Restaurants and markets on the south coast of Western Australia are short on local seafood this winter as ongoing poor weather keeps commercial fishers onshore.
- Wild weather across WA’s south coast has affected commercial fishers’ ability to supply local markets and restaurants
- Albany seafood sellers and restaurants have had to truck in frozen seafood from Perth to make up for the shortfall in fresh local fish
- The high rainfall has had the positive effect of flushing out estuaries, benefiting some commercial fishers
Near the Albany port, Due South hasn’t been able to source local seafood in the quantities its restaurant customers need in months.
The lack of local supply has forced the restaurant to truck in frozen seafood from Perth.
“It’s spent a day on the truck before it’s come to us and we don’t know how long it’s been in their facility,” he said.
“The southern calamari outdoes anything else we can buy-in.
“Bluefin and bonita is probably the only thing we’ve been getting in whole — and we haven’t seen our guy in a few weeks.”
Albany Boatshed Markets president Brian Davies has also had problems sourcing local seafood.
“The fisherman are usually quite regular but with all the storms and all the freshwater it upsets things,” he said.
‘The winter from hell’
Consistent heavy rainfall, freshwater run-off and high swells have affected both fishers’ capacity to work and the abundance of target species in the ocean this winter.
Albany commercial squid fisherman Greg Cracknell says he has never seen anything like it.
Mr Cracknell has found that freshwater run-off into King George Sound “lowers the water temperature four or five degrees because the water is so much colder than the salt”.
Commercial fisherman and vice-chair of South Seafood Producers WA Bryn Westerberg says the impact extends across the south coast fishing region.
“The wetline fishermen [in] Esperance, Albany, Augusta [and] up the west coast; there’s been very little fishing for demersal [groundfish] species,” he said.
More fish in the sea?
Despite being unable to supply the Albany Boatshed Markets for all of July — the first weeks he has missed in three years — commercial fisher Gavin Jackman still thinks south coast weather is a boon for the industry.
“I think it’s a cycle we’re seeing,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of rainfall into the estuaries [which] haven’t gone out to sea in four or five years.
“The fish will be swimming back up into those estuaries [and] that’s a great thing.”
Likewise, Mr Westerberg has responded to unfishable conditions by working more on his seafood processing business, building new freezers and facilities to export local sardines and salmon directly from his Albany factory.