Now in the depths of a Perth winter, I’d like to talk about a slightly warmer outreach trip to Mandurah back in March where I caught up with Damien Bell, a second generation fisherman of the Peel Harvey Estuarine Fishery. With the renowned Mandurah Crab Fest just a few days after my visit, Blue Swimmer Crabs (Portunus armatus) were to be the focus of today’s fishing efforts. Also known as Blue Manna Crabs or simply as Blueys, this fishery, just an hour south of Perth is well known for both its recreational and commercial components. In 2015, both the recreational and commercial crab fisheries entered into the MSC assessment process. This is the first time in the world a co-managed commercial and recreational fishery has sought certification to use the MSC ecolabel. We follow them on that journey and take a quick look at what makes this fishery so unique.
Recently airing in Australia on ABC, The World’s Toughest Jobs shows three British teenagers trying their hand at lobster fishing in Western Australia. With a slice of the pie for a seasoned deckhand on a lobster boat worth up to $1000 a day, is a lucrative salary enough to see the three ‘greenhorns’ (ɡriːnhɔːn/noun/a person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity) continue working through rough seas and early morning starts? Or will they head back to their bunks under attack from seasickness and fatigue? I’ve recently spent some time at sea with the lobster fishermen of Western Australia and have encountered both the sustainable fishing practices which has secured MSC certification for the past 15 years and borne witness to the hard work and gritty determination by skippers and crew which offers this career path an indisputable title of one of the World’s Toughest Jobs.
The Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery has recently entered assessment against the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. I recently took the opportunity to spend some time at sea with research staff from the Department of Fisheries and the crew of the fishing vessel Point Cloates K to see how industry and science collaboration can help contribute to the better understanding of a fishery from both a sustainability and an economic perspective.
Being a relative newcomer to Western Australia but not to the fishing industry, I knew that the best way to truly understand a fishery was to immerse yourself in it. And when the opportunity came up to spend a few nights at sea as part of the research trip for the Exmouth Gulf prawn fishery, I dusted off my oilskins and prepared myself for a few sleepless nights aboard the fishing vessel Point Cloates K .
When most people try to gauge the sheer scale and vastness of Australia, thoughts often turn to the Red Centre, the Outback and mile upon mile of unpaved roads traversing the wilderness for hours on end. However, the size and scale of the Australian Oceans can match that of any outback scenery and you just have to turn to Western Australia to really appreciate the diversity on offer underneath the waves. It is for this reason that when the Department of Fisheries looked to undertake an in-depth review of the commercial and recreational fisheries in Western Australia, they broke the work down to four geographically distinct Bioregions. This allowed all involved to really start to understand outcomes in more digestible, bite-sized chunks of information.