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Australia's lobster trade reels as China bans trade in live seafood

FISHERS along the Victorian coast have been forced to house 10,000 lobsters in seawater storage tanks on boats and in processing facilities now that China has suspended its trade in live animals, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak

06 February 2020 - 19:06

FISHERS along the Victorian coast have been forced to house 10,000 lobsters in seawater storage tanks on boats and in processing facilities now that China has suspended its trade in live animals, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Australia's seafood industry has been thrown into crisis by the ban, with local fishermen considering a plan to return thousands of lobsters to the open waters, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.



Nationally, the future of 100 to 200 tonnes of live lobster, worth tens of millions of US dollars, could be in limbo, industry sources say.



The export industry has ground to a halt in Victoria, western Australia, south Australia and Tasmania as China usually imports 90 to 95 per cent of locally-grown lobsters.



Prices have already dived by up to 20 per cent from US$130 to $140 a kilogramme in Victoria to $110, as fishers and wholesalers try to offload the premium product in local retail markets.



The last air cargo shipment of fresh seafood was accepted into China on January 26, shortly before demand collapsed after internal transport restrictions and public health fears saw the mass cancellation of Chinese New Year celebrations.



Victorian Rock Lobster Association president Markus Nolle said the move was 'totally catastrophic' for the industry, which was entering its peak harvest and sales season.



'All orders have been cancelled. There is no demand. Word out of China is that it will take six to eight weeks before things get moving again, but it is probably going to get worse before it gets better.'



On Friday, seafood industries representatives held an emergency meeting with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Assistant Minister for Fisheries Jonathon Duniam to discuss strategies to help the sector.



'We're monitoring the situation very closely. We're acting firstly on the advice of our public safety and public health officials. But then, beyond that, once we've dealt with their advice and acted on it, we will then look to how we can assist our businesses and our industry through these challenging times,' said Mr Birmingham.



Victorian Fishing Minister Jaala Pulford has announced that unfilled catch quotas could be rolled over into next year.


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