How is the fish you buy & serve, caught?
Does the fish you buy & serve have a fishy smell and fishy after- taste?
Perhaps you'd like to learn a bit from Mark Eather – a sustainable & ethical fisherman, activist, and ike-jime Master from New South Wales. Mark is driven to educate chefs & the public about the impact which mass-catch fishing has on the environment and fish stocks.
Mark was raised on a dairy and beef cattle farm in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. His mother’s family were famers and his father’s were fishermen descended from the Second Fleet.
Whilst Mark began fishing as a small child, he was in his teens when he would join the family tuna fishing when he could. His family then used the poling method, where the fish are attracted to bait placed in the water and then hooked with a line on the end of a pole and the fish are poled out of the water. Mark’s family would then sell the tuna to the Heinz cannery for 50c per kilo.
On returning from one of these trips with the boat full to the gunwales with dead tuna, Mark encountered a man who would change his life. As Mark was helping tie up the boat to the wharf in Eden New South Wales, he noticed a Japanese man standing on the wharf, looking at the vessel’s catch and clearly upset, frowning and holding his hands up to his head. Mark ran along the wharf to catch up with the man. He asked the Japanese man why he looked so upset. The man said “In my country this fish is God and yet you treat it so poorly.”
Mark was intrigued to speak more with the man. Mark knew that the fishing method they had used wasn’t a method that they could be proud of, but at that time he, his family and the industry knew no better. He invited Mr Takenori Masuko, the ‘legendary Iki-jime Master’ to come stay at their farm and with that chance-meeting began his journey of learning Ike-jime methodology. The art of ‘catch it quick, kill it quick, chill it quick’.
Mr Masuko demonstrated how a fish killed using the ike-jime method had a clean-ocean flavour, with no fishy aftertaste. Over the subsequent years Mark travelled to Japan many times, learning more about ike-jime and eventually becoming an ike-jime Master himself.
From the 1980s to 1990s Mark was exporting his line-caught ike-jime fish because there was no market nor appreciation for such seafood in Australia at that time. He was better-known in Japan, Hong Kong, the US and Europe than he was in Australia.
One day Mark’s phone rang and a man recalled a story how he had recently been in (the famous Tokyo fish market) Tsukiji Market admiring some snapper which was on display. The man had remarked to the auctioneer that he wished he could purchase similar snapper back in Australia…to which the auctioneer replied “But this is Mark-San fish! From Sydney!”. That man was Neil Perry.
Mark was extremely busy when Neil phoned him but Mark invited Neil to come join him early next morning in Mark’s factory whilst Mark was packing tuna and he would be freer to chat. To his credit, not only did the immaculately-dressed Neil Perry join them early that following morning but he mucked in and helped with the packing.
Neil described how he wanted to give his diners a world-class seafood experience and asked for Mark’s help to make it happen. Neil also wanted his chefs and front of house to be informed about ethical and sustainable fishing and asked Mark to deliver talks to keep them informed.
Amongst Neil’s staff, Mark noticed there was a young Chinese lady who was always present and engaged in the talks…that young lady was Kylie Kwong. Kylie has gone on to become a successful restauranteur in her own right and a passionate proponent of sustainable and ethical produce, not just seafood, but all the produce she uses. Kylie and Mark have known each other for more than 25 years now, 16+ of those whilst she has been running her own restaurant Billy Kwong- which Mark supplies with seafood.
Mark is passionately driven to inform the public and the consumer about what traditional mass - catch fishing does to the environment and the impact on fish stocks. Mark describes how the average person has no idea where their fish comes from, nor how it was caught. “The average consumer has no idea of the Armageddon that happens daily in our oceans. All they see when they look out to sea is a fishing boat bobbing about with a couple of ropes trailing behind. How bad could it be? They’ve got no idea that at the end of these ropes could be a couple 1000+ kilos steel otterboards which keep the net open as it’s dragged savagely over the sea floor. I call it the indiscriminate-wall- of-death. Finally, the net is hauled up and emptied onto the deck of the boat where the catch might sit around for several more hours before it is sorted and refrigerated. These fish have been stressed to the max, then dead for hours and poorly handled. This is where your fishy smell and after-palate comes from. Many consumers consider that a normal part of preparing/cooking and eating fish. They shouldn’t.”
Mark is driven to educate the average consumer on just how dire the future of our oceans and seafood is. He describes a Unites States FDA paper, released in 2012 which predicts that in the following 50 years that mankind will consume more protein than we have in the whole history of mankind. Mark remarks that “with forecasts like that, it’s very clear we need to start getting real about our fishing industry. We’ve got to start managing our oceans properly, and moderate our demands for (cheap) fish. We need to start appreciating that everything taken from the ocean is valuable and finite.
There is no limitless supply. Mass-catching techniques deliver cheap fish, but at what cost to the planet? We, as consumers, are continuing the demand for cheap fish and thereby ensuring the mass-catch operators will continue their operations, to the detriment of the planet. At this rate, my son’s kids won’t know what wild fish is! What a disgrace!”
I'm sure you'd like to meet & connect with Mark. You can contact & find about more him here