Nathan Adams comes from a long family line of proficient fishers – you could call it a fishing line (couldn’t help it). Everything about him is marine, from his extensive work experience in various seafood enterprises to his wife Donna’s accounting firm, named after the Nautilus shell.
It was his father who kicked off the abalone industry in the Augusta Margaret River Shire, back in 1968. Victorian abalone divers had declared this region unsuitable for commercial abalone production, citing lack of abalone numbers as the major reason. They obviously hadn’t stumbled across the same bay in Augusta that Nathan’s father had, brimming with giant Greenlip abalone. Nathan’s father, who had been a junior spearfishing champion, was right at home under the ocean, just like his three sons who followed in his footsteps. He phoned his wife (Nathan’s mum) to share the news that the family was moving to Augusta.
What followed was a gold rush on these delicious snails of the ocean, with people wide and varied trying their luck diving. Eventually the State Government introduced permits, helping to maintain the sustainability of abalone stocks. Since then, the Western Australian abalone fishery has become the first (and only) in the world to achieve Marine Stewardship Certification (MSC). This is a great step, with consumers increasingly concerned about the health of our oceans and making purchasing choices based on sustainability. Larger purchasers are also becoming more discerning, with the Hilton in Singapore announcing they are only taking MSC products. This puts Western Australia ahead of the curve as a leader in sustainable fishery management.
“The ocean is a shared resource that we all own” says Nathan, “And it’s great that we can all co-exist and cohabit together. I’m big on sustainability…anything from that angle where you’ve got environmental factors and commercial reality is only a good thing, because we all want it there for the future.”
Nathan’s business, Magic Abalone, focuses on wild harvested abalone, fishing reefs his father fished in the 60s. Commercial fishers have stricter minimum size limits than recreational fishers – a deliberate way of ensuring there are plenty of abalone to share between all interested parties, and giving the females an extra year or two to breed before they can be collected by commercial divers. Nathan says he skims over clusters of abalone, only taking two or three per twenty and selecting for the very biggest.
Nathan co-owns Magic Abalone with two other seasoned marine professionals, Bill Reay and Glenn Frewin, both accredited captains. In the peak season they have three teams of divers working the coastline around Augusta and going as far south as Albany and Hopetoun. If you’re a landlubber you may have successfully found your own Roe abalone in the shallows near the shoreline – bringing a few precious Roe abalone to a BBQ will make your very popular. But it requires a bit more perseverance (and lung capacity) to dive the two or more metres to retrieve the much larger Greenlip and Brownlip abalone from deeper reef and caves.
If this isn’t your strength, you can always buy one the many products Magic Abalone are now producing. Instead of wholesaling to a processor Magic Abalone focuses on “vertical integration”, that is value-adding and processing the fresh abalone into a retail product. This includes frozen abalone, canned abalone, and whole dried abalone – a delicacy in parts of Asia where it is considered an aphrodisiac, and slow-cooked over 12-15 hours. Magic Abalone also makes dried abalone shavings, similar to Bonito flakes, that can dress a meal with ocean flavours. Their most recent product is abalone salt – ocean salt mixed with powdered abalone.
The hope is that as the business grows it can help create more manufacturing jobs for “people growing up here. And not just the locals directly employed but the flow on effect from that. You’ve got your truck drivers and all the auxiliary work you need done to maintain your equipment, when you factor that in it’s great for the town.”
Nathan looks forward to seeing this locally-sourced and manufactured product making its way into local restaurants, and would love to get into running tourist experiences, telling the story and running boat and factory tours.
“I think the fishing industry and tourism is a huge market to get into. People want to have that experience and that knowledge, someone to champion it, and go back with an abalone shell and a story and have that connection”.
These products can be bought from the Lighthouse Café, Flukes Café in Augusta, and the new seafood retail space in Augusta’s LIA – Cooke Fisheries and Magic Abalone. If you’re a retailer who would like to stock Magic Abalone products, or a local restaurant keen to dabble in this culinary delight, get in touch with Nathan: firstname.lastname@example.org