By Melissa Keogh
As a third-generation member of a South Australian seafood family, Eliza Ferguson spent her childhood aboard vessels reeling in some of the state’s most prized species.
Some 20 years later and the daughter of Ferguson Australia Group founder Andrew Ferguson has now dedicated her working life to being the face of the company and its speciality – southern rock lobsters.
“As the saying goes, it (seafood) runs in your blood,” says Eliza, Ferguson’s export and marketing manager.
“I spent my childhood on and off fishing boats for one to two weeks at a time until the age of about 12.
“We had such an amazing childhood.”
Eliza works alongside seven of her family members including parents Andrew and Debra, who founded the brand in 2003.
Her grandfather Robert had been a commercial southern rock lobster fisherman in the South East since the late 1960s.
Ferguson Australia is now a respected southern rock lobster and scale fish supplier, with its own fishing fleet, export interests and domestic retail avenues.
It is also a major exporter of southern rock lobster to China.
Earlier in 2017 Ferguson became the first fishery in Australia and the third in the world to gain a prestigious sustainability certification for the shellfish species.
The company was also the world’s first to achieve the Friend of the Sea certification for six other seafood species.
Ferguson’s headquarters is based at Hendon, Adelaide, while it has processing facilities in Port MacDonnell, Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island.
Among its most recent pursuits is the launch of cooked frozen southern rock lobsters in Foodland supermarkets in time for Christmas.
“This year we have given people the opportunity to buy lobster at a reasonable price ($69 each) and they are guaranteed a high-quality product,” Eliza says.
“We want people to enjoy lobster more than once in a blue moon.”
The boxed, cooked frozen southern rock lobsters follow a separate range of frozen fish which was relaunched in November, 2016.
The 200g range includes seven local fish species; flathead, King George whiting, Coorong mullet, gummy shark, southern garfish, Bight redfish (red snapper), and ocean jacket and is available at all SA Foodlands.
It also includes commercial scallop meat from Tasmania.
“The range was around before but with different packaging and it was only available at two Foodlands,” Eliza says.
“We have been so supported by Foodland and the consumers, they love to see our products and they trust the quality.”
Eliza says Ferguson wanted to rebuild frozen seafood’s reputation for being of a lower quality compared to fresh fish.
“Frozen fish has a bad reputation and that’s what we are trying to change,” she says.
“We have picked species that are iconic to SA and freeze well.”
The fish are caught in SA waters by a pool of about 100 local fishers.
Kangaroo Island resident Jason Stevens is Ferguson’s factory manager at the Kingscote facility on Kangaroo Island.
It’s his job to liaise with the fishers who bring in the day’s catch ready to be filleted, frozen and packaged for sale.
“We have to be made available for the fishers at any one time,” he says.
Jason has worked with Ferguson for the past seven years and has previous experience working on an oyster farm on the island.
If he’s not processing scale fish or southern rock lobster he’s showing fish fanatics how its done aboard his fishing charter, Tory M Fishing Charters.
“It’s nice and peaceful here,” Jason adds.