Time to rethink maligned salmon

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Les Pinniger has been catching Australian salmon at Parry beach for 50 years.
Camera IconLes Pinniger has been catching Australian salmon at Parry beach for 50 years. Credit: Nic Duncan

According to Denmark salmon fisherman Mark Shepherd, most people have some deep-rooted misconceptions when it comes to WestAustralian salmon.

As a consequence, WA wild salmon has received a bad reputation over the years.

“A lot of people think Australian salmon are sold for cat food but it’s not true,” he said.

“Some people also don’t quite like the taste of it but it’s mainly because they don’t understand how to treat it or how to cook it.”

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Mark Shepherd and his colleague carrying a net-full of salmon.
Camera IconMark Shepherd and his colleague carrying a net-full of salmon. Credit: Nic Duncan

WA salmon is not like other salmon.

It belongs to the arripidae fish family and, unlike Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, the fish has an oily flesh and a strong flavour.

“They’re an oily fish, like mackerel — you need to bleed them on the beach to make the flesh more favourable,” Mr Shepherd said.

When WA salmon is not treated or bled properly, its soft flesh will turn a dark colour and will start to develop a different flavour.

Mr Shepherd said the Australian salmon industry used to be bigger but many companies had disappeared over the years.

Salmon fishermen at Parry Beach
Camera IconSalmon fishermen at Parry Beach Credit: Nic Duncan

WA Fisheries says our salmon stock is in great condition, but the commercial industry has to compete with the recreational fishers that occupy the south coast during salmon season.

“Back then we were able to get around 400 tonnes in a year but the last 10 years we’re getting only around 100 tonnes per year,” Mr Shepherd said.

He said West Australian salmon were mainly used as bait for the rock lobster industry, even though the fish had great potential to be served on the dinner table.

WA celebrity chef Anna Gare said she was surprised at how underused West Australian salmon was

“The preparation of bleeding, storing and filleting of the salmon is crucial for best flavour of the fish,” she said. “The fish is moist with an oily flesh and it has a great flavour.

“It lends itself to several different cooking methods.”

Ms Gare said West Australian salmon deserved more respect and she had been encouraging local chefs to promote the fish on their menus.

Anna Gare serving WA salmon
Camera IconAnna Gare serving WA salmon Credit: Nic Duncan

“When prepared correctly, Australian salmon is up there with some of my favourite fish-eating experiences,” she said.

After working for the Australian salmon industry for the past 30 years, Mr Shepherd said he was still hopeful for its future.

“Salmon fishing has become part of our culture and it’s been going for years,” he said.

“It’s mainly because we grew up on the beach — we love the beach life and fishing is just sort of in our blood and it got passed on that way.”

Mr Shepherd said he would like to pass on Denmark’s salmon fishing heritage and see his children and grandchildren involved in the industry in the future.

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