A-UK FTA helps Austral Fisheries reel in new UK supply partnerships 

The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement has been a boon for Austral Fisheries’ exports to the UK.

Austral Fisheries is an Australian seafood company with high standing in the global fishing industry.

‘We are privileged to be the custodians of some of Australia’s most extraordinary fisheries resources,’ says David Carter, CEO of Austral Fisheries.

As a steward of the ocean and the environment, Austral Fisheries represents 71% of the entire Australian toothfish industry. It also represents 25% of Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery – the country’s largest. 

When the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) entered into force on 31 May 2023, it was a gamechanger for Austral. The A-UK FTA removed tariffs on its world-renowned Glacier 51 toothfish and wild-caught banana prawns. This meant the company could secure new foodservice and retail partnerships in the UK. 

Home-chefs can now find Austral’s Glacier 51 toothfish in London’s famous upscale department store Selfridges and at Whole Foods UK.

‘These milestones mark just the beginning of our dedicated push into the UK market,’ says Dylan Skinns, General Manager, Sales & Marketing, Austral Fisheries. ‘We are committed to providing the UK market with top-quality seafood products and are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.’

Sustainability drives Austral’s commercial success

David Carter spent his entire career – from deckhand to CEO – steering Austral towards a more sustainable future. He was the driving force behind the company becoming the first commercial fishery in the world to be certified as carbon neutral in 2016.

‘Whether it’s the challenge of overcapacity in prawn fisheries or illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, or some of the bigger climate challenges that our oceans face, the idea that we are doing the right rather than the easy thing every time is what sustains me,’ says Carter.

Carter’s efforts were recognised with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Sustainable Seafood Awards Australia.

Austral’s Glacier 51 toothfish also won “Best Sustainable Seafood Product” from the MSC. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has rated it a “best choice” species.

Read more about Austral’s sustainability credentials.

Glacier 51 gains global recognition

Austral has worked to grow brand recognition for its Glacier 51 toothfish. That work is starting to pay off, with the product being represented in higher-end markets.

‘We’re on the menu at Nobu in the US,’ says Carter. ‘We’re also on the Qantas menu for outbound first-class flights from Sydney to Melbourne. We’ve got some pretty neat distributors in Milan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.’

Austral has expanded exports from 5 countries to around 20 in just a decade.

‘The quality of the fish itself is just one half of the equation,’ Carter adds. ‘Sustainability has played a major role in this expansion.’

A plate with a fillet of toothfish, two dumplings, shelled and unshelled peas, enoki mushrooms and edible flowers, in a light broth.

A plate of Austral Fisheries’ Glacier 51 toothfish. Image courtesy of Catalina restaurant.

A-UK FTA creates new supply partnerships

The UK is an important export market for Austral.

Since the A-UK FTA entered into force, Austral has secured supply partnerships in the foodservice and retail sectors across the UK.

‘The removal of tariffs on our Glacier 51 toothfish and banana prawns has opened up a new market segment for us in the UK,’ says Skinns. ‘We are now competitive in the UK’s retail sector and have secured partnerships with Selfridges and Whole Foods UK.’

The renowned Daisy Green group of restaurants has introduced Australian banana prawns to its menu across 16 venues, highlighting the quality and appeal of Austral’s products.

Austral is also negotiating supply partnerships with prestigious establishments such as the Ivy Asia Group and Nobu London. This will further expand its reach in the UK’s high-end market segment.

Austrade’s Trade and Investment Commissioner for the UK and Ireland, Anastasia Nishnianidze, says the A-UK FTA delivered a big boost to Australian seafood exports. ‘What we’ve seen is a lot more interest in sourcing from Australia; it’s become much more competitive in terms of price,’ she says.

‘One year ago, it would be nearly impossible to buy Australian seafood products in the UK. With more major retailers like Marks & Spencer (M&S) and online grocer Ocado expressing interest in Australian seafood lines, these products could soon be a lot more accessible and readily available for UK consumers.’

Ocean-to-plate traceability

Consumers across the world increasingly seek seafood with reliable provenance and are willing to pay a premium for it.

Austral has worked with OpenSC since 2019 to make its seafood fully traceable. OpenSC is a joint venture between WWF (Australia) and consultants, BCG Digital Ventures. The result is a blockchain-powered app that allows purchasers of toothfish and prawns to see where their seafood originates.

‘Our consumers are hungry for information,’ says Skinns. ‘They want the ocean-to-plate story. Now they can scan a QR code and get the latitude and longitude of where the seafood was caught. They can also see where it was processed.’

Skinns says the ability to tell an ocean-to-plate story helps boost exports. He also says the QR app helps preserve its brands – including the Glacier 51 brand he created for Patagonian toothfish.

How Austrade helped

Austrade’s UK team has supported Austral Fisheries since 2021. ‘Their introductions to new strategic retail and wholesale partners in the UK have been instrumental to our success, particularly this past year,’ says Skinns. ‘Austrade achieved in a few months, what would take us years to develop.

‘We also benefit from participation in Austrade-organised trade shows. In March 2024, we joined the International Food & Drink Event in London. Austrade’s tailored business program gave us the opportunity to get in front of key seafood wholesalers and potential new retail partners.’ 

Go further, faster with Austrade

Austrade’s Go Global Toolkit helps you learn the export basics, find the right markets and understand market requirements.