Local fisherman and festival organiser Ant Smith.

Around 3000 people turned out to celebrate and taste the bounties of the Otago seafood industry at the Port Chalmers Seafood Festival late last month.

The vibrant festival at the Port Otago 'A' shed on September 26 blended sounds, delectable food, and family friendly activities. Run by around 90 community volunteers, the event aims to raise the profile of Port Chalmers and Dunedin's West Harbour, with the proceeds being returned to the community.

A variety of transport options were available to festival goers, including the Taieri Gorge Railway, free bus rides from Dunedin and ferries to the port's dock, the festival's front door. And when they arrived, they were spoilt for choice with more than 20 stalls offering a variety of seafood themed meals from paua pattie sambos, mussels with chilli and lemongrass sauce, clam chowder, Bluff oysters, rock lobster, Sichuan calamari in a brioche bun, and seafood paella. Local chefs also gave cooking demonstrations.


Local commercial fisherman and immediate Past President of the Port Chalmers Fisherman's Co-op Society Ltd, Ant Smith, was among the local volunteers. Smith grew up in nearby Carey's Bay overlooking the fishing vessels, to be woken at 5am daily by the sound of the vessels' radios broadcasting the weather forecast as they sailed out for a day's fishing. After completing a plumbing apprenticeship he was drawn to the sea and commercial fishing. Smith represents commercial fishing at the festival.

"We do not do enough to promote ourselves to young school leavers. Dan our youngest crew member, with the support of his parents and the disgust of his teachers, left school at 16 and has an exciting and rewarding fishing career ahead of him.

"It connects us with our customers. Nowadays people are really interested in where their food comes from. They can come along to the festival, have look at fishing boats, and a poke and a prod at the fish on display" (the dead ones that is)."

Smith was heavily involved in a festival highlight, the live fish tank, which teemed with a display of the wide variety of seafood harvested in local waters.

"We have had the tank at all three festivals. It is a collaborative effort between the University of Otago Marine Sciences Department and our Cooperative. The interest it has generated has exceeded our expectations. "The various fish dissections performed by the Marine Sciences Department were not only interesting for the general audience, the local fishermen were pushing to the front row to hear the commentary.

"It's really cool to hear the excitement in the kids' voices when they look into the tank," says Smith. A group of children had great delight in returning the fish live to the sea at the end of the day.