As a young boy growing up in Queensland spending his days at the beach, Jason Simpson developed a love for the ocean and the creatures in it.
Jason channelled this passion into a career, beginning at Cardinal Seafood where he learnt the ropes of sales and marketing and setting the foundation for a successful journey navigating the waters of the seafood industry.
After close to 10 years at Cardinal Seafood, he then turned his focus to seafood marketing and sales at Sam’s Seafood. After setting up his own endeavours including Sea Farmers, Rockstar Fish and a merger with Fish Tales, he bought into the Aussie Red Crab – the world leader in supplying and exporting spanner crabs to restaurants and clients.
“Basically, it all started from the passion that I had, which then led to learning on the job. What comes out of the ocean is what drives me,” he said.
After eating his first spanner crab in 1987 he was hooked by the sweetness, flavour and the creature itself. He has led sales and marketing at as well as learning the art of running fishing boats and processing at Aussie Red Crab for the past five years. Aside from being the largest spanner crab exporting business in the world, the company encompasses several fishing vessels, an unloading wharf, live tank system and processing factory.
“I love the product, even when I’m not trying to sell it, I’m enthused about it, which makes it so easy,” Jason said.
“The biggest misconceptions about spanner crabs is on how to eat it. The best way to eat it is directly out of the shell. It’s not too hard, it’s a cultural experience. You can taste the love you put into the process.
“The flavours and texture are sublime. I would highly recommend to anyone to try a whole crab and cooking it themselves. I also highly recommend the smaller crabs as they are sweeter. Fiddly, but sweeter.”
You would be hard pressed to meet a more passionate spokesperson for his craft. Jason considers his work in the crab sector as his biggest achievement.
“I’m most proud of creating awareness and contributing to putting the spanner crab on the global map,” he said.
Having spent the last thirty years working in the industry, Jason considers himself lucky to be surrounded by such diversity.
“What I love most about working in this industry is the diversity, we’ve only just scraped the sides of what’s out there and the diversity of the protein available in the ocean,” he said.
“Also, the diverse range of people, from the fishermen to the chefs. I do consider myself one of the lucky ones.”
When it comes to challenges it’s all in the hands of Mother Nature.
“That’s the biggest challenge,” he said. “Learning to work with Mother Nature. She is our boss. You have to roll with the punches.”
Jason’s ideal scenario for spanner crab fishing is good weather and good fishing conditions Sunday through to Thursday.
“Friday and Saturday can be whatever they like, such is the market timing for most seafood,” he said with a laugh.
Another challenge, Jason said, is attracting the fishers of tomorrow.
“It’s very difficult. As an industry we need to sit and think about how we can attract the kids coming out of school, who might not even know that it’s an option for them,” he said.
“We need to tap into the education system so that those kids who love the ocean, love fishing, can realise that it’s a career option. To do this, we need government assistance.”
Jason has also set his sights on trying one day to re-market the spanner crab as not being a crab.
“It’s unique, it doesn’t look like any other crustacean. It doesn’t perform like a crab; it has an individual sweetness,” he said.
“Granted, it has claws but so do prawns. We should market it as its own creature, it would pay homage to it.
“One piece of advice he has learnt along the way and finds himself imparting to others is if you’re going to get into the fishing industry, submit to Mother Nature.”