Life of a fisherman

October 13, 2019

Life of a fisherman

To get an idea of where our fish and seafood come from, we interviewed fisherman Damien Readett. Damien has a pretty epic instagram site (@damien_readett), where he posts shots from out at sea. We have reposted numerous of his pictures however I was more interested to hear from him about life at sea and what exactly it entails. I found it really interesting reading and hope it helps everyone to ask the question before they purchase any seafood product. Where has this come from? 
Where do you live?

Tropical Portland, Victoria.

How long have you been fishing?

20 something years , I took a couple off when we were having babies so my wife didn't kill me!

Do you enjoy it and do you think you will be doing it for much longer?

I think anyone that does this job long term has to have a love for it. It's not something you can half commit to. You're at sea for extended periods, sometimes in rough weather, if you're not comfortable with that, it's not a job you can do.
As it turns out I'd say I'm where I might outlast my industry and have to reskill into something else. When I started there was 12 boats ( deep sea trawlers) in my port, now there's four. Its getting tougher and tougher, like it is for all primary producers in Australia.
Free markets means we often can't compete with imported species we fish for locally here and there's good arguments that our product (fresh caught and ice chilled under sustainable practices) is superior to frozen imports but consumers will always buy cheaper and who can blame them.
If coles tries to sell milk for $1 people rally behind our farmers, while Australian fishermen are ripped off every day, pushed to the wall and not a whisper.

What boat do you work on and where is its home port?

I work on the Moria Elizabeth, it's a 90 foot stern trawler, our home port is Portland Victoria. I've worked on a few boats, Victory, Saxon Progress, Belriba, Sariba, Osprey, Enterprise, I'm sure I'm forgetting a few there as well.

Where do the boats go to fish and are they after specific species of fish? How long are the trips out?

The area we work in is called the South East trawl zone, it extends to just past Beachport in South Australia to the South West cape of Tasmaina (Low Rocky)  or thereabouts. I have been further Orange Roughy fishing, 300 odd NM South East of Hobart, gets frisky down there.

It's varied market fishery that includes deep water species such as Blue Grenadier, Pink Ling, Dory, Gummy and School shark, Flathead and the list goes on. It's all ice fresh, not frozen from a sustainable well managed fishery, so as a consiencous consumer, it really does pay to ask where the fish is from to ensure you're getting the best of it. 

We spend mostly about a week at sea, but sometimes longer depending how far away we are, fishing conditions and the like.

How exactly are the fish caught and do you use different methods if trying for different species?

The boat I work on is Stern Trawler and our method of fishing is as follows ..
we tow a net (diamond trawl, wing trawl, ballon trawl) with a mouth just under 40m wide. From there it's connected to ' sweeps ' wire 150 m long to trawl doors, (weighted shaped steel that under tow is designed to spread the sweeps and net. Then from there it's connected to warps ( wire ) on winches and we shoot from 500ftms to 1500ftms depending on depth we want to fish, fish we want to target
sound sketchy?
sound like it could all go wrong?
It can and does and just when you think you've seen every possible screw up, you get the begrudged joy of seeing something new to try and figure out usually in a gale because where's the fun if it's easy.

Once the product is back at port, where are they sold? Fish market or direct to businesses or fish co-op?

We sell to markets in Melbourne, prices can vary on times of year, amounts of fish on the market and various other eye rolling excuses used to rip you off. That's before we get stung for freight, commission and a myriad of finger in the pie costs.

Could you give us a run down of a typical day and night out on the boat? A 24 hour period?

Shoot away on daybreak, tow the net for up to 5 hrs, winch up process fish, shoot away while your doing that, etc etc
it's 24 hr operation, you sleep and eat when you can.

Do you like eating fish or are you just over it?! If so, what is your favourite species and how do you cook it?

Finally a decent question ;)
This is my recipe for Balmain Bugs (listen up shore people)
1/ boil bugs in salt water until they just change colour , pull them out into ice water
2/peel bugs , cut tails in half
3/ place on freezer bag with half curry powder, half flour, shake it baby
4/ put in pan with boiling oil until golden brown (use a decent oil heathens)
5/ serve with seafood sauce and credit my good name to your amazed guests

You're welcome 
The hansom devil himself!





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