The Southern Rock Lobster Industry is South Australia’s most valuable commercial wild-caught fishery, generating up to $280 million worth of economic activity for the state each year.
“Integrating the food, wine, tourism and agricultural sectors within the Limestone Coast will give us more strength in the marketplace because of the diverse range of quality products and services available from a very unified area.” – Andrew Lawrie
Robe is one of the major ports for the lucrative fishing fleet, and Sky Seafoods is the coastal town’s only live lobster exporter, delivering 95 per cent of its seasonal catch to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.
The company was established in 1997, and one of its directors, Andrew Lawrie, is a live seafood exporting pioneer who has been involved in the industry right from the beginning.
“The Lawrie family commenced live export of lobster from Robe in 1987 with a facility they built and under their own brand known as Ocean Blue Seafoods,” he explains. “This was sold in 1996, so I then established the Sky Seafoods factory.”
While the factory sources its rock lobster from right along the Limestone Coast, the Sky Seafoods name is synonymous with Robe Rock Lobster and the company prides itself on selling the freshest, best-priced, live and cooked seafood to local, interstate and overseas markets. The factory’s commercial outlet also sells seasonal supplies of fresh lobster and seafood to domestic markets, with the general public able to select live lobster straight from the holding tanks.
How has the Limestone Coast region enabled you to create a successful brand or business?
The Limestone Coast is home to the Southern Zone fishing region, which has developed an international reputation for its clear, pristine waters and extremely high quality product. The industry’s Clean Green image has been reinforced by a world-first rock lobster supply chain management strategy integrating “pot to plate” best practice standards for environmental management, food safety and quality, work place safety and animal welfare.
The industry is also considered highly sustainable, with the Limestone Coast one of the first regions in Australia to introduce a quota system which puts a cap on the amount of lobsters taken from the sea each season. The end result of all of these efforts is that rock lobster from South Australia’s Limestone Coast is not only in strong demand, but is widely considered the best in the world.
Where would you like to see the Limestone Coast region in the next 5 years in terms of brand recognition for the region, marketing of products and collaboration of industries?
The free Trade agreement with China will open up more opportunities than ever for Australian food exporters, and the Limestone Coast is well-positioned to take advantage of this as a result of the premium food products coming out of this region.
Consequently, I would like to see our Southern Rock Lobster be recognised for the Limestone Coast Region in which it has been caught, and branded so as to differentiate it from Tasmania and New Zealand, who also supply Southern Rock lobster.
What are some of the successes that you have achieved (and have these been made possible because of your location)?
I have been involved with live lobster export since its inception due to the collapse of American tail market back in the eighties. We have continually visited Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China establishing, nurturing and servicing current and new customers.
I have been exporting live lobster now for the past 28 years, and still find excitement in the market albeit it more volatile these days in terms of price and demand fluctuations.
We have been able to support our communities where we buy lobster – Robe, Beachport and Port MacDonnell – and in addition to supporting fishermen right along the coast, we provide seasonal employment for 15-20 people each year.
Regional Hero: Andrew Lawrie
Owner, Sky Seafoods, 58 Robe St, Robe SA 5276
Telephone (08) 8768 2899