This monster crustacean might have you salivating, but rising prices and low supply could mean prawns are off the table for many people this Easter.
- A prawn weighing 284gms was caught off the Fraser Coast
- Flooding has led to good catches in the state’s south east
- Low supply and high fuel costs means prawn prices are rising
Amanda and John Helmuth, of North Queen Seafoods, pulled in the massive 284-gram leader prawn while trawling for king prawns off the Fraser Coast.
Anchored four miles north of the Wide Bay bar, Mr Helmuth said it was uncommon to find such big prawns in his nets.
“You don’t get them all year, the rain flushes them out of the Sandy Straits.”
While the massive specimen is eye-catching, consumers are unlikely to find one on their plate.
Also known as giant black tiger prawns, large leader prawns can be eaten but are often used as breeding stock in commercial farms.
Since the flooding in south-east Queensland, Mr Helmuth said farmed prawns, grown in ponds on land, had washed out to sea and were showing up in trawler catches.
“I know they did have a lot escape down in Brisbane and they’re catching them in Moreton Bay,” he said.
On the Fraser Coast, two major floods in two months had actually improved conditions for the animals even as the water cleared.
“We’re getting good catches and part of that is due to the murky water — all the silt, food, the prawns are loving it at the moment,” Mr Helmuth said.
‘Prawns will be scarce for Easter’
While the flooding rain has flushed out prawns in the south-east, north Queensland fishermen have been lamenting a second failed wet season.
Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo said banana prawns in particular were scarce.
“There were a few trawlers here earlier on, they went looking but the catches were very poor, and it’s not looking very good at all at this stage.”
Mr Caracciolo, who is also a director of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, said the window for rain that helped the fishery was closing.
“We need late rain the year before and then you need follow-up rain, we’re into April now so it’s too late for this year,” he said.
“It’s been a terrible season … from virtually Gladstone, Yeppoon, Mackay and I don’t think Townsville is doing very well from reports.
“Prawns probably will be scarce for Easter.”
Consumers urged to order and buy early
Mr Caracciolo said the safest and cheapest way to get prawns for Easter was to order and buy early.
“Frozen prawns are quite good, they’re frozen at sea on the boats, they thaw back quite well,” he said.
“You can buy frozen cartons of prawns and put them in the freezer and you’re not subject to the supply and demand.”
Mr Caracciolo said there had been encouraging early signs from the Gulf of Carpentaria fishery, which started the eight-week banana prawn season on April 1.
“Apparently some of the bokes up there have been catching quite well … it’s only four or five days into the start and some of the bokes are unloading already,” he said.
It is impossible to know how much fresh prawns will cost if you are hoping to include them on your Easter menu because they have not been caught yet.
But the generally low catch numbers and high fuel prices mean it is inevitable consumers will pay more for them than they have in previous years.
Darwin-based Australia Bay Seafoods general manager Michael O’Brien said regardless of how many prawns came in, the cost of fuel would also push prices up.
“Compared to last year our (fuel) prices have gone up over 200 per cent and we’re an industry that has a large footprint that uses diesel,” he said.
“If the catches aren’t good this year you’ll find boats won’t stay out there … because you burn 2,000 to 3,000 liters of fuel at a couple of dollars and it soon adds up to the bottom line.”
As for the giant black prawn hauled in on the Fraser Coast, fisherman John Helmuth said its future was still unknown.
“He’s chilling in the freezer, we don’t know what we’re going to do with him,” he said.