WA-based Austral Fisheries saw its profits dive 40 per cent last year, after worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns weighed on demand for its premium seafood products. Austral’s posted a $12.64 million after tax profit for the year ended December 2020, down from $21.18m a year earlier. Revenue was $144.8m, falling from $150.9m in 2019, according to filings with the corporate watchdog. Chief executive David Carter said a below-average banana prawn catch, because low rainfall, had an impact on the company’s bottom line. But the biggest hit came from a drop in demand and subsequently prices for toothfish, as restaurant, hotel and catering demand plummeted across the globe. “We also carried some extra costs in the managing the logistics during the pandemic: paying more for flights, hotel and quarantine requirements,” Mr Carter said. “That would not be trivial, but the big hit (to profits) was toothfish prices which fell by about a third — that was significant.” Mr Carter said demand for toothfish was slowly recovering. To overcome the loss of markets in the hospitality industry, Austral Fisheries had redirected much of its product, typically sold as 3kg fillets to hotels and restaurants, into smaller portions for retail customers. He said Austral had invested in portion cutting machines to pivot towards retail customers and had some good traction for its fixed weight portions, particularly in the US. The banana prawn season for 2021 started last week, with production forecast to be higher than last year. The first week of the season had yielded good results. In 2016, Austral — owned by Kailis Fisheries and Maruha Nichiro Corporation — became the world’s first commercial fishing company to be certified carbon neutral. Mr Carter said it spent the usual amount of about $500,000 in 2020 buying carbon credits, which ultimately resulted in the planting of about 130ha of trees in the Wheatbelt. The company paid $10.6m in dividends.