Industry set for flood of prawns
THE Sunshine Coast’s seafood industry is confident its famous Mooloolaba Prawn will survive a flood of smaller, inferior prawns on to the market.
Warm weather and a surge of nutrients washed into Moreton Bay by floodwaters have created ideal spawning conditions for prawns.
That has led the Queensland Seafood Industry Association to predict a rare treat for seafood lovers as prawn prices tumble.
QSIA president Michael Gardner said prices were already coming down as catches increased.
The current abundance of prawns and crabs was a repeat of the pattern seen immediately after the 1974 Brisbane floods, Mr Gardner said.
With “nothing to suggest any problems” with Moreton Bay seafood after the flooding, Mr Gardner said now was definitely time to be eating seafood from the area.
“Varieties like bay prawns, king prawns and tiger prawns are top quality this time of year and skippers can’t remember a time when there were more prawns about.
“Local fishermen have been making good catches – in fact, more than the local market is absorbing at the moment.”
But it seems most of those prawns will find their way into Brisbane and bayside outlets and any fears the glut could undercut the Mooloolaba Prawn market were dispelled by the local industry.
Sunshine Coast QSIA spokesman Paul Higginbottom said the prawns in Moreton Bay were younger and smaller than those chased by Coast trawlers and very few of them were licensed to operate in the bay.
As the prawns grew, they migrated out into the deeper ocean where the Sunshine Coast fleet fished.
“The Moreton Bay prawn is a smaller prawn – generally greasy backs or bay prawns, small kings or tigers,” Mr Higginbottom said
“They began their life in Moreton Bay. They’re the same prawn, only the Mooloolaba Prawn is bigger and better because once they get out into the deeper water they grow.
“Mooloolaba Prawns are the best in the world. Plenty of people will tell you that.”
Mr Higginbottom said the abundance of prawns in Moreton Bay would probably translate into bigger catches “out wide” in coming weeks but it was up to retailers to set prices for consumers.
The wholesale price for medium Mooloolaba Prawns has already dropped to $14/kg, down from $20/kg before Christmas.
Chris Hoffmann, the retail manager at Mooloolaba Fish Market, was also confident the Mooloolaba Prawn would hold its own.