'Prawn shortage' not all it's cracked up to be
THERE'S been a prawn shortage in the Mackay region, if signs hanging in at least one pub are to be believed.
A Mackay hotel has been displaying a sign at its food counter in recent days warning of an "ongoing prawn shortage".
"We have been forced to remove prawns from our menu," the sign reads.
"We invite you to ask our team if you seek any further clarification - Management."
A worker was asked about the sign and said white spot disease was affecting supply.
The hotel was contacted for more information from management about the "prawn shortage", but no response was forthcoming.
In response to the apparent shortage, a commercial fisher and a seafood wholesaler from Mackay both disputed there was any scarcity of prawns, locally at least.
They said this year's season had resulted in the availability of loads of locally caught crustaceans.
However, the emergence of white spot in the south and subsequent restrictions on importing (which lapsed July 6) means southern or overseas prawns are harder to find.
That was all the more reason to buy locally, said Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo and fisher of more than 25 years, Dan Atherton.
Mr Carraciolo and Mr Atherton said imports were often sought after when it came to food service, due to their arrival pre-prepared.
"As for someone putting a sign up about a prawn shortage, that's totally incorrect," Mr Carraciolo said.
"They may be out of imported prawn cutlets. There's no reason to not have a local prawn available, but that is their choice."
With just two or three permanent prawn trawlers thought to still be operating out of the Mackay region, down from at least 20 two decades ago, Mr Carraciolo said support from the community was important.
Especially once the channels of overseas prawns begin to flow into the Mackay region and the rest of the country once more.
Mr Atherton used to work on a prawn trawler, but long hours and uncertainty took its toll and he now runs a small commercial fishing business.
He was rather baffled when he heard of the apparent shortage.
"It does surprise me. Because you've got the local product here," he said. "They're really good, a lot better than the stuff you buy down south or the imported stuff."
He wasn't surprised to hear trawlers are thin on the ground and urged Mackay residents to buy locally.
Prawns sent south or exported were sold for less and cost more to transport, making local sales a boon for trawler operators, Mr Atherton said.
The temporary ban on importing prawns followed an outbreak of white spot disease in Morton Bay.
Mr Atherton and Mr Carraciolo said they were against the ban being lifted, because the cause of white spot still wasn't known.
Some of the spots you can buy fresh local prawns
Mackay Fish Market, River Street.
Morgan's Fishmarket, Evans Ave, North Mackay.
Debbie's Seafood, 16 David Muir St, Slade Point (with truck at various locations)
Shore Fresh Seafoods, 96433 Bruce Hwy, Mackay (with truck at various locations)