Joel Benn Turns Fishing Hobby into Seafood Career

Congratulations to deckhand winner – Joel Benn

Western Australian abalone deckhand, Joel Benn, was last night recognised when he won the Deckhand Award, sponsored by Austral Fisheries at the 2019 Western Australian Seafood Industry Awards.

The Awards event, recognising excellence in the WA seafood industry, was held at The Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle and opened by Minister for Fisheries, the Hon Dave Kelly MLA, in front of an audience of industry participants and representatives of various stakeholder groups.

WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) Chair, Dr Ron Edwards said Mr Benn has demonstrated ongoing passion, commitment and a willingness to take on challenges that make a positive contribution to the seafood industry. Due to his enthusiasm and sustainability conscious work ethic on deck, he was awarded for his efforts as an effective and respected seafood industry member.

As a new category in 2019, the Deckhand Award, is a WA only accredited Award.  This award has been established to recognise and reward the contributions and achievements of those at the coalface of the seafood industry.

Marc Payne, Director of Fairfield Pty Ltd, said that Mr Benn has worked with him for nearly four years and in that time has shown exceptional leadership towards the future of WA’s seafood industry.

“Abalone deckhand employment is unpredictable, rugged and tiring. Joel works hard on deck during the day and at night he dedicates his efforts to further study to achieve additional skills and training. It goes to show his strong commitment to our industry,” said Mr Payne.

“Growing up in Hopetoun with a love for fishing as a child, Mr Benn has followed his heart to pursue his hobby and develop his interest in the fishing industry into a career,” said Dr Edwards.

“We congratulate Mr Benn on this achievement and encourage the growth of his leadership in a dynamic and exciting industry that provides millions of Western Australian’s with the freedom to choose local seafood.”

“As an industry body, we recognise the importance of acknowledging those individuals and organisations who make a substantial contribution to benefiting our industry, and Mr Benn is certainly incredibly worthy of this Award,” Dr Edwards concluded.

For further information regarding the awards, please contact:

Danika Gusmeroli

Communications Officer

WAFIC office: (08) 9432 7710

Mobile: 0434 963 179



Dr Ron Edwards


WAFIC office: (08) 9432 7777

Mobile: 0408 925 805


Marc Payne


Fairfield Pty Ltd

Mobile: 0429 018 671


About the Deckhand Award

Presented to those who have demonstrated ongoing passion, commitment and a willingness to take on challenges that make a positive contribution to the seafood industry. This person, through their enthusiasm and sustainability conscious work ethic on deck will be awarded for their efforts to develop as an effective and respected seafood industry member.

Judging criteria:

The person:

  • has shown ongoing commitment to professionalism in the field
  • has shown a passion for extending their knowledge regarding their fishery
  • is committed to effect positive change through leadership and innovation
  • is respected by industry colleagues (at least two reference letters required)

About the Awards Event

  • The event is supported by a number of sponsors including; National Australia Bank (Gold event sponsor), Fisheries Research & Development Corporation (Silver event sponsor) and Western Rock Lobster Council (Silver event sponsor) as well as sponsors for each of the individual awards, including Austral Fisheries, Bailey’s Marine Fuels, Baker Refrigeration, Bendotti Exporters, Geraldton Fisherman’s Cooperative, ConocoPhillips Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA, Endeavour Foods, Francis A Jones, INPEX, Mareterram, MG Kailis Group, Santos and Woodside.
  • Award event attendees enjoyed an array of fresh, local and sustainably caught Western Australian seafood prepared by celebrity chefs and kindly donated by sponsors including; Austral Fisheries, BellBuoy Seafoods, Bendotti Exporters, Blom Fishing, Brown Dog Fishing Co, Cone Bay Barramundi, Endeavour Foods, Fins Seafood, Larner’s Oysters, Leeman Fish & Chips, Mendolia Seafoods, MG Kailis Group, Ocean Grown Abalone, Ocean Wild Tuna, Paspaley Pearling Company, Running Wild Fishing Co, Shark Bay Cockles, Shark Bay Seafoods, West Australian Octopus all served in compostable packaging provided by Ward Packaging.
  • Highly regarded “celebrity”’ seafood chefs cooked at the event including; Gurpreet Bagga (Sauma Northbridge), Naomi Bulner (Steve’s Fine Food), Neil Forbes (Black Pearl Oyster Shucking), Don Hancey (WA Food Ambassador & WAFIC Seafood Ambassador), Gord Kahle (Cook & Mason), Stuart Laws (Showcase Events WA), Kenny McHardy (Manuka Woodfire Kitchen), Brendan Pang (2018 Masterchef Contestant), Melissa Palinkas (Young George), Alejandro Saravia (Uma), and Nic Wood (Santini Bar & Grill).
  • The event was held on Thursday 25 July 2019 at Fremantle’s Esplanade Hotel.