen’s Association secretary Peter Brown expressed some concern about the trial and the implications it could have on the lobster industry.

“I am a little concerned that it has been rushed and that we are playing with a demand and supply system that has been established for a long time,” he said.

“Being able to artificially reduce prices is a worry.

“Any further changes will need a lot more discussion and consultation with the fishing community.”

In January, the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative secured a $3.5 million loan through the State Government's Co-operative Loan Scheme to build an 80-tonne live lobster holding facility at Welshpool to facilitate increased exports to China.

The co-operative is WA’s biggest rock lobster processor and, when completed, it will be Australia’s biggest rock lobster holding tank facility, enabling air freight of fresh rock lobster into China to reduce the time from “catch to plate”.

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