18 December 2023

Seafood still to be centre of Illawarra Christmas lunches despite lifestyle and weather challenges

| Kellie O'Brien
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Harley and Johns Seafood Grant Logue

Harley and Johns Seafood owner Grant Logue is preparing for another busy Christmas season. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

Despite high costs and poor weather conditions impacting the seafood industry, Illawarra residents are still opting for fish instead of a roast dinner on Christmas Day.

“Every Christmas is getting busier,” Harley and Johns Seafood owner Grant Logue said.

“I think people are moving away from the old Christmas roast to more of a cold seafood lunch.

“They are experimenting with things like doing gravlax (cured salmon) and cured Ocean Trout. They are getting more adventurous in that way.”

Grant said lobster sales have fallen as households try to cut costs, but prawns and oysters are the staple for a seafood Christmas lunch.

“I noticed that for Father’s Day we were busier than normal, but we sold a quarter of the lobsters we would normally sell.”

“Pushing that through to now, things haven’t been any better, but I still think people will spend at Christmas. It’s the one time of year when it doesn’t really matter.”

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However, there may be a shortage of South Coast oysters this year due to the high levels of rain over the past few weeks, which have been “causing havoc” for oyster farmers.

“Pretty much every estuary on the South Coast is closed,” Grant said.

“If we get too much rain over a certain period of time, the rivers have to close until they test the water quality and once the water quality gets cleared, then they can start harvesting oysters again.

“With all the rain that we’ve had, it can take a couple of weeks for rivers to clear up.”

He said the volume of rain meant a lot of estuaries probably wouldn’t be opened in time for Christmas, but Harley and Johns Seafood has a good relationship with suppliers and will have Pacific oysters from Tasmania and South Australia as well.

“We just diversify a little bit to ensure we will have a good supply, but it does make it hard for the farmers.”

Christmas seafood market

Harley and Johns Seafood will host the second “meet the maker” market in the driveway beside the business on Christmas Eve. Photo: Kellie O’Brien.

Grant said customers increasingly want to source sustainable, local seafood, and his business was the first independent fish market in NSW to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) chain of custody certification, which ensures seafood comes from a fishery certified as sustainable.

“So we do get a lot of people coming in wanting wild-caught, sustainably caught seafood,” he said.

“The sustainability of our oceans is our business. Without the sustainability of our oceans, we don’t have a business.

“That’s the big thing that I’ve noticed – people want to know where it’s all coming from, want to know the story behind the seafood, want to know about the fishermen.”

The business will be opening its doors for a “meet the maker” market in the driveway beside the shop, as customers line up to get their Christmas Day seafood on 24 December.

Grant said the goal was to help support other Illawarra businesses and give the long line of customers waiting to pick up their fresh seafood orders on Christmas Eve a chance to do last-minute Christmas shopping and meet the makers behind the products they sell instore.

Stallholders will include South Coast Blends, Artisan Delish Salami, Wild Paws dehydrated dog treats, South Coast Distillery, Yum Yum Chilli Oil and preserved product business Zee’s Love In A Jar.

“All the stallholders from last year, they were approaching me saying ‘Are we going to do it again?’,” he said.

“We’ve got the people coming to us, so if I can help out these other businesses and sell their product throughout the shop, then I will.

“I don’t charge the stallholders anything – they just turn up and it’s a way of helping out small businesses because we need to help each other.”

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Harley and Johns Seafood started as a fish market at the Wollongong Harbour 35 years ago, before the harbour was redeveloped in 1988 and the business relocated to Fairy Meadow.

Grant took over the business in 2009 after needing a career change as a carpenter building large houses in Sydney.

“I was working on Cate Blanchett’s house at Hunters Hill. I loved the work but was sick of the travel,” he said.

He said the business had diversified its offerings since then and last year introduced online ordering for larger orders for local pick-up.

For more information about Harley and Johns Seafood, visit the website or place your Christmas order online.

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