There?s a catch if you want prawns
By JANE GARDNER
NORTHERN Rivers residents are being encouraged to chuck local prawns on the barbie this Christmas ? if they can find them ? instead of cheaper imports.
Trawler operators have reported exceptionally meagre catches this season due to prolonged drought and river pollution.
They are also struggling to contend with the inflated cost of diesel and a flood of cheaper imports from Thailand, Vietnam and China.
Brunswick-Byron Fishermen's Co-op floor manager, Steve Halpin, said that the Northern Rivers was home to the tastiest prawns in the world, but the industry was struggling to get local support.
"Consumers get used to buying cheaper imported prawns, but many don't consider that local eastern king prawns are among the best in the world in terms of size, quality, taste and longevity," Mr Halpin said.
"Even if 20 per cent more people decided to buy local instead it would make a huge difference.
"If we don't catch any before the busy Christmas season there will be more imports and prices may rise."
Ballina trawler owner Noel Fleming has also reported the lowest catch sizes he's seen in 26 years.
He said that on an average trip the boats came back with 10-15kg of prawns, instead of the 50-60kg in previous years.
"With the price of fuel through the roof, we need at least 80-100kg each trip just to make it worth while," he said.
So what exactly is causing such an unprecedented shortage of prawns?
Steve Halpin reckons pollution is the only reasonable answer.
"It's definitely not over-fishing," he said.
"It's development of the housing sector and pollution through the rivers that is causing it.
"Byron Shire Council say they're green, but they haven't got a clue what's going on."