The commercial fishing industry on the Far South Coast is about to get a big boost with a new 25-metre, state-of-the-art, long-lining catamaran being built for the Abbott family of Narooma.
The three siblings, Ryan, Todd and Hayley, still only in their 20s, have invested heavily in the multi-million-dollar vessel because they believe in the sustainability of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and the demand for their top-quality fish continues to grow unabated.
The new vessel, yet to be named, is currently taking shape in an Adelaide boat factory and is believed to be the first large commercial fishing vessel being built in Australia for the last 12 years.
Their current fishing vessel, the venerable old Fisco 1, will soon be replaced with new high-tech catamaran at the Narooma wharf, which should become a bit of a tourist attraction itself when tied up and unloading.
Ryan Abbott explained the new vessel will allow the Abbott fishing operation to travel much further and exploit all the eastern tuna fishery all the way from the tip of Cape York around Tasmania down to the Victoria South Australia border and out to Lord Howe Island.
“With only 30 long-line vessels left in the entire fishery and the huge patch of water, the fishery is truly sustainable and much of it virtually untouched,” Ryan said. “The Fisco is limited to the inshore fishery so this will allow us to spread our effort.”
The vessel will be used to long-line a range of species from bluefin and yellowfin tuna, as quota allows, to broadbill swordfish, plentiful albacore and also more exotic species such as rudderfish and Ray’s bream, and this diversity is what Hayley’s customers desire.
The siblings started designing the vessel about three years ago when Hayley Abbott’s new fish marketing business Narooma Seafood Direct really started to take off. She returned from university in the USA where she attended on a soccer scholarship wanting to get involved in the family business.
But it soon became apparent the best course of action was for her to get involved in the processing, value adding and direct marketing the product her brothers catch.
“For too long the middle man was making all the money and the consumer was getting ripped off,” Hayley said. “Now the biggest thing is how much we can catch because selling it is not a problem. The two businesses need each other to work.”
The business took off from the get-go and Hayley describes it being “like a baby that just keeps growing”. She now travels to the farmers markets in Canberra and Moruya and also does wholesaling to local restaurants and fish shops, as well as selling for their factory in the Narooma Industrial Estate.
“It will allow us to catch a broader range of fish and have a more continuous supply of fish and will be safer to work in all weather and more efficient too,” Hayley said. “It’s being built in mind to do onboard processing too, but not yet, only later when we get more crew.”
The family wanted to credit the Australian Fisheries Management Authority for making the fishery so sustainable with its strict quota and management arrangements, and also Australian customs and border authorities who are doing a great policing the fishery and keeping foreign raiders out.
And perhaps most significantly for the town, they thanked the people of Narooma and all their regulars for supporting the family business over the decades.
“We want to thank the community for supporting us over the last 70 years since we started and that support has been vital in getting us to where we are today,” Ryan said.
The Narooma family has an extensive fishing history first starting out with their grandfather Des Creighton who began scalloping and catching kingfish in the 1940s.
The business has evolved over the years and really took off in the 1980s when they acquired their first large fishing vessel, the fibreglass long-liner Atlantic Star.
Then in 1994, the acquired their current longliner the Fisco I that had been wrecked on a Queensland reef. Soon after they lengthened the vessel by 10 foot to 23 metres and today she is still working out of Narooma, a common site entering the bar and tied up at Narooma wharf.
Ryan explained they went with the catamaran design as it allows the new larger vessel to draw the same amount of water as Fisco 1 at only 2 metres, thereby allowing it to cross the shallow Narooma bar and enter the inlet. The comparisons end there though.
The new vessel is 25-metres long and 10.5-metres wide and built entirely out of lightweight aluminum by Calibre Boats in Adelaide. The design was drawn up by John Pattie at the firm Naval Architects Australia in Brisbane.
The catamaran will operate with the same crew as the Fisco, consisting of brothers Todd and Ryan assisted by three crew. The new vessel will also be a registered vessel in class survey, allowing it to travel around the world if needed.
It is expected to arrive in Narooma by May, when some additional work including refrigeration and hydraulics will be fitted before she is ready to go fishing. Regarding a name, the Abbott siblings are not sure yet but hope to choose a name to honour their fishing family and its traditions.
“It’s going to be a lot more safer, efficient and comfortable,” Hayley said. “It will travel further faster and every day travelling is one less day fishing.”
Here are some of the vessel’s stats compared to the Fisco 1:
- Fisco unloaded light ship weight 80 tonnes, new vessel 70 tonnes
- Fisco powered by a single 450hp Yanmar, new vessel twin 600hp Yanmars
- Fisco cruises 7.5-8 knots, new vessel 12-13 knots
- Fisco fuel capacity 15,000 litres, new vessel 40,000 litres
- Fisco fish hold 10 or 11 tonne, new vessel 40 tonnes fresh and frozen