Spiny crabs and tantalising octopus tales – all in a day’s work for WA teachers

Home Economic teachers and teaching assistants cooking up a seafood spectacular with the help of chef Stuart Laws.

Home Economic teachers and teaching assistants cooking up a seafood spectacular with the help of chef Stuart Laws.

A group of 10 home economic teachers and teaching assistants across WA schools were treated to a firsthand look of the processing plant at Southern Trading Australia and Fremantle Octopus in Hamilton Hill earlier this month.

The Professional Development Day was designed to provide home economic teachers a hands-on-experience to learn more about the sustainability of WA’s commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture sectors.

First stop was Southern Trading Australia, a deep-sea crab and abalone fishery operating out of Fremantle. Managing director Glen Bosman took the inquisitive and curious group through a journey of discovery of the boutique seafood exporter’s history. As the teachers learnt, a key focus for Southern Trading is sustainability and environmentally friendly fishing – having been approved for Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2016.

“Southern Trading sources its seafood products from the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean off the coastline of Western Australia in 85-foot-deep fishing vessels that include roughly 1000 pots which drop down to 600-800 metres in depth where the ocean temperature sits at 6 degrees.

“Ocean-going vessels capture the crabs which are held onboard in live tanks maintained at a low temperature to ensure optimum conditions”, said Bosman.

Southern Trading Australia exports around 40 % of its catch of crystal crab, king crab and champagne crab to China, where buyers pay a premium for the WA-sourced crustaceans all very different in experience and flavour.

According to Bosman, the WA crystal crab is a must for any Chinse banquet due to its soft edible shell, succulent white flesh and sweet flavour. The crab is known to be easy to cook and absorbs sauce beautifully.

Onwards to Fremantle Octopus, where the teachers were met by operations manager Asher Flynn and general manager Richard Buczak who told tantalizing octopus tales. The teachers were furiously writing notes for the benefits of students as they learnt about the Fremantle Octopus product range including premium raw octopus produced using a unique tenderizing freezing process and then vacuum sealed for freshness. The company also supplies marinated octopus products that are distributed in jars and buckets – which they teachers go to try for themselves.

The teachers learn how Fremantle Octopus has gone from strength to strength. According to Flynn, it wasn’t that long ago that octopus was considered by most people as only good for bait. Now Fremantle Octopus exports around the word and has world-famous chefs praising their octopus. The company also has a strong commitment of WA’s professional fishers to the principles environmental responsibility, creating a sustainable octopus fishing industry.

As described by Buczak, the Octopus fishing technique has not changed much – the pots are made of plastic these days, not clay pots like the Roman empire era, but the technique remains the same where a line is drop and a pot attached with bait.

A teacher asked the question – but don’t Octopus jump out – they are known to be smart creatures? Busack responded by explaining the invention of the “Trigger trap” by Fremantle Octopus director Craig Cammilleri which solved this issue.

Developed in accordance with rules created by WA Fisheries, the trigger pot does not catch any other fish species except the octopus. How it works – the octopus are lured in by an LED light attached to the trigger pot. When an octopus tugs the lure, the trap shuts. The octopuses are hauled up about every four days, but once inside the pot they are safe from predation.

The group of teachers then moved onto Hamilton Senior High where they had a fish filleting demonstration by well-renown chef Stuart Laws and even had the option of at filleting themselves.

And the end products – fish and chips and deep-fried fish wings – are two perfect example of using secondary cuts and underuterlized seafood for a seafood sensation.

Most importantly – the group said they felt their knowledge of the industry had increased dramatically due to insights into individual fisheries and markets and were looking forward to bringing this new found knowledge into the classroom.

King or Giant Crabs are highly renowned for their taste and texture throughout Asia.

King or Giant Crabs are highly renowned for their taste and texture throughout Asia.

Crystal Crab renowned for it textured, succulent white flesh with a distinctive sweet taste.

Crystal Crab renowned for it textured, succulent white flesh with a distinctive sweet taste.