Fisher Madeline Davis said it is tough with barramundi prices down but fuel prices up. (ABC Far North Queensland: Eric Barker)
‘Going broke with freezers full of fish’: Wild barramundi industry at risk of collapse
Barramundi fishers in northern Australia have been feeling the pinch this year with the iconic species dramatically dropping in value.
Many have cited oversupply issues with increases in farmed barramundi, as well as an already high rate of seafood imports.
While there has been a resurgence in price for the wild-caught product in recent months, Queensland Seafood Marketers Association president Marshall Betzel said another crash was likely.
“Farmed product is still being marketed at prices not seen before, in an effort to try and get rid of stock that the aquiculture farms have currently got,” Mr Betzel said.
“It’s an iconic species and it’s unfortunate that it’s also being able to be used as a name for imported product.”
This increase in supply is forecast to continue with the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association aiming to double the industry’s production by 2025.
However, Mr Betzel said fishers needed to do more to differentiate their product from farmed barramundi and demand premium prices.
“We need to bring in some changes, perhaps in grading and in packaging to get Queensland ‘barra’ back into the right position — that is being at a premium price,” he said.
“It needs to go into separate markets in its differentiation of packaging and at the same time you can then get a premium for certain sized fillets.”
Roadside store helping turn profit
Madeline Davis and her husband are third generation fishers, based in Burketown in Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria.
Tourists wanting Queensland barramundi save the day, for now, for third-generation fishers the Davis family. (ABC Far North Queensland: Eric Barker)
Ms Davis said that competing with farmed and imported barramundi was tough.
“We can catch what we can and we can’t pick and chose the size of our catch, whereas farmed barramundi are harvested at a certain size that consumers want,” she said.
“We’ve still got all our standard expenses and the price of the fish is down but the prices of the fuel and transportation and everything else that we need to buy, they don’t drop.”
The Davis family have set up a small roadside store in Burketown to capitalise on an influx of tourists during the dry months of the year.
“We do get a little bit better price than what we do when we’re selling it wholesale but we still don’t charge the same prices as what they charge in Brisbane,” Ms Davis said.
“It’s probably saved us a couple of years ago when the fishing industry was really quite bad.”