The growing abalone industry is booming in the south coastal town of Augusta, and despite the huge success of local business Ocean Grown Abalone (OGA), managing director Brad Adams has a problem.
“We are on the cusp of expanding and have raised the capital to essentially double the farming facilities we have in place,” Mr Adams told the Mail.
“We have just expanded from seven divers to now ten on the team, and will be increasing this to fourteen full time divers by August,” he said.
The rapid growth of the industry has seen Mr Adams and the Ocean Grown team establish 5000 concrete blocks in the water off Augusta, each growing up to 40 abalone.
Traditionally found growing on reefs, abalone are a type of marine snail and are subject to the world’s shortest recreational fishing seasons due to the rarity of the species. Despite stock collapses and fishing pressure around the globe, WA continues to hold one of the few remaining sustainable wild-stock abalone fisheries.
Customer demand, particularly from Asian markets keen to sample the seafood delicacy, has seen orders rise.
“We are now at the point of looking at expanding to other areas on the South coast of WA, so of course with that we need commercial divers to keep the momentum.”
Mr Adams said that while there was a large number of ocean fans in the region, it was difficult to source qualified commercial divers now that training facilities are limited to the East coast.
“Now that it’s impossible to get your qualifications in WA, we are finding it harder to employ local people from within the region.
“We have a great group of divers; because they need to be qualified we have to rely on visitors and people who may stay in the area for a while but not long term.
Mr Adams decided it was time to take matters into their own hands, and has launched a search for a local trainee diver to become fully qualified with the help of Ocean Grown Abalone.
“What we’re doing is looking for a young local person who is interested in securing a full time commercial diving position with us,” he said.
“We will pay the course fees for the trainee to complete an occupational dive course, then offering full time employment with us commencing in August this year.”
The course is currently offered in Melbourne, and Mr Adams noted that the successful applicant would need to cover costs of living in the city over the period of the ten week course.
“Ocean Grown Abalone will cover the $20,000 course fees at the Professional Divers Training Academy in Melbourne, so this person will walk away with a highly sought after qualification.
“The starting salary for qualified commercial divers is in the area of $70,000 per year, so it is a real career opportunity for someone wanting to dive for a living.”
Suiting up for a trip on one of the OGA vessels last week, diver Kyle said the job was fantastic for people who loved the water and urged locals to apply for the role.
“It’s a great group of people too, everyone is happy to be out on the water and we have heaps of laughs as well as working pretty hard,” he said.
Mr Adams is keen to nurture the region’s younger generation as they struggle to find employment opportunities in the South West.
“This is the start of what we hope will be a very successful step, which will do two things; help us grow our business by training a diver with a real passion for the ocean while providing an opportunity which may otherwise have been limited to people from outside the area.”
Residents in the Shire of Augusta Margaret River between 18 and 25 are eligible to apply, and must be fit and able to pass an extensive dive medical test. Details can be found on page 3 of today’s Mail, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Applications close COB February 24 2017.