Federation Conference honours fishers old and new

At its 66th conference in Tauranga on 30 May, the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen’s annual conference concluded with two well-deserved recognitions – industry stalwart Allan Rooney nabbed the prestigious Electronic Navigation Shield, while Northland fisher Logan Murman landed the inaugural Sunderland Marine Young Fisher of the Year Award.

Greymouth fisher Allan Rooney, who has been working in the industry since the 1970s, has certainly seen his share of changes. Rooney began his fishing career as a part-time deckhand, eventually going full time in 1985, fishing out of Lyttleton for over a decade before returning to the West Coast, where he owns and operates the FV Tanea.

Richard Bowe from Electronic Navigation Ltd presenting Allan Rooney (right) with the 2024 award. [Photo: Claire Williamson]

The proud Coastie was honoured with the Electronic Navigation Shield Award, which is awarded to someone who has gone above and beyond to support the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen (the Federation).

Federation President Doug Saunders-Loder says, “Allan Rooney recently turned 70 and still continues to fish from Greymouth in the FV Tanea and – like many others – battles the Greymouth Bar each week in order to provide us with our weekly fix of Friday night fish and chips.

“He has fished out of Grey for the past 50 years, and his knowledge and commitment to the industry cannot be undermined. He’s always there for other fishermen, which played out recently when he took the much larger FV Mako in tow and got vessel and crew across the bar and into port safely. Allan is a West Coast pioneer, someone who has run many boats on the Coast and been instrumental in developing many fisheries. True West Coast personality, Roon is the absolute example of a worthy ENL Shield recipient.”

Meanwhile, friends and family describe Logan Murman as “very innovative”, “curious” and someone with a “huge work ethic”. They paint a picture of a twenty-seven-year-old who is putting in the hard yards to succeed in his chosen path as a fisher.

Murman’s career began when he was 17, working as a deckhand on a local Leigh cray boat and longliners. At 20 he got his skipper’s ticket and continued working around Leigh until 2019, when he headed down to the West Coast to broaden his experience with stints fishing for tuna and a few months as a watchkeeper on a hoki trawler.

After this valuable time spent away from his home port, Murman returned to Leigh and bought the 14.2 metre FV Unity in 2021, which he now skippers, rotating between fishing for crays and longlining for finfish, depending on the season.

It is this innovative mindset that led the awards committee to select Murman as the inaugural winner of the Sunderland Marine Young Fisher of the Year Award.

The award – (a collaboration between Young Fish Aotearoa NZ, founding sponsor Sunderland Marine and the Federation) – celebrates the early career achievements and hard work of New Zealand’s fishers under the age of 35.

Logan Murman [Photo: Claire Williamson]

The award was presented jointly by Ben Pierce, Sunderland Marine representative Nicki Peacey and Federation President Doug Saunders- Loder. Together, they presented Murman with the custom trophy – featuring a stainless-steel snapper sculpture mounted on an upcycled piece of shaped macrocarpa timber.

The Federation has a legacy of nurturing young talent, making its annual conference the perfect occasion to debut the award.

“Logan’s multiple nominators praised his willingness to continuously adjust his fishing methods – for example, by fishing in different areas depending on the season or lunar phase to maximise his success,” says Ben Pierce, co-founder of Young Fish and creator of the award.

“They also reference his positive attitude, how good he is to work with and his ongoing contributions to his local fishing communities, all of which are important qualities to nurture throughout your career.”

Murman says he wasn’t expecting to win the award. “It solidifies the fact that I’m on the right track within my own business and operations – it’s reassuring to know that you’re doing well in the industry you’re in.”

Though he hasn’t decided what he’ll do with the $5,000 scholarship yet, he has a growth mindset for himself and his business.

I’ve always been one to work – it gives you purpose, drive and routine. Everything works around having the right people behind you. I look for discipline and people who have a zeal around them so you can tell they’re passionate. It’s a lot of hardiness; I refer to it as ‘old-school’. The next step for me is to branch out and diversify.

The industry is changing – and I’m only young, but how I’ve seen it change in the time I’ve been involved is astounding. It’s interesting times ahead.”

Value of the Federation

Ever since the earliest Federation conferences in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the partners of the fishermen have attended their own bespoke tour and itinerary around the region where the conference took place while their fishing partner debated issues of quota, levies or other politics of the day. Many fishers’ partners play an integral role, either at sea or in support ashore with administration operations, which is why the Federation rewards them with a day out in the region.

Today – of course – many partners attend the conference themselves, but the tradition remains alive in the post-conference Partners Programme, co-sponsored by Sunderland Marine and the Federation.

This year’s event saw 40 partners visiting Mount Maunganui before boarding the yacht Silent Wings – donated for the day by Caryn Rawlinson of RMD Marine – for a buffet-style lunch of crayfish, prawns, salads and cake with lemon sauce while cruising around the harbour. One attendee was Mel Brown, one half of the 42 year old, family owned business Brown and Hayman Fisheries Ltd. Mel said she and husband Curly go to every Federation conference they can.

“It is invaluable to belong to the Federation for their support. It helps us to connect to other fishing families and communities. We have made some great friends – it’s always great to turn up every year and catch up all over again.”

“We look forward to it, it is great to connect with people who are in the same industry and understand the struggles and different type of life we share.”

Another was Toni Smith who – together with her husband, Ant – has owned a seafood industry business for 19 years. Toni does the majority of the administration, including working with the bank and accountant. She’s gone on the Partner Programme at every Federation conference she attends – which has been most of them since 2010.

People (including good friends) don’t understand the challenges we have on a daily basis, so it’s always good to chat with others in the same or similar situation.

The best part of the day was the relaxing afternoon and enjoying each other’s company. It is always good to reconnect with the other ladies that work in the industry. Fishing is a lifestyle not a job.”

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