With an abundance of produce but a lack of supply channels, South Australia’s seafood industry is finding new ways to reach customers.
Currently in the throes of its peak season, the Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fishery has seen a large portion of its market evaporate with restaurant closures around the country.
About 2000 tonnes of Spencer Gulf king prawns are caught each year from the fishery, with June being the last month of the season before it re-opens in November.
This Saturday, 1kg boxes of prawns — caught on the Meteha-S prawn trawler owned by Eyre Peninsula’s Tapley family — will be sold at The Goody through their new pop-up venture, The Prawn Store.
The store will provide restaurant-quality Spencer Gulf king prawns that have been recently caught and snap-frozen on the boat.
Set up by the Tapleys to enable them to reach customers in Adelaide — “bringing prawns to the people” — The Prawn Store allows customers to pre-order online and then pick up safely from The Goody-drive through this Saturday (May 9), at a cost of $30 per kilo.
A second pop-up store will be held at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market on Mother’s Day, May 10.
The Tapleys are a third-generation fishing family who only started prawning this year, having purchased their licence less than a month before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect. They are one of 39 king prawn licence holders in the Spencer Gulf.
Spokesperson for The Prawn Store Diana Williams says timing is critical, as June will be the last time prawns can be caught until November.
“Instead of them sitting in a freezer, we’ve had to come up with a creative way to still be able to sell the prawns,” she says.
Another challenge has been the lack of freight to transport produce from the Eyre Peninsula to Adelaide, from where it would then be distributed as far as the east coast of Australia.
“When you take out the huge market that is the restaurant trade, we’re all fighting for a pretty small piece of the pie. That’s why we’ve decided to do these pop-ups and deal directly with consumers.”
On its last trip, the Meteha-S trawler caught 10 tonnes of prawns, all of which were sold over the Easter period, including the pop-up store at the Goody Hotel.
“It was just so overwhelming – we had people arriving at the end of the day, after we had sold out. It’s a way that fishing used to be, when people would buy direct from the boat.
“In Spencer Gulf and Port Lincoln we’re fortunate that we have an abundance of seafood right on our doorstep.”
The Tapleys purchased a refrigerated truck to transport their produce, and look to continue to expand selling via pop-up stores post-Coronavirus.
“Once everything opens back up, we’re looking at doing the Birdsville Races — we wanted to bring the sea to the desert; that’s certainly a long-term plan,” Williams says.
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