The journey of a Christmas prawn

Lukin said most prawns on the Christmas market were caught in the two months leading up to the festive season.

Sea urchin roe tastes like a nuttier version of the rock oyster. Credit:Brook Mitchell

The fish market bustled with the first of an expected 100,000 customers on Friday morning and there was a small line out the door of Claudio’s seafood by 6:30am.

Market workers were shucking dozens of Sydney Rock Oysters and wheeling in boxes of glistening barramundi, and the market’s tour guide Alex Stollznow was preparing to hypnotise an eastern rock lobster. Lobsters fall into a “catatonic” state when stroked from front to back, he said.

“If you’re going to handle a live animal it pays to know how to not stress it. Even just for your own self-preservation,” said Stollznow.

Lobsters may be harder to get next Christmas as China relaxes the “shackles on our exports”, Dannoun said.

“We’ve certainly seen a lot of lobster that normally would’ve left the country to those export destinations stay in Australia.”

He said lobster was going for between $70 and $100 in the market’s retail stores and could become more expensive next year if Chinese buyers re-enter the market. Medium king prawns were going for as little as $30 to $35 a kilo.

A Christmas staple was imperilled after QX disease wiped out 16 per cent of NSW’s Sydney rock oyster supply, but there’s a spiky alternative that needs eating.


Long-spined sea urchins have become a pest marching south due to warmer seas, destroying underwater forests. The urchin’s yellow roe fetches high prices in Asia – a small bowl with rice can cost $60 – but urchins in Sydney can go for as low as $4, although the roe is a salty, nutty, acquired taste.

“Like tasting the ocean,” one hawker said, “but better.”

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