The WA cray fishing season has come to a grinding halt with local cray fishing boats in Lancelin and Jurien Bay pulling up their pots and mooring their boats as an indirect result of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Just two weeks into the start of the quota year for many boats, staff have been laid off, and fisherman have gone to ground – with no resume date in sight.
Chinese New Year is normally peak season for lobster imports, with prices climbing up to $105 per kilo as Chinese celebrations increases demand for the coveted crustaceans. But with China in complete lockdown and celebrations cancelled, export orders have completely ceased. With a backlog of crays already at the fishing depots, Fisheries have made the unprecedented move to tell boats to stop fishing altogether.
Lancelin-based crayfisherman Clint Moss expressed his sadness at the situation, which could have dire repercussions for his business, but had only good wishes in his heart for China.
“I know the industry will find its feet again, but in the meantime it’s going to be a battle in our own minds and in how far we can stretch our business to ride through the global emergency of the Coronavirus. Sending China all the best in your recovery,” Clint posted on Facebook on behalf of himself and his crew on Rex J.
Locals hoping for cheap crays may still find some at good prices as local co-ops are still fully stocked, however with no more crays coming in prices are unlikely to drop any further.
Unlike other farmers, fisherman do have the option of leaving their stock in the ocean to keep growing while the hiatus continues, however their costs of staying in business continue.
“Today we removed all our pots from the water with no idea when we will be heading back to work with the entire catch returned to the ocean,” said Clint on 31 January.
While the fish remain in the ocean, the fisherman grapple with massive overheads and lease payments – coupled with the potential loss of staff.
Eastern states fisheries have already extended the season, meaning crayfisherman can return to the ocean after the normal cut off date, and WA fisherman have appealed to Western Rock Lobster, the peak industry body representing the interests of the western rock lobster fishery, to extend the season here too – which gives the boats a chance to catch their quotas later in the season.