All in the family: The journey of Abbott Fisheries
For Abbott Fisheries, one thing has remained constant over its 69 years of operation: the involvement of family members.
It’s an approach that has seen the third-generation fishing business, operating out of Narooma on the NSW south coast, grow from strength to strength.
The business was started in 1949 by Des and Dot Creighton, after Des bought his first fishing licence for just two pounds.
“He began fishing for kingfish off Montague Island, beach hauling Australian salmon and mullet from local beaches, and poling tuna,” explains 26-year-old Hayley Abbott, the Operations Manager at Narooma Seafood Direct.
In the 1980s, son-in-law John [Hayley’s dad] began working in the family business, focussed on fishing for kingfish, as well as drop lining, trap fishing and longlining for tuna.
“Dad took over the business in 1996 and concentrated his efforts on longline fishing taking him up and down the east coast of Australia looking for more lucrative catch,” she says.
“Meanwhile, my mum Vicki continued to run all the administrative and financial aspects of the business, providing a backbone to the business—a role she still plays today.”
The grandkids step in
For John and Vicki’s three children, who spent a lot of their youth on fishing boats, moving into the fishing business was a natural progression.
“My brothers Todd and Ryan are fully qualified skippers fishing in the eastern tuna and billfish fishery, who joined the business in 2008 and 2010 respectively,” says Hayley.
In 2013, Hayley was ready to join the business after completing a four-year business degree in the USA while on a soccer scholarship. However, fishing had been slow for the previous two years and the family were not able to employ another family member on the boat.
This led the family to create Narooma Seafood Direct as a side business to the primary fishing business.
“The purpose was to generate new markets, while creating employment for me so I could be involved in the family business,” says Hayley.
Soon after, Narooma Seafood began selling their produce at a local farmers’ market. This had many benefits, including limited overheads, removal of the ‘middle man’, access to new customers and the ability to sell the fresh, high quality produce they’d caught that week.
A bright future
The vertically-integrated business model has given the family more control over their own products and has changed how Todd and Ryan fish and what species they target explains Hayley.
“We have found markets for high to low value fish that appeals to different consumers.”
Due to the success of both businesses in recent years, the family decided to invest in their fishing future by designing and building a state-of-the-art longline vessel.
The vessel is named the ‘D&D’ as a tribute to their grandparents Dot and Des and was the first large commercial fishing vessel built in Australia in the last 12 years. The D&D was designed by Todd and Ryan and took over 18 months to build the twin hull catamaran powered by 2 x 600 hp Yanmar motors.
“It is efficient and can handle rough weather conditions safely, which means the boat spends more days out fishing and less days tied up at the wharf,” says Hayley.
Soon, the family is looking to optimise the full fishing potential of the D&D and build on their existing markets with a range of premium value-added products—so the future is looking bright indeed.