Mr seafood ambassador for Tasmania

Industry Ambassador Al Hansen has been recognised as someone who has made a substantial difference to the seafood industry over many years. Picture: Tanya Boon.

Honoured. Tasmanian Seafoods managing director Allen Hansen was recognised on the weekend for the contribution he has made to the seafood industry.

By crowning him Industry Ambassador in Hobart on Saturday night the Tasmanian Seafood Industry tipped its hat to Mr Hansen’s 44 years in business; to state-wide (and national) employment he has created; and to partnerships he has formed with various countries.

But Mr Hansen didn’t always want to be in the fishing industry.

The Wisconsin-born man first became a pilot, got several university degrees and was asked to be an astronaut. He discovered shipwrecks, spent years as an officer in the Marine Corps and served during the Vietnam War.

He moved to Smithton 44 years ago after meeting “two crazy Aussies” who told him of the plentiful abalone stocks in the country’s waters.

After diving around the country and then the state Mr Hansen said he settled in Smithton because the abalone here were large and there was not much competition.

“I had $16,000 to my name,” he said. “I processed my first fish on 7 May 1970.”

Since then Mr Hansen has fished and processed many types of seafood. From shark and prawn to his current focus of abalone, whiting and sea cucumber. He also holds the nation’s largest tuna quota, but cannot use it due to environmental restrictions. He hopes to challenge these restrictions in the future.

Over the years his markets have shifted from America to Taiwan and Japan and today’s focus of Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

But the father of three and grandfather of two still has his wry sense of humour. When asked how many people he has working for him he simply replies, “all of them, I hope”.

Tasmanian Abalone Corporation president Greg Woodham said he has known Mr Hansen for 38 years. He said the award, which recognises Mr Hansen as a person who has ‘made a substantial positive difference to the seafood industry over many years and who has been a highly effective and respected seafood industry leader’ was actually between two men. Mr Hansen and Will Mure, the founder of Mures Restaurant in Hobart. “That was the strength of his competition,” Mr Woodham said.

“Al’s made quite a contribution to the Tasmanian fishery industry…[the award is] good recognition of what he has done.”