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Fresh fish off the menu in West Australia's wild south coast winter

By Angus Mackintosh, Tuesday August 3, 2021 - 02:59 AEST
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Due South restaurant in Albany has been short of local seafood for months.  - ABC

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.

Near the Albany port, Due South hasn't been able to source local seafood in the quantities its restaurant customers need in months.

"At this time of year we should be taking 200 kilos [of local squid] a week and we're lucky to get 20," said head chef Nick Lancaster.

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.

"It's probably the winter from hell this year; double the rainfall and the ocean is showing that," he said.

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.

"For the last seven weeks the whole south coast has been a marine park, but when the weather comes good we'll be prepared," he said.


© ABC 2021

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