Shannon Bennett & Mark Eather
“Fish from a net is unsustainable – no top chef in Australia should be using trawled seafood,” says Shannon Bennett, of Vue de monde in Melbourne. That’s why Bennett and other restaurant luminaries rely on Mark Eather for much of their seafood. Eather practises a sustainable, hand-caught approach to fishing – the opposite of the mass-catch model.

Eather uses the traditional Japanese ike jime method, which aims to catch quickly, kill quickly and chill quickly, so there is no stress on the animal.

“What you get in terms of quality compared to trawled seafood is a million times better,” says Bennett, who has worked with Eather for a decade. The two were introduced by Neil Perry, who was admiring Eather’s line-caught snapper at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. Ironically, it came from Australia.

At that point the wild fisherman mostly sourced his products for Japanese clients. Perry spread the word back home, recruiting Bennett and Kylie Kwong, who banded together to support the outspoken fisherman so he could operate in Australia.

Eather is currently working on a sustainable fish farm of the future with experimental ocean ponds in Tasmania and Queensland.

“Aquaculture is the way forward,” says Bennett. “Yes he has to charge three times as much for his product, but it’s incredible. If we don’t support wild fishermen we’ll be looking back and talking about what fish used to look like in the very near future.”

The pair is in touch three or four times a week, and Bennett occasionally goes out on the boat with Eather.

“It’s a relationship based on trust, total trust,” says the chef. “Trust comes with knowledge and he’s given me so much knowledge.”

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