I love working with the fishers, the joking and the banter, and dealing with the everyday issues and challenges that are unique to this Industry.

Ian Mitchell, SAFCOL

Ian Mitchell is the Manager of the South Australian Fishermans Co-Operative Limited (SAFCOL).  SAFCOL was founded in 1945 by a group of South Australian fishermen to sell their catch; the first of its kind in Australia.  Today, SAFCOL is one of the world’s major suppliers of fresh, packaged and frozen seafood and is a vital part of SA’s marine scalefish fishery.

Ian Mitchell’s story

In 1995 I was hired by Don Dew, SAFCOL’s previous manager, who became my mentor and someone for whom I have the greatest respect.  I started packing bait in SAFCOL’s bait factory and then in 1998 transferred to the Central Fish Market to work the scales, which entailed tipping the boxes of the day’s catch onto the scales and then paddling the catch into the buyers’ boxes.  One day, Don pulled me aside and asked if I’d be interested in becoming an auctioneer.  At that time, I had just been diagnosed with agoraphobia or a fear of crowds and people looking at me.  However, I loved working with the fishers and because I was dealing with the same people every day I felt I could make the transition.  The very first day auctioneering I was a bit nervous and, for the first few weeks, I’d dread having to come to work and do the auctioneering.  Despite my trepidation, Don kept encouraging me to persevere and said I would make a great auctioneer.  Now, auctioneering is second nature to me.

My work day starts early; I am up at 3:00am and get to work at 4:00am.  From 4:00am to 6:00am we’re busy receiving the fish at the dock and between 6:00am to 6:30am we are setting up the market.  By 6:30am, we’re ready to go.  We have three auctioneers and on average are auctioning for 2 hours a morning.  Depending on the catch of the day, it’s very much a supply and demand market.  Buyers include all the local seafood outlets, fish wholesalers, fish retailers and supermarkets.

As soon as the day’s auctions have ended, I reconcile all the fishers’ consignment notes and email them their prices; I try to get this done by 11:00am.  I then cross reference each fisher’s consignment note with PIRSA’s CDR or catch disposal records.  Under the Government’s fisheries management, this is a catch and disposal requirement placed on commercial fishers and each fisher has to complete a CDR for each fish processor where their catch is being consigned.  Once the paperwork has been finalised, I oversee the clean-up of the market area.  I usually leave the market around 1:00pm and then am on the phone until 5:00pm, addressing questions with fishers and buyers about supplies for the next day.

When I started working for SAFCOL, we had over 800 fishers.  Now we have just over 200 commercial fishers.  During my time there have been a lot of changes, including the closure of vast areas for marine parks and other fishing restrictions that continue to this day.  Most of our commercial fishers have been fishing for generations; it’s their livelihood and they know what they’re doing.  With less commercial fishers, I think there is no reason to continue to keep large areas closed, especially if it means fishers are having to fish the same waters as the increasing number of recreational fishers.

I fell into the fishing industry and it all comes back to Don.  He had a passion for the Industry that I’ve never seen in anyone else and he instilled that passion in me.  I love working with the fishers, the joking and the banter, and dealing with the everyday issues and challenges that are unique to this Industry.


 Suite 27, 6-8 Todd Street, Port Adelaide SA 5015

Email: enquiries@mfasa.org.au