Shoppers will soon see South Australian rock lobster in markets as the fishery opens early again this year following China’s trade ban.

Key points:

  • Processors are diversifying their products for local markets affected by the pandemic
  • An export bottleneck is expected as fishers access uncaught quotas from last year
  • China’s trade ban continues to impact the industry

Commercial fishers will be leaving ports today to start the season.

Primary Industries Minister David Basham said this would help fishers get product out in time for traditional Chinese celebrations in the state this month.

“Opening the rock lobster season early will give our fishers greater flexibility to market their product,” he said.

‘Might get a bit tougher’

Exporters are anticipating a bottleneck, with fishers allowed to access uncaught quota from last year and smaller export markets due to China’s trade ban.

As well as having an extended season, commercial fishers are allowed to carry over uncaught fish from one season to the next. (

ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham


Managing director of lobster processing company Ferguson Australia Andrew Ferguson said there was a lot of uncertainty.

“It does create problems for people like us to manage the lobster supply as best we can and not get caught out holding lobsters when the prices drop,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said the company would not be able to rely on the domestic market if exports fell through.

“New South Wales, being underwater due to COVID-19, and Victoria the same, does make it tough for restaurants,” he said.

Lobster processor Andrew Ferguson is producing frozen lobster meat which is easier for home cooks.(

ABC: Bec Whetham


Creating opportunities

Mr Ferguson said value-adding had helped them diversify and ride out this period of uncertainty.

His company will be releasing a new product next month.

“We do a lot of portion frozen product for different places — there’s a bit of a local market,” he said.

Seafood exporter and processor Andrew Ferguson is exploring other market opportunities. (

ABC News: Lincoln Rothall


He said the pandemic had changed their business.

“We don’t just do lobster. We do other fish products in the local supermarkets, and that market has definitely grown since COVID-19,” he said.

“It’s made a big difference to our sales over the last six months for the opportunities of value-added products.

“With COVID-19, more people eating at home looking for good products.”

However, they’re still exploring more export opportunities.

“I look forward to the time in the next six months that we can travel again to grow these opportunities further.”

Commercial fishers will be leaving ports to start the Southern rock lobster season early.(

ABC: Bec Whetham


Posted , updated