It’s the crack of dawn and there’s something fishy going on in the industrial backstreets of Mile End. It’s the SAFCOL Central Fish Market. A motley crew of blokes arrive at a big, white shed full of cool rooms, ice, and large blue crates of seafood. They’re a boisterous lot. Banter fills the cavernous space until 6.30am when a moment of silence precedes the chaotic auction.
“The SAFCOL Central Fish Market happens every Monday to Friday,” Michelle Farinola from Samtass Bros Seafoods says. It’s not open to the public but the who’s who of the seafood selling industry is here.
“All the local fish mongers, fish shops, some supermarkets, anybody who retails wholesale seafood.” They’re all here. Samtass, Cappo, Angelakis Bros, International Oyster and Seafoods, and The Fish Factory. As the auction whirls into action around them, seafood legends Sam Andonas (Michelle’s dad), Tom Angelakis and Angie Del Medico (International Oyster and Seafoods) chew the fat. “They all know each other,” Michelle says. “Dad comes to catch up with everyone.” As trout, garfish, and tommy ruff hit scales and bids fly, Sam watches on. “I’m 81 years young and I’ve been coming since its inception.” He smiles. “That’s 40 years. It used to be on Gouger Street, run by the Daw brothers.”
Sam doesn’t spend as much time behind his Adelaide Central Market store’s counter these days, but he’s seen it all since joining his late dad Tom in the seafood game in 1952.
“We’re fortunate there’s a variety of fish here today. I’ve caught up with the old cronies, too.”
Michelle laughs. “The auction goes for about an hour. You have to be switched on – if you miss out here it’s detrimental to your business because you haven’t got anything to sell.”
When the bidding wraps up, the crowd dissipates and heads off to fillet their purchases and stock window displays. “People walk into a shop and see seafood in the window but from to sea to plate there’s a lot involved,” Michelle says. “It’s not just somebody catching it and bringing it straight in, everything is government regulated. That’s to help with sustainability – so that we know what is coming out of the oceans and at what rate. It’s the best thing for the future. It’s about being responsible.”
Discover our South Australian seafood feast – and the recipes on how to make it at home. If you fancy having a crack at your own catch, check out our tops picks for jetty fishing in SA.