Daniel takes the chair of Seafood Council

The new chair of the NT Seafood Council, Daniel Kimberley, holding a giant clam at his Monsoon Aquatics business in Darwin's rural area.
The new chair of the NT Seafood Council, Daniel Kimberley, holding a giant clam at his Monsoon Aquatics business in Darwin's rural area. Mark Wilton

IT WILL come as no surprise to those who know him, but the new chairman of the Northern Territory Seafood Council certainly enjoys a challenge.

That's obvious when you consider the new chairman works in an industry that requires regular diving in Territory coastal waters with poor visibility and the ever present risks associated with crocs and sharks.

Daniel Kimberley has built up his "hobby” business from scratch in the NT over the past eight years.

His business Monsoon Aquatics is a licensed collector and exporter of coral and fish for the aquarium industry. That means that Daniel and his team regularly go out into Territory waters and collect all sorts of exotic fish ranging from the well-known Finding Nemo clown fish through to the recently discovered Monsoon Fairy Wrasse, so named after being found by Daniel and his team.

After starting from his shed with a little run around boat, Daniel now has 10 staff and a 24-tonne boat that goes out and collects fish and coral from the whole of the NT coastline.

"We now export product all over the world and we have won the NT Exporter of the Year award a couple of times,” Daniel said.

Daniel, 40, who has certificates in aquaculture and a degree in environmental science, first came to the Territory about 15 years ago to work at the Territory Wildlife Park after working at the Sydney Aquarium and Ocean World down south.

"I was always interested in the aquarium ornamental industry, but you were never able to own the licences.

"But eight years ago that changed and when the chance came along I jumped at the chance.”

Daniel said the domestic and international markets were very different.

"The domestic market is a captive market. We can't import coral to Australia,” Daniel said.

"So for the domestic market we supply a wide range of products from soft corals to shells, starfish and all sorts of stuff really.

"But the international export market can import from anywhere else in the world, so if the product is super quality or unique to Australia it is virtually impossible to sell it overseas.”

Daniel said there were two or three species of coral in NT waters that were sold to wholesalers internationally.

Monsoon Aquatics harvests their product in two main ways.

He has started growing coral and clams at an aquaculture site on his property in Darwin's rural area.

"Everything else is wild caught so we go out and dive and literally hand catch the fish in little nets.

"And when we collect our coral we are generally just taking cuttings from selected areas. It really has to be the right size, shape and species.

"But we never take too much because we need to be sustainable.”

When asked if it is a hazardous job, Daniel was quick to point out that the job really isn't for everyone.

"In eight years we have had about 30 divers come though and even the experienced ones find it difficult to adapt to Territory waters.

"And there are always the dangers I suppose. I have come across a number of sharks, but luckily I have never seen a croc under water. I really don't think I would be here if I had.”

To that end though, Daniel said the company had strict methods of mitigating the risk associated with crocs.

But to Daniel, a father of two young sons, the minimal risk is worth it.

"I just love creating aquarium habitats and seeing all the cool things you can get. I also love being on the water and in the water and love being a professional fisherman.”

It's that passion that Daniel looks set to bring to his new role as the Seafood Council enters a new era following the departure of Rob Fish from the chairman's post.

"Rob was the chair for 10 years and he did an enormous amount of good work for the industry. He has been a really good advocate and achieved some great things,” Daniel said.

"As for me as the chair I am there to steer the board and let everyone be heard so that as an organisation we can make effective decisions in a timely manner.

"And on a personal level I would like to really enhance the culture within the industry where we are all united and proud of what we do.

"I want everyone in the industry to be able to proudly say, 'Yes I am fisherman'.”

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