Friday, November 4, 2011

Sunday Markets

"I bet you're gonna miss the markets," Old Salt said to me as we set the nets in the evening.
"Yeah, I will. But I'll miss being out in the boat more."
Old Salt and I have been fishing for the Sunday seafood markets for three years now. We start on Thursdays, baiting crab pots with trumpeters or the filleted carcasses from the previous week, setting nets for herring and bream and whiting. Saturdays I clean fish on the stainless steel table in my backyard to the strains of Johnny Cash or the Sundowners radio show (Not! According to health regulations we have to clean fish on the boat. But no soul would buy it if they saw the state of that boat, so it is a bureaucratic nod to the healthies that we theoretically fillet onboard and realistically fillet somewhere cleaner.)

Before the seafood markets we sold fish to the Perth markets for two years. But the Sunday markets are now my favourite financial staple, my one social networking event and the source of such joy juice as great musicians, clean, locally produced food and really, really good coffee. It's all in one place! Right on the sea shore, where the fishing boats are moored next to million dollar yachts. On Sundays we eat like gourmets - fresh Albany oysters (the Oyster Boys love crabs), asparagus (she loves black bream), local beef, strawberries (they love black bream too), obscenely yummy marinated fetta (he loves fishmeal for his biodynamic compost operation) and fresh pink lady apples (I think they like cash more than fish, though they do dissolve at the prospect of King George whiting).

Stormboy has learned his addition and subtraction as the cashier. I weigh and wrap up the fish and crabs. Old Salt leans against the table and, by the pure power of his charisma, attracts conversation with other old salts or lovely ladies in the queue.

We rarely have left overs. People complain because they come in an hour after we open and Old Salt and I have sold out. This happens most Sundays and I have to explain to cranky punters that we don't buy fish in from other fishers. We catch it all ourselves and we don't freeze anything either. Get in early and you'll know that your produce was still wriggling twenty four hours ago, so fresh you'd slap its face.

As you may gather, I'm quite proud of our seafood stall. It's unique in our corner of the world, where fish can end up in supermarkets a week (weeks?) after it is caught and still labelled as fresh. (Believe me, I know how that system works and it is not nice.) That's before the imported seafood comes in from from dodgey international fisheries. Our fish shop is a good argument for sustainable fishing practices as well, servicing a small market, heavily regulated by such handsome characters as our fisheries officers and concentrating on 'run' fish, rather than the sedentary fish which tend to get hammered by anyone with a boat.

I'll get on to why I am going to miss fishing so much. This post began as a story about a squabble between Old Salt and I, and morphed. Sorry about that. As the drunken gravedigger said to the coffin, "I'll fill yer in later, mate."


  1. No more fishing about in boats?! I had a friend who was a liner in the Newlyn fleet, and he said that the fish that wasn't sold on the quayside that morning got picked up by freezer lorries and taken 300 miles up to Billingsgate in London, where it was bought by Cornish restauranteurs and taken 300 miles back to Cornwall to be served in the joints the next day.. Who needs air miles with a system like that?

  2. At least it is still fairly fresh.

    Fishermen here will send stuff to Perth (when the truck comes every other day). It gets sold at the markets in Perth the next day hopefully and sent back down south to Coles or Woolies.

    That could be six or seven days when you include weekends, public holidays and the trucking schedules. Include the factor of fishers sometimes 'ice stocking' fish until they have enough boxes to pay for the freight.

    Another outcome of 'ice stocking' is that crabs and fish will be thrown together in the same box and then sold separately at the city markets, creating an unnecessary problem for those with crustacean allergies. Plus, the habit of chucking frozen fish in with fresh to make up a box. Happens all the time. Believe me. Don't ever refreeze anything you buy as 'fresh' in a supermarket.

    That said, the local processors are savvy to all that and make sure it doesn't happen 'on their watch' but the city markets (and therefore the major supermarket chains) are another thing altogether.

  3. This yarn took me on an incredible journey of the senses & played a symphony of emotions ST - God I love markets and fish guts and the smell of the sea...and what the hell is going on...

  4. PH, in the end the consumer has to dictate the market, not vice versa. #Occupy has a bit to say about it.

    Sometimes I wipe the seaweed from the crabs and sometimes I think it is best left on the carapace. Depends on who I am serving!

  5. What! No more fishing from your boat!? I've missed something somewhere Sarah...

    Last time I was fishing on a beach, a passer by shook thier head in disapproval at me bashing a mackerel humanely over the head.

    Yeah, 'cause it's better to have them asphyxiate under several tons of wasted by-catch first isn't it.

    I hope you post some pics of your stall and market - sounds heavenly...

  6. Sarah, another brilliant story. I so enjoyed reading that. I used to have a market stall too, but I used to sell our home grown vegetables - hard work but a good life!

  7. Thanks Michelle, Molly and Chris ...

  8. I'm still digesting this. Do you really mean no more fishing in the tinny, no more net setting and camping trips to the wilderness?

  9. Next year, I'm supposed to be moving out to Kundip, though everything is up in the air right now. I don't really know what I'm doing but a few jobs are going to fall by the wayside. This thesis and working seven days a week is taking its toll.