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Looks Like A Prawn/fish Shortage Coming At Xmas


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Prices soar as stocks of fish dry up

SHOPPERS will pay more than $50 a kilogram for fresh king prawns this Christmas.

Fish prices across the board will also go up about $4 or $5 a kilogram because, like prawns, the catch is well down.

North Coast fishermen blame the drought and high diesel prices and say competition from imports doesn't help.

The drought on the land has resulted in the failure of the southern estuaries - such as the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers and Wallis Lakes - to discharge nutrients and young fish and prawns into the ocean.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-operative general manager Phillip Neuss said that, usually, there was a reasonable catch of prawns but the tonnages had dropped.

"We got 177 tonnes in 2002, 119 tonnes in 2004, 85 tonnes in 2005 and 69 tonnes this year," he said. "So the catch is 61 per cent down on the good year in 2002, a loss of about $1.8 million.

"All our catch comes from the north after being flushed out of the river systems but we are getting very little because of the drought."

In the past there had been good stocks of frozen prawns and always an ample supply of thawed product to satisfy demand but this year the amount of frozen product was small and prawns would be scarce.

Mr Neuss said: "The counteracting factor, which has hurt fishermen in the past few years, has been the import of prawns out of Asia; there will be plenty of stocks around at Christmas but it won't be our fresh eastern king."

Mr Neuss said 17 trawlers were operating out of Coffs Harbour but now only six were working; four or five were tied up and the others looking for catches elsewhere.

The picture is the same on the South Coast where the fleet at Eden has been cut from 14 to eight boats.

Members of the Twofold Bay Fishermen's Co-operative fear their co-operative may close.

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