Building markets with ‘best and fresh’
When Craig Boote bought a rundown wharf and a fishing boat a decade ago, he knew there would be challenges ahead but he was also motivated by a vision of what could be achieved.
In partnership with Sealord, Westfleet Seafoods is today fulfilling that vision.
Working with Craig, who is Westfleet’s managing director, is a talented team who share his passion including Westfleet’s general manager John Brown.
Together they have transformed the Greymouth-based business into a thriving fishing and processing operation.
It i s no idle boast to state that Westfleet Seafoods has one of the best fisheries in the world right on its doorstep and this is what has driven development of the business.
Not only has the wharf been rebuilt and restored, a new state of the art factory opened in 2014.
The factory currently processes around 100 tonnes of fish per week. In addition, the company has built up its fishing fleet to include three trawlers and two long liners.
“To have this beautiful factory here is a dream come true. It’s all about bringing the freshest produce to the New Zealand domestic market, the Australian market and international markets throughout the world.”
Having a factory so close to the fishery means fresh fish can be landed in Australia within 36 hours and New Zealand supermarkets within 12 hours.
What’s more, southern consumers are soon going to be able to buy directly from the company.
In the pipeline for South Island consumers is an online sales platform that is due to go live within the next 12 months and will offer unparalleled access to a wide variety of freshly caught, quality processed inshore and deep water species.
Another exciting development for Westfleet this coming year is the planned installation of a spacious new chiller that is poised to boost processing capacity by 20 per cent.
Currently, around 60 per cent of Westfleet Seafoods’s inshore quota is exported each year with the remaining 40 per cent supplying the local market.
Key export markets include Australia (mostly fresh exports), China, Brazil, Spain, USA, Denmark and Poland, with Hoki, Orange Roughy, Ling and Alfonsino being the biggest export species.
The wild West Coast and its natural bounty is the lifeblood of Westfleet Seafoods’s thriving operation.
Its fleet must brave a challenging environment to catch its quota, including huge swells from the south. Prevailing off-shore weather conditions are often extreme, bringing big seas and high winds.
“The biggest problem we have is going out over the Greymouth bar,” explains Craig, noting that fishermen sometimes have to go through half a mile of breaking water to get out to their fishing grounds.
Of course, these fishing grounds are some of the most bountiful in the world.
Not far from Greymouth is the vast Hokitika Trench, with clear waters extending down to 1000m. It is close enough to Greymouth that vessels can complete a fishing trip and return to the wharf with a pristine catch in 12 hours.
Another six or eight hours to the south is the Cook Canyon.
Both of these fishing grounds are sources of prime species, such as Orange Roughy, Ling, Hoki and inshore species, such as Tarakihi.
Other notable coastal and sub-oceanic features in the region include the Challenger Plateau to the northwest, Jackson’s Bay at the edge of the Continental Shelf, the Open Bay Islands off Haast and the coastal wetlands of Okarito and Westhaven.
Driving the West Coast’s rich environment are its consistently cool water temperatures where many species thrive.
Over the past decade, Westfleet Seafoods has grown to become a major local employer with a staff of around 120 people, (80 in the factory and 40 working as contractors on vessels).
Having cut his teeth as a teenager on fishing boats working off the coast of Greymouth, Craig is steeped in the history of the area and its fishery.
He is committed to sustainable fishery management and to the supply of quality seafood products.
“What we’re getting from Westfleet is the best fish, fresh from the wild West Coast.”