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Eye to eye with a fishmonger

30 Apr 2019

Eye to eye with a fishmonger Image

By Rhonda Dredge

Chinese diners have a keen appreciation of seafood and the Australian industry has been adapting to the demands.

Live coral trout bring up to six times the price of dead ones but a lot of skill goes into keeping them alive. The tanks are well stocked at Docklands’ Live Fish Market where the temperature and salinity are monitored.

Coral trout are the most highly valued for their red colouring and sweet flesh, according to salesman Perry Wong.

Wild coral trout are fished off the Queensland coast and transported to Melbourne in trucks, then kept alive in tanks.

“Once you try a fresh one you can taste the difference,” Perry said.

The market sells live barramundi for $28 a kilo and crayfish for around $150 a kilo. “We sell 40-50 a day when we have a promotion.”

Angler Perry, as he jokingly calls himself, spends his days thinking, talking and fantasising about fish. He will sell you a wild coral trout at $98 a kilo and believes in its culinary power but won’t partake himself.

“I ate too much fish when I was young,” he said. His mum worked in one of Hong Kong’s seafood restaurants and his dad in a seafood shop.

Angler Perry prefers to release the fish he catches off the cool waters between Queenscliff and Geelong.

He’s eagerly awaiting the return of the snapper out the front this month.

When a customer arrives, he or she selects the fish and it is gutted and cleaned. Angler Perry supervises and keeps up the patter. He doesn’t like to poke a crayfish.

Why is the barramundi so cheap? “It’s farmed,” said Perry. How long can the fish survive? “About a month. Some last only a couple of days.”

Fish in tanks attract questions. The live fish market is not for the faint-hearted. This is a place where you, the consumer, comes eye to eye with your meal before it is killed.

Angler Perry prefers a rocky ledge. From his desk he can see a patch of blue. He caught a 5 kg snapper right there two years ago.

A fisherman learns to wait. Chinese New Year is a long way off. One fish might cost a day’s wages so it’s a special treat.

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