Easter seafood prices set to rise as industry faces low supplies
This monster shellfish might make your mouth water, but rising prices and low supply could mean shrimp are off the table for many people this Easter.
- A shrimp weighing 284 g was caught off the Fraser Coast
- Flooding led to good catches in the southeast of the state
- Low supply and high fuel costs mean prawn prices are rising
Amanda and John Helmuth of North Queen Seafoods hauled in the huge 284 gram main prawn while trawling for king prawns off the Fraser Coast.
Anchored four miles north of Wide Bay Bar, Mr Helmuth said it was rare to find such large prawns in his nets.
“You don’t have them all year round, the rain drives them out of the sandy strait.”
Although the massive specimen attracts attention, consumers are unlikely to find one on their plate.
Also known as giant tiger prawns, large head prawns can be eaten but are often used as breeders on commercial farms.
Since the floods in southeast Queensland, Mr Helmuth said farmed prawns, grown in ponds on land, had washed out to sea and were showing up in trawler catches.
“I know they escape a lot in Brisbane and they catch them in Moreton Bay,” he said.
On the Fraser Coast, two major floods in two months had actually improved conditions for animals even as the water cleared.
“We’re getting good catches and part of that is cloudy water – all the silt, the food, the prawns are loving it right now,” Helmuth said.
“Shrimps will be rare for Easter”
As torrential rains drove prawns away in the southeast, anglers in northern Queensland are lamenting a failed second rainy season.
Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo said banana shrimp in particular were in short supply.
“There were a few trawlers here earlier, they went fetching but the catches were very poor, and it’s not looking very good at all at this stage.”
Mr Caracciolo, who is also a director of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, said the window of rain that helped the fishery was closing.
“We need late rains the year before then you need follow up rains, it’s April now so it’s too late for this year,” he said.
“It’s been a terrible season… from practically Gladstone, Yeppoon, Mackay and I don’t think Townsville is doing very well based on the reports.
“Shrimp will probably be scarce for Easter.”
Consumers urged to order and buy early
Mr Caracciolo said the safest and cheapest way to get prawns for Easter was to order and buy early.
“Frozen shrimp are pretty good, they’re frozen at sea on the boats, they thaw pretty well,” he said.
“You can buy frozen cartons of shrimp and put them in the freezer and you’re not subject to supply and demand.”
Mr Caracciolo said there had been encouraging early signs from the Gulf of Carpentaria fishery, which started the eight-week banana prawn season on April 1.
“Apparently some of the guys up there have caught up pretty well…it’s only four or five days into it and some of the guys are already unloading,” he said.
It’s impossible to know how much fresh prawns will cost if you hope to include them in your Easter menu because they haven’t been caught yet.
But the generally low number of sockets and high fuel prices mean that it is inevitable that consumers will pay more for them than they have in previous years.
The managing director of Australia Bay Seafoods, based in Darwin, Michael O’Brien, said that regardless of the number of prawns imported, the cost of fuel would also drive prices up.
“Compared to last year, our (fuel) prices are up more than 200% and we are an industry that has a large footprint that uses diesel,” he said.
“If the catches aren’t good this year, you’ll find that the boats won’t stay there…because you’re burning 2,000 to 3,000 liters of fuel for a few dollars and that quickly adds up to the bottom line.”
As for the giant black shrimp brought back to the Fraser Coast, fisherman John Helmuth said its future is still unknown.
“He’s getting cold in the freezer, we don’t know what we’re going to do with him,” he said.