Samudra Report

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Issue No:82
  • :0973–1121
  • :February
  • :2020

Samudra Report No.82, February 2020

Roundup News, events, briefings and more...

Fisheries Livelihoods

Coronavirus hits Torres Strait’s traditional fishers as rock lobster market hits rock bottom

January and February are usually the busiest time of year for longtime Torres Strait fisherman Boggo Billy. Ordinarily, just before dawn or dusk, he would navigate out in a dinghy from his home on Warraber, a 37-ha island between the top of Cape York and the southern coast of Papua New Guinea, which is home to around 250 people. The reefs around the island teem with life: bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers), dugongs, crabs and tropical rock lobsters that are usually worth around $70 a kg from middlemen supplying fish markets in China.

Billy’s local knowledge, inherited from generations before him, means he knows when “the good tides” will roll in and what they mean for the crustaceans, which leaves him perfectly poised to capitalise on the boom brought on by lunar new year.

But this year the boom was a bust. Live crayfish prices plummeted after the outbreak of coronavirus in December. China cancelled many lunar new year celebrations and banned the import of live seafood.

On the Torres Strait, rock lobsters are the region’s second-most valuable fishery and a vital source of income for people in small island...

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