Australian salmon has a poor reputation with consumers, but a new cannery to be opened in Perth hopes to bring life back to an industry that is struggling to stay afloat.
It has been more than two decades since Western Australia had an operational cannery.
The well-known Albany cannery closed down in the late 80s due to a collapse of markets.
It left only a sardine cannery, operated by Perth-based company Mendolia Seafoods.
But when a herpes virus decimated sardine stocks in WA in the 90s, that too was no longer viable.
Now, that same seafood company is giving the tinned line a second go, with its multi-million-dollar processing facility set to be fully operational in coming weeks.
Part-owner and long-term sardine fisherman Jim Mendolia cannot wait for the new venture to begin.
“It’s so exciting. I’ve got a very good friend who believed in our products for many years and he and his family have kind-of backed this big project,” he said.
“It’s a product that people know and understand, so it’s easy to sell.”
Aussie salmon in the can
It is not just their sardines that are destined for the tins.
The Mendolias are also going to experiment canning other types of fish.
They are hoping to create a market for canned Australian salmon, a fish that, in the past, has been likened to cat food.
On the south-west coast in Hamelin Bay, fisherman Shane Miles spends his days reeling in tonnes of Australian salmon to be sold to local markets.
But with a limited local market, only a small portion of that is sold.
Mr Miles said the new cannery would give them an opportunity to make the most of that catch.
“Some days we’re taking eight or 10 tonne out of 30 and 40 tonne,” he said.
“For some of the guys who haven’t actually put in any effort on the beach because they haven’t had any markets, it gives them the opportunity to go back fishing again.”
Not just cat food
Further south in Denmark, Parry’s Beach fishermen cannot wipe the smile off their faces.
Tom Brittain said their small operation, run by a handful of families over generations, had been trying to raise the profile of Australian salmon.
He believes this is their opportunity.
“It’s opened a new door for Parry’s,” he said.
“We’ve always wanted to supply human consumption fish and this is a bit of a shining light really. For all salmon fishermen.”
Salmon has long been known as a fish for pet food and bait.
But Mr Brittain said they were trying to dispel that myth.
“Prior to the cray fishing boom, [salmon] was always sold for human consumption in tins and it was a staple for many families for generations,” he said.
“Hopefully it’s going to repeat and it will be back on the dinner table.”
International markets excited
Mr Mendolia said the canned salmon, along with their sardines and tuna, had been well received by the public.
“We did a promotion at Sydney fine foods and it’s incredible how many overseas people are interested in Australian product,” he said.
Mr Mendolia said they would first service the domestic market before moving into exports.
Western Australian Fishing Industry Council chief executive John Harrison said the new cannery would give people in the industry confidence into the future.
“Knowing there’s a market for their product, [the fishermen] can then go ahead and make some investment to get new boats or new facilities where they can capture and process the fish,” he said.