Home' Afloat : December 2013 Contents 70 AFLOAT.com.au December 2013
a toothfish on rod and reel. But the fish is making its mark in
Sydney and other culinary cities. And with all that Omega 3, it
has to be one of the healthiest fish in the sea. A gourmet treat.
MORE THAN A PASSING FAD
They are so effective Greenpeace and other big environmental
groups have lobbied to have them outlawed and some of the
world’s biggest industrial-fishing companies have leant their
support. I ’m talking about fish-aggregating devices (FADs), which
are man-made floating structures used
to attract tuna and other pelagic fish
for purse-seining fleets. Like proverbial
moths to the flame, FADs are fish
magnets with great pull.
But the scaled-down FADs now
deployed off the NSW coast are
welcome by everyone. The Department
of Primary Industries will have
completed its annual redeployment
of the 25 FADs between Tweed Heads
and Eden by now. The FADs’ purpose in
life is to enhance recreational fishing
As it’s been an early start to the
game-fishing season, the FADs will be
effective at holding fish like mahi mahi
or dolphin fish by now. Of course, this
is no secret and there’s some pretty
serious competition to get to the FADS
first. The first one lobbying a live bait
such as a slimy mackerel around the
FADs invariably hooks the biggest fish.
And the wider and deeper FADs tend
to attract the trophy mahi mahi.
Having said that, in a good game-fishing season, the closer
FADs often account for marlin. Your scribe has landed striped
and black marlin from around the FADs of Long Reef, as well
as small dolphin fish with bill marks on their flanks. I have also
been chased out of the water by a large hammerhead shark while
diving on a FAD off Broken Bay. Suddenly the resident kingfish
scattered and there was a chill in the inky blue water. So I made
haste back to the boat, pulled myself up and more or less turned
around to see a monster hammerhead at the back of the boat.
“Monitoring has shown these devices are extremely effective
at creating new high-value fishing opportunities,” Dr Heath Folpp,
the Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Manager Fisheries
Enhancement, says. The FADs are yellow, spherical buoys with
a flashing beacon for safe navigation. The devices are deployed
between nine and 32 kilometres offshore. Our NSW recreational
fishing licence fees fund the FAD program, so make full use of
them this summer.
Anglers and spearfishers head to the FADs and there’s a code
of conduct for fishing them found on the DPI website. Full details
of this and the FAD locations at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/
with David Lockwood
GREAT ON THE TOOTH
One of the joys of angling is the eating. Fish you have caught,
cleaned and cooked yourself taste better. But there are some
species that are out of reach. Take the Patagonian toothfish.
Fellow fish-eaters, if you haven’t tried the toothfish you are
missing out. True to its name, the toothfish is amazing on the
tooth. I know this after buying a modest steak from my local
fishmonger last month.
The toothfish was being sold under the Glacier 51 brand and
was caught by Austral Fisheries in Perth. Displayed on ice, the
toothfish fillet looked as white as snow and was partially frozen.
The fish are caught and processed snappily on dedicated factory
ships. For every 1000kg landed, Austral has to tag and release
one toothfish for research purposes. Some 2,000 toothfish are
tagged each year. You can do the maths to determine the size
of the annual catch.
Curiously, the fish has no swim bladder so they happily swim
away after being retrieved from great depths. The fish is caught
anywhere from 50 metres to more than 3km under the sea from
water that is just 1-4C. This provides some clues as to its eating
quality. Austral uses trawling techniques to catch the smaller
specimens, but trapping and longlining to land the lunkers. The
toothy toothfish can weigh up to 100kg but are more common
The catch is the price. My fishmonger was selling the toothfish
for $97 a kilo and my fish steak cost $20 on the knocker. It was
about the size of a decent piece of wagyu and, well, the toothfish
is akin to a piscatorial version of that prized, fatty marbled
meat. The oil content was just out of this world. I dry cooked my
seasoned steak on a barbecue hotplate and it was soon sizzling
in its own fat. However, unlike a lot of fatty fish, its flavour was
mild and scrumptious. The large white flakes melted in my mouth
and the fish needed no fancy adornments at all.
Pirating of Patagonian toothfish was once rife in Australian
waters around Heard Island, a mere 4,137km voyage from Perth.
Today, consumers can take comfort from the fact the fishery is well
managed. It has Marine Stewardship Council accreditation and is
deemed sustainable; a good thing as the toothfish is long lived.
Given that the fishery is more than a week’s steaming from
mainland Australia, we hapless anglers are never going to land
A FAD under strain from
the East Australian Current
A fisheye view of a FAD.
Joint international efforts have
dramatically reduced the illegal fishing
of the toothfish in the Southern Ocean.
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