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From humble beginnings in Geraldton, Western Australia in 1950, The Geraldton Fishermen’s Cooperative (‘the Cooperative’.) With 150 fishermen-members spread out over 800kms of coastline, the Cooperative exports more than 3,200 tonne of western rock lobster annually, with a turnover of approximately $200 million of export dollars, all pumped into the local communities here in the west. This season, the Cooperative will export over 90 per cent of its intake to mainland China. Most of this product will be consumed in fine dining restaurants in southern and eastern coastal cities, where demand for seafood is strong and growing. In fact, demand for western rock lobster is so strong that prices attainable in China now outstrip any other market destination by 25 per cent.
The Cooperative initiated a joint venture partnership with a major seafood importer based in Beijing in 1995, but it wasn’t until around 2009 that the continuous 8 to 12 per cent growth hit the exponential part of the curve and sales and prices started to rapidly increase. Meanwhile, the global financial crisis occurred, damaging the Cooperative’s traditional markets.
The combination of these two events catapulted China into the number one position, and it continues to see demand and prices improve. Fishing remains an important part of the local economie’s and regional identity, and Chinese demand is the new lifeblood for the more than 1000 skippers, deckhands, staff, support industries and government employees that rely directly or indirectly on the activities of the Geraldton Fishermen’s Cooperative.