Scimone Family Breaking Barriers
The Bunbury-based Scimone family from Southwestern FRESH FISH run a vertically-integrated fishing business supplying their loyal Bunbury, south coast and Perth customer bases with local shark (bronze whaler, gummy and blacktip reef) snapper, groper and other species.
Almost every day, the Southwestern crew face the elements and dangers of mother nature to bring back to shore fresh fish, often selling right off the boat directly to their customers. They also offer a premium display of fresh seafood via the local Bunbury Farmers Market.
“We just can’t believe how conscious the consumers have got with purchasing local produce,” said owner Jason Scimone.
“Shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules have really made people look at their food differently. They want to source local food, in our case fresh fish, but they also want that connection with the producer.”
This family-run business has been in the commercial fishing industry for about 40 years. Learning the tricks of the trade from his father Brian, Jason joined the business 12 years ago.
“I would say by the age of 6 – I knew that I wanted to be a professional fisher.”
“But I used to get sea sick really bad.”
“I would decide that I would never go out again, but a couple of months later I would… it went on like this for a while. Finally, I got over the seasickness.”
“Then every weekend, school holidays I would be on the boat.”
“It got to the point where my show and tell would be fishing only.”
Jason said it was a natural progression through school to become a commercial fisher.
“It was December 7th, 2005 when I left school and the next day, December 8th I was out fishing.”
“Guess you could say it was in my blood!”
He may have learned his fishing skills from his father, but he has also added his own value to the business having launched a highly successful business Facebook page, letting everyone know when the crew is fishing, what they’re catching, anecdotal stories and most importantly – where their next unload will be.
“Social media has allowed us to connect with our customers – easily.”
“We constantly run stories of our team, the family etc. – breaking down any barriers people may have had of commercial fishers,” said Jason.
Before social media, Jason says that the business was always around but no one knew who the family was, or what exactly they did.
“The crazy thing is – now, nearly every second customer tells us that they saw our updates on our page.”
“They are all referring to it.”
“Just walking down, the street, people stop to say hello. They know who I am – who Brian is!”
“When you get asked about the rough weather, or about the deckhand that has just started – you realise that people really are following you.”
“We try to provide an engaging story every week!”
And Jason has a strategy behind these stories…
Laughing, he said that the storylines can be compared to a TV soap drama like Home and Away.
“You need your good, bad, drama and of course the breakups stories.”
“You always need something to capture the audience…and we have just that,” he laughed.
“When I first started the page, I gave myself a week.”
“I thought we were honestly, going to receive a backlash.”
“By the end of that week we received a thousand likes – and I just went with it.”
“The funny thing is, and it shows a generational shift, dad was anti-social media. Now he is the main photo taker.”
“He is the one that pulls his phone out to take a photo, which he sends to me to upload.”
Jason said that even for Brian, social media has allowed him to break down barriers.
“Brian was always quiet, he did his own thing.”
“But because of social media, he receives positive feedback all the time. Customers are always asking about him.”
“The response has blown dad away.”
“I try to tell his story as much as I can, because if it wasn’t for him, none of this would have happened.”
“No one has really worked harder than him, and that is why we try to focus on him as much as we can.”
It is not uncommon to see a line of people waiting at fishing jetties throughout the southwest ready to purchase Scimone-caught fresh fish.
But this family has been through it all – one of their main vessels caught fire last year, resulting in many weeks off the water; there have been fuel price-hikes; and now the additional burden of Australian sea lion and marine park closures – significantly impacting this family business and the access of fresh sustainable seafood to our local community.
“The fishing is good, our customers are great, but it is hard with the constant rule changing,” said Jason.
“There are more people than I ever imagined, that don’t have their own boat and can’t catch fish.”
“They openly say, you catch our fish, or that it is cheaper to buy from you then it is to get it ourselves.”
Jason said that he was shocked by that feedback -because in the past, those people never had a voice.
“I honestly think that there are more people who need us – then don’t.”
“When we receive feedback like that – it makes it all worth it.”
Despite constant changes and worries, the team at Southwestern Fresh Fish are hard workers and continue to ensure customers receive excellent service and the best fresh seafood.
“People are blown away with the things we have had to do just to keep fishing.”
“Especially last year, we had a tough year. But our customers give us light at the end of the tunnel that we need.”
“The community support has been great – it has kept us going and looking positive into the future.”
For more information or to follow the team head to the Southwestern Fresh Fish Facebook page.