We’ve all heard of ‘paddock to plate’ when talking about serving farm fresh food, but how about ‘from sea to serve’?
It’s all about dishing up wild, local, fresh seafood.
When you eat the fish smoked and processed by Luke Truant and Lincoln Kirchner, they can tell customers where it was caught, how it was caught and the name of the individual who hauled it in.
The cousins, from Bundaberg in south-east Queensland, have started a sustainable and ethical seafood smokery, in the hope Australians will change the way they consume seafood.
The fish processed in the boutique smokery on the banks of the Burnett River, are caught by small-scale commercial fishers using techniques with limited bycatch and each fish is euthanased immediately.
Mr Truant and Mr Kirchner discovered that dispatching fish quickly and efficiently, rather than leaving them to die in nets, created a superior product for processing.
“When you go to the butcher, you don’t expect your beef to be drowned to death,” Mr Kirchner said.
“We think it’s the same with fish. They shouldn’t suffocate.
“For example, mullet that have been euthanased, bled immediately and put on ice are coming out as an end product with a far better quality. It makes such a big difference.”
The cousins source seasonal fish with strong numbers in the wild, such as blue salmon, mullet and Spanish mackerel.
Fishers often drop off the fish within half an hour of being removed from the southern Great Barrier Reef waters.
A Japanese method of dispatching is used on the fish once caught, and Mr Truant believed this handling was why the flavour of the flesh was so pure and refined.
“There’s a massive movement for the Japanese ikejime technique,” Mr Truant said.
“A lot of people say they won’t eat mullet because it’s a strong-flavoured fish.
“Mullet is not a strong-flavoured fish — it’s a gorgeous, delicate, light flavour, if it’s been dealt with properly.”
It’s not just the method of capture that dictates the flavour and quality of fish being consumed.
Using line-caught or small targeted net fishing also means consumers are eating fish that have lived off a natural diet, compared with farmed fish.
Mr Truant believed the benefits to flavour are all about diet and exercise.
“I don’t want to talk ill of the fish farming industry, [but] they are not fed their natural food,” Mr Truant said.
“If you’re eating a fish that’s been fed offal, chicken fats and soy proteins, it’s not going to taste like a fish that’s been swimming in the wild eating other fish.
“In the cattle industry, the biggest catchphrase is grass-fed beef. Why does nobody care what their fish has been eating?”
Keeping the consumer informed
In recent years the seafood industry has been in the spotlight, with demand for seafood impacting on wild fish numbers and concerns over how supply can continue if the oceans are exhausted.
Education and sustainable fishing methods are vital if the commercial fishing industry wants to maintain a positive profile.
Mr Truant and Mr Kirchner hoped, by letting consumers know the history of the fish they have supplied, the value was understood.
“We can trace every single fish to their point of capture,” Mr Kirchner said.
“If anybody comes back with one of our batch numbers, we can tell them when and where it was caught. We document that all the way through.
“How we batch number is by who caught it, so we can tell them the fisherman who caught it.”
The subtropical Bundaberg region is fast becoming one of the biggest food bowls in Australia, leading the country in production of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, macadamia nuts, and chillies.
Mr Truant and Mr Kirchner hope the local seafood industry would benefit from the high profile of the area’s food production.
For Mr Truant, it was about following a passion and providing ethical seafood.
“For my day job, I’m a master and engineer on super yachts,” he said.
“Why have I decided to come into smoked seafood? It’s a passion.
“I believe in our cause: obtaining the fish in the ethical and sustainable way. It’s a heartfelt project.”
What’s the catch with Australian seafood?
In 2014 Tasmanian farmer, documentary maker, and consumer advocate Matthew Evans examined the global seafood industry in the SBS series What’s the Catch?
Mr Evans discovered the use of seasonal and sustainable fish was not common in the Australian market with 75 per cent of the seafood consumed imported from overseas.
More common fish species were not being used in a way that benefitted the oceans, and the public needed to reconsider what fish they chose to eat so supplies of top feeders did not become exhausted.
“Sadly there’s about 50 or 60 different species of fish caught around Australia but the market only wants five of six of those,” Mr Evans said.
“So the others get wasted or poorly used or not valued; there is incredible capacity to use the lesser known species.”
He said fish considered ‘bait fish’ such as mullet, pilchards and Australian salmon were being wasted because of how they were processed and prepared.
“If they are killed instantly and bled they are as good as any other fish. It’s not just handling; it’s how the fish are cooked and served,” Mr Evans said.
“It’s that handling right from the time that fish is pulled from the ocean to the time it goes in your mouth that makes all the difference.”
Mr Evans believed Australian fishers were well managed, with the amount of fish allowed to be caught updated annually to consider population and environmental factors, but what the public desired could improve ocean fish stocks.
“I’ve been to the fish markets near Moreton Bay in Brisbane and seen crate loads of lesser-known fish being almost wasted, sold for $3/kg or some of them even ending up turned into fertiliser,” Mr Evans said.
“What a travesty, what an insult to the oceans, what an insult to the fishermen who often put their lives on the line to catch those fish.”
Ethical and sustainable fish processors were still far from common in Australia and Mr Evans believed the Bundaberg company was doing something positive for their local community, oceans and seafood industry.
“We should be able to buy locally sourced, sustainably fished, well-handled seafood in every coastal fishing village in Australia,” he said.
Topics: fishing-aquaculture, food-and-beverage, food-and-cooking, environmental-management, bundaberg-4670, agnes-water-4677, murgon-4605, gayndah-4625, noosa-heads-4567, maryborough-4650, hervey-bay-4655, gympie-4570