Western Australian rock lobster nets European customers with sweet flavour and sustainable practices


Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative is exporting its sweet, sustainably caught western rock lobster to Europe.

Fancy savouring hand-caught lobster that tastes like the Australian ocean? Visit the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co‑operative (GFC) at the Australia Stand (GB305) at the Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, 23-25 April.

The co-operative, which markets lobster under the Brolos brand, has a global reputation for high-quality products and a commitment to industry-leading sustainable practices.

‘A little bit of ocean in a bite’

GFC’s lobsters are in a class of their own. A unique, slow-growing species, they spend 4 to 5 years maturing in the clean waters around the Abrolhos Islands off Western Australia’s coast. As a temperate species, they can be fished year-round.

Most of the meat is in a western rock lobster’s tail. This gives it a higher meat yield than Northern Hemisphere species.

‘According to connoisseurs, the meat has a sweeter, lighter flavour,’ says Shaun McInnes, GFC’s Corporate Affairs Manager.

Sharing wild-caught lobsters with the world

GFC sends fresh, chilled and frozen product around the world. However, distance means lobster is mainly shipped frozen to European markets. GFC has invested heavily in processing technology to ensure the frozen lobsters are the same quality and consistency as those sold live.

The rapid freezing process ensures the quality and texture of the final product is as close to fresh as possible.

A man on a boat holding a rock lobster and measuring it with a steel ruler.

Western Australia’s sustainably caught rock lobsters are winning customers worldwide with their sweet, light flavour.

Creating a sustainable legacy

GFC has held Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification continuously since 2000. In 2022, it became the first fishery to be recertified for the fifth time. The rigorous certification process involves assessing the entire supply chain, from bait to processing and production volumes.

Since its establishment in the 1950s, GFC has been owned and run for the benefit of the local fishers. These fishers have always made long-term sustainability a key priority.

‘Fishers and consumers are very much aligned in terms of the value and importance of sustainability. It benefits everyone,’ says McInnes.

Many of the fishers today are members of the co-operative’s original founding families. It is still common to see 2 or 3 generations of a family working a boat. Fishing licences tend to be passed down to the next generation. The family legacy literally depends on maintaining a sustainable fishery.

Sustainability offers short- and long-term wins

There are important short-term benefits as well. In a healthy fishery, each lobster is hand-selected for quality and size to better meet market needs.

‘There’s no race to fish now,’ says McInnes. ‘Everyone knows what they’re allowed to catch for a year, and they can choose when to catch that quota. Poor beach prices or poor weather mean they’ll choose not to go out. They can work based on market conditions and their own needs.’

This also has environmental benefits as fewer boat trips means less diesel is used. Technology such as depth sounders allows fishers to target fishing grounds carefully. In a healthy fishery, they can pick more lobsters with each pot that they pull.

How Austrade helped

GFC is a regional business with a small global business development team. It leaned on Austrade’s support, particularly for market intelligence and business connections.

GFC is exhibiting under Brand Australia at the Seafood Expo Global. ‘This makes a huge difference to us in terms of the traction we can achieve with potential buyers,’ says McInnes.

Manuel Barbera, Austrade Senior Business Development Manager in Madrid, adds: ‘Digital technology can do many things. But for making deals in the food industry in particular, the in-person connection is still important.

‘Buyers need to have a level of trust in producers, to be confident of the product and reassured of ongoing supply.’

Firmly committed to a sustainable future

For GFC, a long-term healthy fishery offers potential to reach more buyers. The fishery has plans for a consumer product for the European and UK markets. It plans to target new supermarkets and retailers – and will be reaching out to Austrade for support.

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