Primary ‘wild-fish’ commercial operations are undertaken by a number of independent licensed operators in the Northern Rivers region. The industry is structured around local cooperatives, owned by the local commercial fishermen, who assist with the initial processing and packaging of the fish. Further processing is largely undertaken by specialist processors located outside the region.
Commercial fishers, wholesalers, processors and retailers, work together with the restaurant and catering industry to supply fresh seafood to communities across the State, as well as to interstate and overseas markets. Wild harvest commercial fishing managed under NSW jurisdiction is worth more than $90 million dollars at first point of sale.
The largest market for the regions fish products is the Sydney Fish Market, with the 30-40% of product shipped to Sydney for processing and re-distribution. Ballina and Clarence River Fisherman’s Co-operatives have significant export markets.
Increasingly, the growth in the tourism industry in the region has seen a stronger local market emerge for fresh local seafood. Some of the co-operatives have set up their own restaurants and are promoting fresh local cuisine. Opportunities appear to exist for increased direct distribution to local restaurants and facilities. This increased local demand is having a bearing on the requirement for local processing.
The local fishing industry use some of the most environmentally sound technology available, such as world leading by-catch reduction devices, and operate under stringent controls regarding their fishing times, seasons and equipment. The industry is constantly striving to improve its environmental performance and contributes millions of dollars each year to research and compliance programs.