THE Abbott fishing family of Narooma is taking its future into its own hands when it comes to making a living from the sea.
Their tactic is to process and market their own catch, cutting out the middleman, adding value and bringing the freshest of local fish to the region, as far as Canberra, through the phenomenon of burgeoning farmers markets.
Leading the charge is 23-year-old Hayley Abbott, just back from university in the United States where she attended South East Missouri State University on a soccer scholarship, earning a business degree.
Upon her return in May she started the company Narooma Seafood Direct, based in their freshly renovated and specially fitted out factory on Glasshouse Rocks Road.
“We started the company because we just weren’t getting paid enough for our fish by the buyers,” Hayley said.
“We still send some of our fish off, mostly to Melbourne, but only when the price is right.”
The family has always fished. Grandfather Des Creighton, who at 87 is still a fixture and helping hand around the factory, starting out in the late 1940s fishing for mostly kingfish, back in the days when Narooma still had a tuna cannery on Forsters Bay.
Dad John Abbott rebuilt the long-liner Fisco II and brought her to Narooma, where she is now operated by Hayley’s brothers Todd and Ryan.
The Abbott brothers set long-lines for bluefin, yellowfin and albacore tuna, while other regular catches include dolphinfish, swordfish, rudderfish, marlin and black snapper or Ray’s bream.
John meanwhile operates a smaller boat in State waters catching inshore species such as kingfish, snapper and flathead to supplement the pelagics from the Fisco.
In a typical week these days, the Fisco arrives back in port on Thursday. The fish are unloaded with black snapper and dolphinfish processed that evening.
At 5.30am, it’s processing the spearfish and rudderfish and then at 9.30am the larger tuna and marlin.
Hayley joked that they never let her used to butcher the big fish but now she was getting used to cutting up fish such as the 70kg bigeye tuna she tackled on Friday.
The blast freezer flash freezes the vacuum-packed portions in 30 minutes or less.
After a short break, Hayley and mum in on Friday afternoon tow the specially built, refrigerated trailer up to Canberra where they stay in a motel for two nights going to three separate farmers markets.
“It’s been fun to selling to and educating the people from Canberra who are not used to so many kinds of fresh fish in their local area at the prices we offer with no middleman,” she said.
And Hayley whose other degree was in sports management, said fish was an excellent protein that was “tasty and good for you”.
Alongside the Narooma Seafood Direct stall are often Erica and Nic Dibden, who have followed a similar business model processing and marketing their Tilba Milk.
After Sunday morning’s market it’s back down to the coast for mother and daughter, in time for the Moruya farmers markets on Tuesday.
Hayley also markets plate-size portions to local restaurants with regulars being Michael’s at Dalmeny, The Whale, JJ’s at the Top of the Town Motel and Ciccios Surf Beach Café.
The Abbotts are proud that they use all parts of the fish with all the flesh utilized for either fish mince or fish cakes, and even the scraps go to a trap fisherman in Bermagui and a lobster fisherman in Narooma for bait.
So if you want to support a local family, business and industry get down to the factory on a Friday or Tuesday mornings to buy some of the freshest seafood around.
Fishing families are disappointed that Australians are too quick to opt for the cheapest with three quarters of seafood now imported.
“Each week it’s getting bigger but we do want to be careful we have consistency of supply and we will just see where it takes us,” Hayley said.
“We also want to make sure the quality is there and we take the greatest care to look after the fish making sure it is not flopping around on the deck.”