Rise of imported seafood as commercial fishermen squeezed out

THE Central Coast has a wealth of wonderful waterways. And latest catch data shows local fish stocks are on par with a decade ago but most of the seafood on offer is imported.

Amid the rush for seafood ahead of Good Friday, a traditional meat-free day, the Express Advocate can reveal­ the majority of fish and prawns we buy at major supermarkets and popular local takeaways comes from outside the region’s waters.

Both Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf and Darrons Seafood at Wamberal say while they try to support locals­ as much as possible, about 70 per cent of their seafood comes from other parts of Australia and overseas.

Woolworths said while it also tried to support local, it was often forced to stock seafood from countries such as New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, China and South Africa. Woolworths supermarket at Erina Fair was selling mostly imported fresh seafood over the past week, including prawns from Thailand.

Coles said the majority of its brand seafood was sourced from Australian waters. But at the Coles Woy Woy deli on Friday and Monday, it was selling mostly imported fish from New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Taiwan, Vietnam and China.

The owner of Darrons Seafoods said half of the fish he sold — including sea bream, monkfish, ling and hapuku — came from New Zealand.

Darron Foley, who heads to the Sydney Fish Market twice a week to stock up, said the quality of Kiwi cold-water fish was often better in taste than the limited supply of local catches.

“It only takes two days to get from New Zealand to Australian markets and is still very fresh,” Mr Foley said.

“My first choice is to buy Australian, but if it’s not available we have to look elsewhere. And I can safely say that there just isn’t the Australian fish available at the markets like there was 10 or so years ago. And that’s very disappointing for me.”

He said the local school prawns were popular with his customers.

“They sell out around Easter and Christmas, and I also buy a lot of frozen prawns; the greens mostly from South Australia and Western Australia, and cooked prawns from Mooloolaba in Queensland.”

Merv Clayton, joint owner of Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf, said the bulk of the seafood he sold came from outside the Coast’s waters.

“We use hoki, which comes from New Zealand, for our standard fish and chips,” Mr Clayton said. “We like it because it’s a soft, light-fleshed fish which is sweet in flavour — perfect for fish and chips.

“Our other main imported fish is hake, which is caught by South African trawler fishermen in the Great Southern Ocean.

“About 30 per cent of our seafood comes from local waters. This includes squid, mullet, whiting, blackfish, bream, jewfish and shark.

“We’d like to source more local fish, but there just isn’t enough for us to buy.”

RESTRICTIONS KILLING COMMERCIAL MARKET

THERE are fears the Central Coast’s multi-million dollar commercial fishing industry will soon be cast into oblivion with tighter restrictions sinking its workforce by two-thirds since 2000.

Commercial fishers say they are reeling because of the Government’s “unfair” structural reforms to the state’s $90 million industry.

They say the “radicalised” recreational fishers lobby has “hijacked” the Government’s decision-making as a $16 million exit plan is rolled out for commercial fishermen.

“Commercial fishermen are being wiped out,” Dane Van Der Neut, president of the NSW Wild Caught Fishers Coalition, said.

“About 15 years ago there were 300 commercial fishermen on the Central Coast; now it’s under 100. And statewide it’s gone from 5000 down to 980 since the mid-1990s. We’re being driven out, and I can see in the future­ that if you want to eat local seafood you’ll have to catch it yourself.”

THERE are fears the Central Coast’s multi-million dollar commercial fishing industry will soon be cast into oblivion with tighter restrictions sinking its workforce by two-thirds since 2000.

Commercial fishers say they are reeling because of the Government’s “unfair” structural reforms to the state’s $90 million industry.

They say the “radicalised” recreational fishers lobby has “hijacked” the Government’s decision-making as a $16 million exit plan is rolled out for commercial fishermen.

“Commercial fishermen are being wiped out,” Dane Van Der Neut, president of the NSW Wild Caught Fishers Coalition, said.

“About 15 years ago there were 300 commercial fishermen on the Central Coast; now it’s under 100. And statewide it’s gone from 5000 down to 980 since the mid-1990s. We’re being driven out, and I can see in the future­ that if you want to eat local seafood you’ll have to catch it yourself.”

Mr Van Der Neut, 30, of Woy Woy, said the Coast’s commercial fishermen now had a “pretty thin space to work in” after the crackdowns since the late 1990s.

“We have lost a lot through marine parks, recreational fishing havens, aquatic reserves … and there are even areas that aren’t even called recreational fishing havens that we can’t access now.

“We have a small section of Broken Bay we can work, which is out the front of Pearl Beach; there’s a line drawn between Green Point and Little Box Head where we can trawl for prawns; we trawl in front of Patonga for squid and sometimes prawns too, and then we’ve got only partial access to the Hawkesbury River for trawling, meshing and hauling.

“And then you’ve got Tuggerah Lakes, where there is no trawling allowed, but there’s netting for flathead, mullet, bream and mulloway. And there is prawning in a channel.”

The recreational fishing lobby did not take Mr Van Der Neut’s bait, but it did reveal­ it would consider taking an even tougher stance against commercial fishing after a report into the Hawkesbury’s waterways was completed.

“Recreational anglers, the tackle industry, charter boat operators, fishing guides and the key recreational fishing groups will be getting together in early April to formulate our position in regards to Hawkesbury Bioregion Assessment,” Stan Konstantaras, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, said.

“The resulting position will be presented to the (Primary Industries) Minister (Niall Blair) … and it may include­ the banning of destructive commercial fishing practices.”

But Mr Van Der Neut hit back: “Commercial fishers tick all the boxes when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices; we are not destructive.

“For the past 30 years there’s been a culture of removing­ commercial fishing … now it has gone way overboard.”

LABOR LEGACY BLAMED

THE previous Labor government has been blamed for gutting the commercial fishing industry.

A spokeswoman for Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair (pictured) said the Baird Government was now considering reforms to the industry after the loss of hundreds of jobs in recent years.

“In the early 2000s, commercial fishers lost access to 30 significant areas along the coast through estuary closures, which was based on politics, not science,” the spokesman said.

“It is true that the industry has been struggling for years with competition from imported seafood, inefficient controls and limited ability for fishers to grow their businesses with certainty.

“This is why the NSW Government is currently considering reforms to ensure the sustainability of the industry for years to come.”

Source: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/rise-of-imported-seafood-as-commercial-fishermen-squeezed-out/news-story/b117fea06dff2882521bf7117817f375

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