Family business keeps fishermen busy during pandemic

Wednesday 7 April 2021 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Local, National

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Family business keeps fishermen busy during pandemic
Fresh Fish Company’s Timothy Vaikai buys fish from fisherman Fred Thompson. 21040105

A Rarotonga company specialising in fish supply has found a new way to do business in order to keep themselves going during these challenging Covid-19 times.

The Fresh Fish Company has been operating successfully for over a decade, supporting local fishermen by supplying their catch to Rarotonga restaurants and hotels.

The company owned and managed by Timothy (Tim) Vaikai, who is Aitutakian from his father’s side and Rarotongan/Tahitian from his mum’s, has been working behind the scene as “middlemen” to help local fishermen get their catch to the buyers.

But when Covid-19 pandemic hit the local tourism industry, Vaikai and his family started mapping out plans to adapt to the new norm – it was time for them to come out in the open to help support their valued suppliers.

The family business began to branch out to the local community on the island in a bid to keep them and the fishermen in business.

“During these hard times of a global pandemic, the business structure had to change. The tides are changing, and we have to go with it. The Fresh Fish Company started branching out to the locals on our island. We started marketing ourselves and getting our name out there. We had to adapt,” says Vaikai.

They started marketing via social media and soon their sales took off, thanks to the word of mouth, to the point that they needed a facility in town to sell their product.

With the increase in demand they are now working with Prime Foods who are their retailer.

“We couldn’t have got through these hard times without them, and we are truly grateful. They clearly understand that by helping local businesses, they’re not just supporting one guy, they’re supporting a fleet of small-time local fishermen. They are putting food on the table for them and their families,” says Vaikai.

“There are many people to be grateful for. My dear family, our regular customers, our fishermen, our workers ... but none of this would be possible without the blessings our loving creator has given us. There is little I can be credited for; all praise must go to our caring God.”

Vaikai says if coronavirus did not happen “we would still be in the background”.

“We were surprised to see the locals take on our own initiative and support each other during this time, with the ‘Go Local’ initiative.”

Local fisherman Fred Thompson acknowledged the support of The Fresh Fish Company.

“It is very good, because these times it is hard to sell our fish because most places are not open.”

Thompson has been a fisherman for 20 years and says he goes out fishing around four times a week “depending on a good day or weather”.

Since the pandemic, business has been tough but thanks to Tim Vaikai and The Fresh Fish Company, they are able to make ends meet.

Tim Vaikai gives full credit to his father Mark Vaikai for the founding of The Fresh Fish Company.

“He is a full-time hard worker and loves to do fishing as a hobby. Ever since my siblings and I were young, we noticed how much planning and contacting people was needed, in order to sell just one of dad’s fish.”

They began to think, what if there was a facility or company where small-time local fishermen like his dad could drop off their fresh catch without worrying about gutting, filleting, wrapping, chilling, marketing, and delivering the finished product.

“That’s where The Fresh Fish Company comes in. We built The Fresh Fish Company to try and solve these inconveniences. We work with local fishermen to provide accessible, fresh, and yummy fish for our local people.”

Their main clients were resorts, restaurants, and hotels on the island, and they are grateful to them for their loyal business.

“We couldn’t have survived all these years without them.”

Tim Vaikai goes fishing every now and again, but wishes he could do more trips.

However, his role in The Fresh Fish Company requires him to do work mostly on land.

“But may I stress that this business would not be operating without the hard work and sacrifice that our fishermen provide. They are the epitome of The Fresh Fish Company.”

The Fresh Fish Company is calling on fishermen who are finding it hard to sell their catch to reach out to them for support.

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