Commercial fishers in Western Australia say fuel costs will push up seafood prices


Western Australian commercial fishers say rising fuel costs are putting business under threat, warning they cannot rule out increases to the price of locally caught seafood.

Petrol prices have surged by more than 25 per cent since the start of the year.

The dramatic price increase has led some in the industry to make hard decisions around what to charge for their catch, warning it could lead to less local produce on the plate.

Bunbury commercial fisher Brian Simone said his prices were based on a fuel price between $1 to $1.50 litre.

However, he said a surge in fuel costs beyond $2 a litre was making it hard to sell his fish.

Commercial fishing operations rely heavily on fuel as they have to travel a long way to get their product.(ABC News: Gabrielle Lyons)

Mr Simone said in his 45 years in the industry he had not seen the price of fuel rise so quickly.

“We started off 20 cents a litre back in ’79, and now it’s $2.50 a litre,” he said.

“We thought up to 70 cents was a lot, then $1 was a lot, then a $1.30 was a lot.”

Mr Simone said he had not yet raised the price of his fish, but was reviewing his prices daily.

“The price of seafood has gone up minimally, but I’m not sure if we can maintain that into the price rise of fuel,” he said. 

“We want to fight to try to maintain a good price.”

Statewide problem

Western Australian Fishing Industry Council chief executive Darryl Hockey said the cost of fuel was the biggest impact on the commercial fishing industry.

He said fuel was required right across the supply chain, from the fishing boats to the transportation and storage of the catch.

“They’ve got to travel a long way to get their product,” he said.

A man looks at the camera as he leans against a jetty pylon.
Darryl Hockey says his members are bearing the cost of fuel price rises.(ABC News: Eliza Borrello)

The industry is also struggling to attract and retain workers.

Mr Hockey said labour shortages were starting to bite, with some of his members finding it difficult to get skippers for boats due to the lucrative salaries being paid in the mining industry.

He said while the price of some fish may have risen, commercial fishers were not cashing in due to the increased costs of fuel and labour.

Recreational fishers reel it in

Keen recreational fishers are also feeling the pinch.

Bunbury marine dealer Carlo Lotti said boaties were changing their behaviour due to recent fuel hikes.

a man stands with his arms folded in a boat showroom
Carlo Lotti says the price of fuel is preventing recreational fishers from getting out on the water.(ABC South West WA: Alastair Kirkby)

“Instead of going out every couple of weeks, they might go out every three or four weeks,” he said.

“They’re just fishing in a lot closer [to shore]. Basically, to try to keep the fuel cost down.”

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