The live Coral Trout fishery is currently conservatively valued at $3.5 million. Demand for live Coral Trout is not being met and it is clear that the market could accept additional product. Anecdotal information also indicates that competing countries supplying the 14000T live tropical fish market in Hong Kong are suffering from over-fishing and demand is expected to further increase as a result.
A major limitation preventing the live Coral Trout industry expanding to fill the available market is the mortality due to injury and disease. Although developments in technology and skill level have occurred in the last 12 months, these developments are not industry wide and are generally specific to particular (eg very large) vessels. Most boats are presently restricted to a maximum of 5 to 6 days at sea as they are unable to hold the fish live for longer. In addition, although mortality of live fish may be as low as 2% from processor to market, mortality between capture and transfer to processors may reach 50% at some times of the year. Whilst current practice means that fish showing imminent sign of death are sacrificed to obtain fillet, this results in significant devaluing of the product. This leakage of product from the high value live market (@ $35+/kg) to the fillet market (+ $14+/kg) results in significant loss of value in this fishery with loss of income to all sectors of the industry.
The adoption of strategies to target the live trout, rather than the fresh frozen fillet, market also results in reduced total catch per boat due to the significant price advantage and larger on-board facilities required to hold the product. By providing information that will allow a code of practice to achieve World Best Practice, information that is not currently available for coral trout, this project that will facilitate the movement of boats into the live fishery. It is likely that the total catch will be reduced and the long-term sustainability of the fishery will be enhanced.