Johnathon Davey is the Executive Director of Seafood Industry Victoria (SIV). The seafood industry was bitten by the COVID-19 restrictions early in 2020 when exports to China were cancelled overnight. We had a chat to him about where the industry has been and where he sees it going. The common message - ask for local seafood - enjoy it, cook it, eat it.
Can you give us an idea of the state-of-play for the Victorian Seafood Industry at the moment and how can we help?
The seafood industry was one of, if not the first industry impacted by the emergence of Coronavirus, when on the 24th of January all shipments of exported seafood to China for the Chinese New Year celebrations were cancelled. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Southern Rock Lobster, Abalone and other high-end celebration seafood was being packaged for shipping before orders were cancelled overnight. Since then with the shutdown of the food service and restaurant industry our demand while remaining strong has seen holes in our markets. This has resulted in fishers being told to slow down their catching, take time off and even tie the boats up altogether. We have seen prices plummet, which is positive for the end consumer, but with the costs associated with the fishing and aquaculture industries to simply cut their sale price makes the majority of businesses unviable.
We have experienced Easter and Mothers Day where there have been some amazing seafood sales and even our wholesaler and retail sectors implementing home delivery services during lockdown, which have been extremely successful and could possibly be a factor in the new norm of our Victorian seafood industry.
All Victorians can help, and there is a number of ways to do so. Ask for local catch when visiting your fish monger, if things aren't labelled clearly ask 'where did it come from' and support your local industry.
Likewise, with restaurants and food service beginning to reopen, make sure when comfortable to support these local businesses, always ask for 'where the seafood came from' and 'buy local'. There is a very pleasing response to local food and produce in recent months during this pandemic and through maintaining these purchasing habits all Victorians continue to support local businesses.
2. How do you see the seafood industry after this has passed?
Once this is passed and things are back to 'normal', it is difficult to see what changes we will see in the industry. We are being told that commercial flights and travel will be in 2023 for any form of pre-COVID operation and this means great news for Victorian consumers with more local produce being available to local markets should the demand remain or grow...
The world of home delivery appears here to stay at least for the medium term, with limited numbers in restaurants, people will continue to cook at home more and what better opportunity to try something different.
Ask for local seafood and ask your fishmonger how and what they would recommend you do with it - don’t be afraid, seafood is relatively easy and quick to cook!
Obviously we are all excited with restaurants open, our chefs and foodie friends being back ordering seafood and people eating out, and we look forward to our future with them. But it is also time to start telling the stories of the seafood being served as providing local, Victorian seafood gives such an amazing sense of support and unity.
SIV, our friendly fishers and seafood supply chain can help with unpacking and further understanding the story begin the fish you're serving and being served, so don't hold back and reach out. We are here to work together!
3. How are you and your team?
Our small team at SIV are ok... We've been working remotely since the middle of March and don't feel like we've missed a beat, to be honest. Yes there are different pressures, but the no commute is saving us mentally and being around family this much is something I don't think we've ever really experienced and we’re loving it. So, while it’s in tough and trying times, it feels like there are certainly some positives. And like everyone else, we’re getting a little excited about venturing out for a meal once again.