From the early 1900’s the Western Rock Lobster industry was controlled by a small group of factories that purchased the fishermen’s product at the lowest possible price, processed the lobster and then sold to various markets – predominantly the USA.
Often referred to as “canneries”, these processors ‘canned’ the lobster and exported overseas. Most of the sales were consigned to fulfil defence force contracts.
1949 - 1951
A small group of fishermen located in Geraldton floated the idea of a northern co-operative, with the intention to deregulate the industry controlled by factory owners, increase returns on their catch, and develop greater marketing efficiencies.
The first shipment of Brolos brand Western Rock lobster was processed.
Developing US Market
Post War, American consumer palettes evolved demanding a sophisticated product than canned crayfish. WA fishermen implemented more select grading standards and quality control mirrored from the South African industry with the intention of gaining a market share in the lucrative US Tails market.
Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative was one of ten lobster processors operating in Western Australia. GFC had begun to establish itself as an innovative processor offering a range of frozen lobster tail products to the United States as well as servicing Co-op fishermen and members with various services, including pot leasing, marine brokerage, and financial advice and assistance.
1954 - 1955
Early research indicated that the developing Asian economy may provide a new export opportunity for GFC and Western Rock lobster, and the potential to diversify product offerings. Early trials of whole cooked lobster were sent to Singapore and Japan.
1950s – 1960s
Through the 1950’s and 60’s GFC continued to be on the precipice of an evolving rock lobster industry. The timing of the Co-op and the over-riding strategic intentions to effectively service fisherman and provide innovative/ efficient marketing strategies were intrinsic in development the Western Rock lobster as a brand on the global stage. The industry had undergone a chrysalis; from a one-dimensional mass marketed lobster cannery to a professional and innovative industry.
As part of a strategic initiative to diversify processing capabilities, GFC experimented with catching/ processing prawns and scallops along the mid-west coast during rock lobster fishery closures.
1979: Royal Seal of approval
HRH The Prince of Wales officially opened Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative new office buildings on 14th March 1979.
1984: Live Export
To ensure that full range of Brolos products was made available to international customers it was decided to experiment with the export of live lobsters. A small shed with eighteen tanks was built behind the Co-op store and, through trial and error, an operational system was devised ready for the 1985 season.
Taiwan becomes the leading destination for WRL. GFC also pioneers direct sales of live lobster into Beijing.
2000: MSC Certification
The Western Rock Lobster fishery becomes the world’s first to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for sustainable fishing practices. Originally certified in March 2000, the fishery has since been recertified four times, most recently in May 2017.
GFC develops sashimi grade frozen products, as well as ready-to-serve food-service products. Western European demand grows. Live sales to China start to gradually increase. GFC has grown its market share through both organic growth and acquisitions, increasing from a 19% market share to over 60% throughout the decade.
2015: GFC China
GFC China launched in 2015, a subsidiary company of GFC based in China aiming to enhance operations in one of the most significant seafood consumption markets in the world.
2017: Welshpool Live Lobster Facility
$23m Welshpool live lobster storage and export facility is commissioned in 2017.
2020: Brolos Fresh seafood launched
Perched right on the water at Geraldton wharf, the philosophy of Brolos Fresh is simple – fresh, local, sustainably caught seafood, taken straight from the boat and expertly prepared for customers. The Brolos Fresh team will work with local fishers in West Australia to source only the best fresh fish, lobster and seafood for locals and tourists. Brolos Fresh is GFC’s direct-to-public outlet for Brolos lobster in the Midwest, further enhancing the West Australian community’s close connection with an iconic fishery.
2021; Sultan Way Production Facility Upgrade
Capital works begin at GFC’s frozen lobster production facility in Fremantle, Western Australia.
Upgrades to the facility include a unique steam tunnel for cooked lobster, as well as automation of production lines to improve product quality and reduce manual handling tasks for staff.
2022; Western Rock Lobster achieves global milestone
In a world first, Western Australia’s Western Rock Lobster has been re-certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for the fifth time. The re-certification represents a major sustainability milestone for the entire industry, from commercial fishers, processors and government.
MSC’s Fisheries Standard assesses whether a fishery is well-managed and sustainable. The process involves a rigorous independent expert review, which examines the sustainability of the breeding stock, fishing effort, and the fishery’s impact on the wider environment. It also looks at how well the fishery consults with stakeholders, recreational fishers and conservation organisations.