Fish farmers: buy Australian-grown barramundi
STRUGGLING fish farmers are asking consumers to eat more Australian-grown barramundi, with some facing a shortage of space after COVID-19 crippled demand.
Like many industries, aquaculture took a hit when coronavirus restrictions forced restaurants and cafes to close their doors.
Bowen fish farm manager Justin Forrester told the ABC about one million barramundi fingerlings are grown every year at the Coral Coast Barramundi farm. The fish are used to stock dams for anglers and supply the food service industry, but nationwide restrictions left many farms with a surplus of growing fish and limited water capacity.
"We can try to slow them down so they fit in the ponds, but eventually they keep growing and the ponds have only got so much space, so much electricity, and so much room, to keep the fish healthy and in good condition," Forrester said.
Meanwhile, at Humpty Doo near Darwin, farm manager Dan Richards said they were not short on space but the pandemic had had a big impact on their bottom line.
"At the height of the coronavirus impacts, our volumes were down 50 per cent, our revenue was down by 70 per cent, so it was certainly an impact at that time," Richards said.
But despite the sharp downturn in revenue, Richards said his team were looking for ways to help.
"We don't have a lot of money, but we do have a lot of fish," he said.
Humpty Doo Barramundi donated about 10,000 kilograms of fish, which was used in food hampers and prepared meals for people in need in major cities.
"[We chose to donate] where people were looking to support the people in the food service industry who were out of jobs and the like," he said.
Bowen's Coral Coast Barramundi also donated fish to local healthcare workers at hospitals in the region.
Now, they're hoping consumers will return the favour. Owner of Coral Coast Barramundi and president of the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association Ken Chapman believes the best thing to help right now would be for more Australians to buy Aussie-grown barramundi.
"We're really just relying on the retail sales, so we really would encourage the consumer to get out and buy barramundi," Chapman said.
While barramundi is a recognised Australian species, most of the fish available in Australia is foreign.
Chapman hopes consumers will look at where the barramundi comes from and support Australian-grown.