Soulfish Seafoods owner Dan Learoyd (left) with staff member Andrew “Jack” Eden and Ben.
Dan Learoyd was born a fisherman. At the age of 8 he would walk to the Spellbound, a fishing boat moored in Noosa, and ask for a job almost every day. His persistence paid off, and after finishing school and a stint in hospitality, Dan joined the boat and crew in his early twenties, climbing the ranks to gain his Skipper tickets in 2000.
After the Spellbound, Dan ventured for eight years on a number of commercial fishing vessels including the Cooktown based FV Irene, purchasing the boat himself in 2008. He continued skippering the FV Irene for many years until Soulfish Seafoods was purchased and The Southeastern, a boat based in 1770, was added to the fleet. This was acquired to compliment the overall concept of providing the freshest seafood to the Sunshine Coast.
Dan passed his passion for the ocean to his son Josh, who has continued the family fishing tradition and is currently skippering the Irene in Cooktown.
The FV Irene is a 50-foot commercial boat based in Cooktown. From here, the crew specialise in line caught fish of the remote waters of Far North Queensland in the pristine Coral Sea. Here, human impact on marine ecosystems is minimal. The main catch is Coral Trout, however other reef and pelagic fish species are also caught. The fish are docked live using a state of the art fishing tank which is biologically controlled, maintaining water quality at its best. This climate controlled water slows the metabolism of the fish, decreasing stress levels and keeping them alive longer in quality conditions.
The Irene also tows five 16ft tenders behind the boat to enable more coverage and fishing effort per voyage.
Once the Irene is docked, the fish are killed humanely on the wharf and rushed directly to the airport, landing in the Soulfish Factory within 24 hours. The Irene is out to sea all year round except during the spawning season of October, November and December, when fisheries close the waters for sustainability purposes.
This boat was only recently added to the fleet in an effort to provide the freshest fish to the Sunshine Coast public. Based in 1770, the Southeastern is usually out to sea for two nights at a time, catching local snapper, pearl perch and various other reef fish.
The fish are kept in a salt water brine esky and once docked at the jetty, unloaded straight into the Soulfish van and taken to the factory in Coolum for processing.