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Sally-Bolton

Sally Bolton

Communications Manager, MSC Oceania

Talking seafood and sustainability with Mures Tasmania

July 8, 2021

The Mure family has been synonymous with sustainable seafood in Tasmania for more than four decades. The Mure’s fishing vessels, factory, restaurants and fishmonger have served multiple generations of seafood lovers.

In March 2020, they took another step forward in their business, gaining chain of custody certification to proudly serve MSC and ASC certified sustainable seafood across their three restaurants and fishmonger. Days later, the COVID-19 lockdown ground everything to a halt.

Despite this short-term pause, Mures Tasmania is focused firmly on the future, committed to the long-term sustainability of their business and the communities they serve. We recently caught up with Jude, Will, Jock and Wilson, to talk all things seafood and sustainability.

Mure family in front of Mure Fish Centre

Q: What are your roles in the business?

Jock Mure:

"I'm the executive manager at Mures Fishing. We source our seafood from our boats, from other fisheries, and from the markets. And then we process fish and distribute to our own restaurants, other restaurants around Tasmania, and all sorts of places like IGAs and supermarkets.

"Once I finished school, I worked in the business for a year, and then I went off to uni to make sure that there wasn't something else out there for me that I wanted to do. About halfway through, I thought, no, I want to be back in the business. But I finished the course and then jumped straight back in here and loved it ever since."

Jude Mure:

"I’m Will's wife. I’m a director of the business, and have been involved ever since I met Will, a long, long, long time ago. We're involved in every part of Mures - every tiny inch of what we do and where we've been and where we're going."

Wilson Mure:
"I'm currently based mainly on the Mures Lower Deck, in the restaurant and fishmongers, overseeing a lot of things that go on there.

"I've been working here since 14, when I first started in the school holidays. We've been brought up, we used to go on fishing trips and holidays on the boats. We've always had that real strong connection with the water and the family business. I've always been very interested in continuing along in the business."

Will Mure:
"Husband of Jude. I’m a director of the business, involved, in aspects of the business. Earlier on, I was running a fishing boat. But for the last nearly 20 years, I suppose since my dad died, I've been more involved land-based with Jude in the business."

Q: What’s the story of the Mures business, from the start?

Will Mure:

"My mum and dad were the founders of Mures in Tassie. They started with a small restaurant in Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania, which won national awards as a seafood restaurant. It was cutting edge at the time, back in the 70s. But we couldn't source a reliable source of fresh fish, so my dad decided to go fishing. We built a boat, he fished a lot, and worked in the restaurant. Mum was the cook and chef, and my dad split his time between fishing and running the restaurant. They worked very hard.

Then we had an opportunity, back in the 80s, to develop a business on the waterfront between the two docks in Hobart, a prime location which was really wasted at the time. My dad spent a lot of time lobbying the government to give permission to actually build there. It took him 10 years. But eventually, the government agreed that it should be developed, and we leased the land off TasPorts, built what is now Mures Fish Centre, opened it at the end of 1987, and we've been going gangbusters since then in this business.

"At the time, when we first opened, it incorporated our processing factory within Mures Fish Centre, plus three restaurants: The Upper Deck, Lower Deck, and what was originally a sushi bar operated by a Japanese family. A lot of development of the business has happened over the years, including moving the factory out of the business. It’s now in Cambridge, which is a suburb outside of Hobart. We’ve expanded The Lower Deck and other parts of the business. And when the Japanese family didn't renew their lease, we took over that space as well and opened a third restaurant called Pearl + Co.

"Now there are three restaurants within the business, a fresh seafood outlet, fishmongers, and our factory out of Cambridge. And our fishing boat, as well. The fishing side of it has developed over the years. We've owned four commercial fishing vessels, one or two at a time, each time. We own one at the moment, the Diana, which is a 23-metre-long line boat for demersal species."

Diana fishing vessel

Q: How do you implement sustainability across the business?

Will Mure:

"Sustainability, having fisheries for the long-term as part of that, has been a part of our business model right from the word go. We've always had that thought process. The way we catch fish, the way we utilise the fish, and even involvement from myself on various management advisory committees, which advise the government on ways to manage the fishery. That's what we've always done. So, that goes from the way that we catch fish, which is we use hooks, and we've always used hooks to catch fish. We found that to be a very low-impact fishery and selective as well. Selective in terms of the species of the catch, right through to our processing, and our waste.

"We're constantly working on our waste. The latest is reducing all plastics in our restaurants. Lower Deck is sort of a bistro, fast food, takeaway. We've done away with all plastic bottles, and we're constantly looking at ways of reducing impact on the environment. We recycle our cardboard, all our glass, all our plastics, aluminum. Recycling is part of our overall vision for how to lessen the impact we have as a business on the environment."

Jude Mure:

"We're very proud of it too. We've been orchestrating Mures Fish School for years now. That's to get the very enthusiastic youngsters in Hobart and beyond to come and see us and listen and see what we do. They always ask us about straws. That must've been the first thing that happened for sustainability, because these little kids will not touch a straw unless you can tell them it's paper. It's been a very good program, and that's ongoing."

Will Mure:
"There’s a story we tell through the Fish School - we target a fish called blue-eye trevalla, my dad did that back in the mid to late seventies full-time as a fishery. And we continue to do that in the same place that he used to fish over 40 years ago. That's a classic example of sustainability, where you can continue to fish a species forever. As long as you've got the science right behind it and you're only taking what can be regenerated every year and you're not damaging the ecosystem in any way, or as minimal impact as possible, you can have a fishery that does last forever."

Children touching fish with gloved hands

 

Q: What have been the most significant changes that you've seen in the seafood sector in the years that you've been involved?

Jude Mure:
"It is sustainability, really. The awareness of sustainability. That's huge. People come in and are looking for an Australian product or a sustainable product. Some great work has been done in schools and in the media about this for them to come with that mindset. 

"Some people still don't care. Some people are just after a price-driven thing, but I think there's a huge awareness of sustainability now. And then, with what Will's doing with the management side, the big picture stuff, to see the focus on quota continually being assessed by scientists, with the wild fishery.

"We're in Tassie, so we have a lot of the farmed fish happening here too. It probably is that whole awareness of sustainability which has been the biggest change."

Q: Why did you choose to pursue MSC and ASC Chain of Custody certification?

Jock Mure:
"We're obviously very proud of what we do and the way we fish in our own practices. We've been all about sustainability for a long time, but we hadn't actually gotten the accreditations to show for it. We do all the right practices, so I think it's nice to have something that you can step through to actually show that you are dedicated and committed towards sustainability. It gives a bit more meaning to it."

Will Mure:
"That's absolutely true. The chain of custody allows you to highlight those fisheries that have gone to that next level and are truly sustainable, with the highest accreditation from the ASC and MSC. It's that chain of custody, it's down the line back to the fisheries themselves, that you can really promote and get that awareness of those companies that are doing the right thing and have gone through the trouble to get that accreditation."


Q: How was your experience gaining certification?

Will Mure:
"It took dedication to actually step through it, it does take a person to drive it through. It made you aware of a whole heap of different things. Especially the paperwork and keeping the trail of product and all the rest of it is critical. I always wondered earlier, before I really understood the whole concept, about why you needed to have the chain of custody. It didn't really click that you need to be able to actually prove that a product you're selling in the window has actually come from that fishery. And then once you realise that, you think: Yes, okay. That makes sense. It's well worth getting that accreditation and getting that chain of custody there so that you really can stand strong and say: Yes, this product is the product that comes from that fishery. I think that's very important."

Jock Mure:

"Another thing we're very passionate about is our correct labeling of fish species and products. We do know that a lot of places out there get away with slapping a name on something. It's the same sort of idea that you can't just call anything sustainable, you've got to be able to trace back and prove it. There's obviously good reasons for it.

"There's definitely a process you have to implement to get certified. You have to change the habits of people that are down in the restaurants to follow the processes. Which is always hard work trying to get people to implement new processes. But it has to be done, it's about tracing it back to its original source. There's reasons why it's in place."

Q: How have you navigated the new challenges that the pandemic has thrown at the business?

Will Mure:
"It's been very challenging. We closed the whole business for seven weeks."

Jude Mure:
"Fishing and restaurants."

Will Mure:

"Yeah, everything. And restarting has been an amazing journey. It is like resetting your whole business. We've come back doing a lot of different things."

Jude Mure:
"Our staff were fantastic." 

Jock Mure:
"The first thing we did when we reopened was we sent our boat out fishing. Because being closed, we didn't have any fresh fish in the business. So, we sent the boat out. Our first day reopening was just selling that fish off the boat to the locals. Since then, we've carried on doing that, doing what we call a whole fish special where they purchase a fish and we cut it for them. We are including that cost of cutting in their purchase. And we continue doing that. So it's given us a big chance to reconnect back with the local community."

Jude Mure:
"And feed them, first of all."

Will Mure:

"We opened the Lower Deck first and Pearl + Co, which is our small restaurant on the ground floor, and then we slowly started reopening the Upper Deck. And part of that process was Lower Deck was starting to pick up some good business, but Upper Deck was just: no one going. So we started taking people upstairs. Literally, Jude and I were. I said: Would you like eat upstairs today? Upstairs we've got that lovely fish and chips special on.

"So we were getting more people to go upstairs. And I think that's flown on as well. So a lot of new customers that we never would have had in the Upper Deck have gone up there and enjoyed the experience. Had a lovely fish and chip meal for 20 bucks, which you don't normally get in somewhere like the Upper Deck. And now they're continuing to come back and enjoy the Upper Deck as well. So it has been great reconnecting with the locals."

Wilson Mure:
"A lot of customers have been buying blue-eye trevalla for their whole life, wouldn't buy anything else, but they've never actually seen the whole fish. So they come in and go: Oh, what's this fish? And you go: Oh, that's a blue-eye. And they go: Oh! They finally sort of know what they're actually eating all these years."

Jude Mure:
"And the fishmongers have been able to entice them to take the bones and head home and make some soups. So it's been good for the use of the whole fish, which is great."

Wilson Mure:
"It's also given us an opportunity to push forward a lot of other fish. We've been getting a lot more variety out of the fish that we're selling, not just blue-eye the entire time."


Q: As things have opened back up, how have customers responded to seeing the MSC and ASC labels in the restaurants and fishmonger?

Wilson Mure:
"I find particularly with something like the toothfish, where there's a bit of a stigma around it, they'll come in and see it and go: Oh, wasn't that overfished or something? And you can explain to them about the MSC, and it really drives home the point that no, actually, there's been a change in the fishery. That's a really positive thing I've seen on my end, out of the fishmongers."

Will Mure:
"It helps as part of an education process, whether aquaculture or wild fisheries, to let people know that there is a lot of work being done in terms of long-term sustainability of fisheries."

Jude Mure:
"It’s good to have that confidence to say: Yes, absolutely, they wouldn't have achieved certification if the fishery wasn't sustainable.”


Q: What's next for Mures?

Will Mure:

"The big thing for us right now is to recover from the impacts of COVID, as would be the case right around the world. We're putting a lot of things into place to ensure that we are heading in the right direction. We've, obviously, got our winter to get through, which is very seasonable in Tasmania. So we've got to ensure we're in a strong position to get through the winter and come out the other side.

"We're starting to think about putting another fishing vessel on the water. Only a very small operation, a small line boat to catch some tuna species and some scalefish species around Tassie. It will help us supplement our fish coming through the business."

Jude Mure:
"We're always very proud of Mures' hook-caught fish from our vessel, Diana. So this would allow us to be able to show the care that we're showing with our fishing boat, the Diana, we can do it with other species. It's an exciting project for the young Mures too. We hope there's generations and generations of good fishing happening under this family line here."

Jock Mure:
"We're trying to promote our other suppliers a bit more as well. We buy from a lot of other local Tasmanian fishermen and in the states as well. So we're trying to acknowledge these. It's all about that education. People think that we catch all the fish that we sell, but we only catch certain fish with the way we fish and the way our boats are set up. So the more we can educate people about where their fish are coming from and how it gets to them, the better. I think that's very important, to continue the education."

Will Mure:
"We've already started down the path of a good succession process as well with our family. So that's an important part of our future as well, ensuring that the business remains strong and it continues to grow for the extended family."

Q: What's your favorite certified sustainable seafood, and your favorite way to enjoy it?

Jude Mure:

"We're going to tell you our favorite way of enjoying each of them because they're all wonderful."

Jock Mure:
"Currently in our restaurants, we've got blue grenadier, we've got tiger and king prawns from Exmouth Gulf, and we've got the toothfish, they are our MSC products. We've also got the Spencer Gulf kingfish and the salmon from Tassal as ASC products. The blue grenadier, we use that a lot as fish and chips down in the restaurants. It's perfect, because it's such a family-friendly fish and chip. You can't go wrong. You can never upset anyone. It's beautiful, flaky. Cooks up perfectly."

Wilson Mure:
"I quite like to use the prawns in a paella. You can put all the seafood in it, but then if you've got these lovely, massive, whole prawns on top, it really sort of brings out a bit of a wow factor in it."

Jude Mure:
"The kingfish, it's sashimi I think. It's just absolutely loved. The sashimi, through the three restaurants. The Pearl has some beautiful plates of sashimi going out. It's an ASC product, so it's great."

Will Mure:

"And the salmon. We do a really great dish in the Upper Deck, crispy skin. The way that they prepare the skin - they rub it in salt. Obviously, there's no scale. The way it's cooked with the fish, it's lovely. It's almost like a chip, it's just lovely and beautiful flavor. It's excellent.

"Toothfish is an amazing product. But because it's got that really good oil content, it's excellent for grilling. And I always think it would be nice with a béarnaise sauce or something like that. It's quite a mild-flavored fish as well, so having a lovely tasting sauce to go with it is great."

Patagonian toothfish tartare


Q: What's one thing you'd like people who love Australian seafood to know about the care and effort which goes into catching and supplying this fish?

Jock Mure:
"It's really not easy. When we first opened back up, I jumped on our boat for a while. It's amazing. You people wouldn't believe what goes into it... the whole process, not just on the boat, out at Cambridge, in the restaurants, there's a lot that goes into it. Definitely, people need to value Australian seafood."

Will Mure:
"I think we need to get the education out to the wider public about sustainability. Unfortunately, the word sustainability has been used way too much, not in the right context. It’s important that people understand the high level of accreditation with the MSC and ASC, you can really have faith in it and have trust in it."

Jude Mure:
"And be proud of what we produce and we catch."

Will Mure:
"This ongoing sort of hit at wild fisheries has got to start to be tempered with the good stuff that's happening around the world. And that's where I think, again, ASC and MSC is so critical because it is such a high level of accreditation that people can have confidence in."

Jock Mure:

"There is a lot of good seafood around the world, and people shouldn’t just turn their nose up at something if it's not Australian. We look at our neighbors over in New Zealand, they do a lot of good seafood and sustainable seafood over there. There's nothing wrong with getting some product in from other places, as long as it's well managed and sustainable."

Mures Fish Centre Hobart Tasmania

Photos courtesy of Mures Tasmania

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