Vale Sam Sarin

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (16:03): Today, I rise to pay tribute to one of the icons of Port Lincoln, one of the icons of the South Australian fishing industry and one of the icons of Port Lincoln’s tuna industry—that is, the late Mr Sam Sarin. Sam died on Monday 22 June, aged 84. Sam was one of the pioneers of the Australian bluefin tuna industry in Australia.

Sam came to Australia as a Croatian immigrant in the 1950s, along with many other countrymen who came to Port Lincoln in particular, not least because it reminded them of their home in Croatia and because of the opportunities it held for budding commercial fishermen. Sam was part of that history. Port Lincoln is a fishing town and home to the largest fishing fleet in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a unique fishing town; however, it is primarily a tuna town and has been for the last 60 years or more—and Sam Sarin has been part of that history.

His company, Australian Fishing Enterprises, holds almost half of all the southern bluefin tuna quota in Australia. That company, over the last 40 years, has seen the evolution of that industry from wild catch to the far more sophisticated tuna ranching method that is used today. Until the early 1990s, southern bluefin tuna was traditionally a canned product. Everybody here can recall the days of SAFCOL canned tuna; however, it is now predominantly sold as a premium sushi product to an international market, primarily in Japan.

Australian Fishing Enterprises, as part of the Sarin Group, has been a dedicated contributor to the Port Lincoln community, as has their founder, Sam Sarin. The company employs up to 300 staff and is one of the region’s largest employers. AFE’s mission is to be the most ethical, professional and efficient tuna ranching company in the world. The southern bluefin tuna industry is an Australian success story and it was pioneered by the Port Lincoln fishing industry. Sam Sarin was part of that pioneering story.

It was identified in the 1930s, in fact, that tuna aggregated in the Great Australian Bight. Surveys were done, but unfortunately the survey was put on hold when World War II came along. In the 1950s, the South Australian government financially supported the building of the purse seine vessel the Tacoma, which still holds pride of place in Port Lincoln. It was built in Port Fairy, Victoria, travelled to Port Lincoln and had on board the Haldane family, who became synonymous with fishing, not just tuna but other fisheries as well. Soon after, the Tacoma successfully caught its first load, an astonishing 10 tonnes of southern tuna, and so the tuna industry was underway.

It was exploited to its maximum through the fifties and sixties using the poling method, whereby fishers stood on the back of the boat in a can and poled the tuna in. Gradually, it progressed and Dinko Lukin, I think—one of Sammy Sarin’s colleagues and probably competitors (true)—stumbled upon the idea of ranching tuna whereby he purse seined schools of fish and dragged them back to Boston Bay, where they were held within cages, fattened up with sardines and ultimately sold to the Japanese market.

A recent development has been the freezing of those tuna to minus 60º. Minus 60º is a particularly critical temperature, in that, when thawed, the tuna can retain all the freshness and unique qualities that make it a very special sushi product. Last Monday, tuna boats from the AFE fleet were joined by others in Boston Bay as the community farewelled the man who founded the company, Sime ‘Sam’ Sarin.

Sam was incredibly generous, and he was a larger than life fellow, both in business and in life. He was renowned, not just locally but around the country, for his hard work ethic and business success, and of course he will be remembered always for the iconic Port Lincoln Hotel, which he contributed significantly to, and Sarin’s Restaurant is within that.

The Croatian Club in Port Lincoln, of which Sam was a founding member, have provided a unique and really good example of his generosity. At an AGM, it was suggested that the club put aside money to save for a dishwasher in the kitchen, and Sam said, ‘Go out and buy one and send me the bill. The ladies have washed enough dishes.’ Our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to Elida and the Sarin family.


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