The Commercial Fishermen’s Co-Operative (formerly Newcastle District Fishermen’s Co-operative) was formed in 1945 to service the needs of the local commercial fishers by way of providing fuel, ice, gas, cold storage, mooring facilities, transport and the marketing of the daily catch of seafood either locally or in Sydney.
There are currently 130 shareholder members who work independently in their fishing businesses either in the estuaries or on their fish/prawn trawlers depending on their individual endorsements.
The catches are consigned through one of the Co-operative’s seven receiving depots located over a 200km area between Tuggerah and Seal Rocks. These facilities are sited at Gorokan, Tacoma, Swansea, Newcastle, Nelson Bay, Tea Gardens and Bungwahl with the administration office being located in Newcastle.
The members are required to purchase shares in the Co-operative with the minimum number being set at 3,500 (value $7,000) and the maximum 12,500 (value $25,000). A dividend is usually declared each year and calculated on the amount of paid up capital as at 30 June.
A rebate (bonus) may be paid from profits and is based on the value of product supplied to the Co-Operative during that period by members who are required to consign at least $10,000 worth of seafood per year to retain active membership under the rules.
The policies of the Co-Operative are set by a board of eight directors who are elected by members to represent the different areas. The rules governing the conduct of members and the Co-Operative are based on the Co-Operatives Act. Meetings of the board are held on a monthly basis with all matters relevant to the fishing/seafood industry being discussed as these affect the operation and viability of the Co-Operative as well as the individual fishers.
In order to assist members to maximise their returns from the sale of their seafood catches, the Co-Operative operates retail shops in Newcastle, Swansea, Tacoma and Gorokan with others at Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens being leased to private operators. Restaurant facilities at Newcastle, Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens plus office accommodation in Newcastle are also leased to generate income in order to finance subsidised services for members.
The Co-Operative sells approximately 50% of the catch locally through the retail shops or wholesale markets with the balance being transported to Sydney Fish Market for auction on a daily basis. Filleting and other value adding of the fish are carried out in the Co-Operative’s processing facility at Newcastle. Seafood preparation and cooking demonstrations are conducted for groups to promote the local seafood in the specially equipped kitchen also located in the Newcastle premises.
Deregulation of seafood marketing in 1999 has forced the Co-Operative to compete for the product from individual fishers with other Registered Fish Receivers, therefore, it provides subsidised services to ensure the continued support of members to guarantee supply to their own organisation and safeguard their investment in the industry.
The volume of seafood consigned through the Commercial Fishermen’s Co-Operative over the past 20 years has been very consistent with any variations being influenced by adverse weather conditions.