The future of the Footscray Fish Market is still in limbo as there seems to be no solution to relocating the market without breaking it apart.

The 13 businesses that operate there, of which nine are owned by Greeks, have until the end of the year to vacate the premises.

The Market was established approximately 50 years ago on Crown land which is now owned by the City of Melbourne.

However, VicRail is expected to take over ownership with the condition that the premises are vacated.

To this day no plausible alternative has been found for the relocation of the market as a whole. A plan to relocate the market to the industrial area of Brooklyn fell through as the fishmongers who had originally agreed backed down. The deal fell through due to what fishmongers deemed as “exorbitant costs.”

According to an industry insider, who spoke to Neos Kosmos on the condition of anonymity, the key issues which undermined the planned move to Brooklyn were, a rent four times higher than fishmongers pay now at Footscray and the 30-year-lease condition sought for the new premises.

A previous effort to relocate to Epping where the Footscray Fruit and Vegetable Market is going to move to, failed again due to the fish distributors and wholesalers baulking at the high rent required.

“It’s a shame they [Footscray fishmongers] haven’t found a new place where they can all be housed,” Terry Anassis of Anassis Seafoods Wholesale Distributor said to Neos Kosmos. He added that if the Footscray Fish Market is forced to forced to disperse, such a fragmentation would impact on the whole seafood retail market.

George Milonas of Victoria Markets Seafood, agrees with the above assessment, and points out that consumers should expect substantial price increases.

“Right now what happens for me as a retailer, I go to Footscray and they [fish and seafood wholesalers] are all there so there is competition and transparency,” he said.

If fishmongers don’t relocate collectively, it is likely that fish and seafood auctions will be conducted over the phone or Internet. “This could potentially compromise quality, as well as prices,” Mr Anassis further argued.

He emphasised that retailers, restaurateurs and wholesalers like himself will not be able to spend a whole day travelling to different locations looking for the best bargain.

It is expected that the dispersal of the Footscray Fish Market will generate higher transport costs which will more than likely be passed on to the consumer. “At this moment in time fish and seafood is affordable but it looks like it’s going to become a luxury item under this new scenario,” Mr Milonas highlights.

He argues that the Victorian Government needs to step in and partially subsidise the Footscray Fish Market relocation.

“It seems that the [Victorian] Government has washed it’s hands from the whole issue,” Mr Milonas said.

“But, we’re not only talking about 10 or 15 wholesalers we’re talking about an entire fishing industry,” he underscored.

According to the industry insider the market occupants are firstly trying to extend their relocation deadline to end of March or April of 2011.