Crayfish Christmas Carnivale

Eager customers, colourful eskies, delicious aromas and a celebratory atmosphere marked the first Back of Boat sale (BoBs) of the 2021 Western Rock Lobster season in Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour on Tuesday 30 November.

Four boats – Neptune III, Sandra V, Sea Venture II and Vanessa James – arrived with the season’s first catch and supplied pre-orders and day sales at $45 a kilogram.

“I didn’t even bother putting my pots out this year,” one buyer said. “It’s cheaper to come down and buy here.”

Western Rock Lobster Council marketing and communications officer Natalia Perez Haedo handed out flyers explaining humane handling and preparation guidelines for the lobsters.

Bib and Tucker Restaurant chefs Scott Bridger and Sergio Labbe prepared canapés – including lobster salad and grilled lobster bites – for buyers, government, industry and media.

The Camarda family aboard Neptune III: Grandfather Jim, sons Fedele and Joe and grandson James

Aboard Neptune III, the coveted crustaceans were being sold by three generations of the Camarda family. Grandfather Giacomo (Jim), his sons Fedele and Joseph (Joe), and Fedele’s son James managed sales and chatted to buyers about the industry, their family history and crayfish.

Fedele is Deputy Chair of the Western Rock Lobster Council’s Southern Zone and a recently elected Fremantle City Councillor.

Jim has been fishing for decades and grandson James, a university student, has been working with the family for three years. They all appreciate the history and community of the industry. “Behind every one of these boats is a family,” James said, looking around the harbour.

And on this boat it’s a family that supports the Fremantle Dockers, jokingly checking AFL allegiances before granting boarding rights … with one punter suggesting Eagles’ supporters would make good bait.

Ship to Shore. An early customer takes delivery from the season’s first rock lobster catch

BoBs were introduced in September 2020, with more than 80 boats selling directly to buyers since then. Sales are held at 19 landing areas on WA’s west coast, including Lancelin, Geraldton and Kalbarri.

This year the WA Government approved a request from the Western Rock Lobster Council to double the number commercial fishers could sell from landings. During December, to satisfy Christmas demand, they can sell up to 400. At other times they can sell up to 200.

Fisheries Minister Don Punch was at the event and said: “Our western rock lobster is unique … back of boat sales are proving to be a diner’s delight, allowing consumers to source lobster fresh off the fishing vessels as they bring in their catch from this sustainably-managed fishery. During last December alone, 27,489 kilograms – or approximately 45,500 lobsters – were sold to the WA community through back of boat sales. By effectively doubling the daily quota for back of boat sales, fishers will be able to meet growing demand from Western Australians over the festive period while also developing new local supply chain opportunities.” The Minister suggested customers could ask the fisher for their favourite recipe.

Fedele Camarda said the event was a success. “Back of boat sales has allowed us to reconnect with the public and provide the freshest possible quality product straight out of the ocean,” he said. “It’s fantastic to be able to meet people and share the stories of our industry.”

Rock lobsters, twenty of them, safely hauled home in the esky with the young bloke riding shotgun

And there were plenty of people of all ages, from seven week old Eleonore and her mum Marie St-Denis to buyers in their seventies. This year they all seemed organised, with eskies and ice or cooler bags to transport their haul home. Last year there were a few bemused customers, one thinking she would be buying pre-prepared crays on trays. One fellow brought a lightweight backpack which could have led to an uncomfortable trip home and some questionable scratches.

Story © Danielle Berryman 2021  

Photography © Roger Garwood & Danielle Berryman 2021

4 thoughts on “Crayfish Christmas Carnivale

  1. Interesting insight into the first catch of the season being bought in & sold, the families and information about the industry.
    Some nice images to accompany the text.

  2. Great reporting and love the photos, Roger.
    As a Brit, I don’t know what eskies are…!
    Can someone tell me?

    1. G’day from down under Chris. An Esky, cap E, is the trade name of mobile ice boxes, food containers. It is now a commonly used term for any ice box or mobile fridge but in most cases, if it’s not a genuine Esky we use a lower case e. Naturally, in the UK, you would not have heard of them because you live in the coldest known place in the universe and have no need for them. I last used my esky yesterday evening when I packed my gin and tonic kit – bottle of gin, tonic water, lemon, ice and a couple of glasses – and wandered to the top of Monument Hill to watch the sunset with a mate. Cheers, chin chin, stay well and warm. 🙂

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