Al McGrath’s life was heading in the wrong direction, until a friend told him about a deep-sea fishing opportunity on Sealord vessel, the Willwatch.
“Regardless of your past, you can still achieve and succeed. It’s an opportunity to turn your life around,” Al says of his decision to give the job a go.
He moved up the ladder from freezerman (freezing and boxing fish), becoming a deckhand, factory supervisor and then becoming factory manager, responsible for the vessel factory and relevant crew.
In 2022, Al has worked at Sealord for 30 years, with a few breaks in between. Career highlights include helping to set up Sealord’s state-of-the-art fishing trawler Tokatu when it was being built in Norway and filling up vessel Rehua in 21 days with 720 tonnes of fish – a record at the time. His workplace training as a medic 12 years ago has also given him the opportunity to volunteer with St John, which he finds very satisfying.
“It’s great giving back to the community and is something that wouldn’t have happened without my career at Sealord.”
He also enjoys his role as a people leader.
“It’s been super rewarding helping people achieve their goals with my support as a manager and by sharing my knowledge. I’ve met hundreds of people and they’re all like family. It becomes just like a home away from home. If you’re really committed, you can go a long way at sea.”
Al is especially fond of his Filipino crew. “It’s been really great. They’re hard-working and happy to be here. And it’s been really cool to learn about their life and culture.”
Al encourages people to think about what they could gain with a steady job with Sealord.
“For me, the job is about the opportunities regardless of your schooling. You can make good money at sea, and you save money because it’s free food, free accommodation and you don’t spend anything while you’re earning.
“You get lots of time off. It can be a bit challenging working away from home, at sea, for long periods but you adjust and you have your crew to lean on. Sealord has been great – you know everyone really well and I’ve built really good relationships.”