In a new FRDC funded project, researchers are documenting the contribution and rich socio-cultural history of Australia’s oldest small-scale commercial fisheries.
Small-scale fisheries operating in near-shore waters of bays, inlets and estuaries have been the foundation upon which Australia’s commercial fishing industry, now valued at over $1.5 billion, was built.
These original fisheries and their associated ways of life, and the families and communities that formed around the fishing nets and harbours, have imbedded their work, stories, and ties to the sea within the communities, people and place, that stand today.
Peeling back the histories of the fisheries, the fishing activities, and the fishing families, who are often multi-generational and offer rich family histories entwined with fishing, the research project will collect and preserve tales from the Gippsland Lakes Fishery.
Every morning for the past 150 years, fishers have been plying the waters of the Gippsland Lakes in search of the wide variety of seafood the region has to offer, including prawns, silver trevally and bream, to send to restaurants and fishmongers across the country.
In an epic chronicle of the Gippsland Lakes Fishery, the fishery’s way of life and connection to land, sea and people, will be exhibited in Lakes Entrance, Melbourne and online in the exhibit END OF AN ERA: the Last Gippsland Lakes Fishermen. The exhibit will feature photographs capturing the final moments of small scale commercial fishing in the Gippsland Lakes, accompanied with historical artefacts and film provided by the fishing families.
The documentation and exhibition of the social-cultural history of the fishery comes as the Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery becomes the most recent in Victoria to be closing its doors.
The fishery, set to close April 2020, began in the 1870s and set the foundation and beginning of a number of fisheries which now operate from the largest fishing community in Victoria, Lakes Entrance.
The exhibit will offer a rare look into the fishing community and the community’s last ten fishing families, and at its significant contribution to the Australian fishing industry as a whole.
The exhibit will be held at the Library at The Dock Gallery, located at Victoria Harbour in Melbourne from 20 May – 11 June 2020. The official exhibit opening is Thursday 21 May, 6:00-7:30pm.
Andrew Twigg Gippsland Lakes Commercial Fisherman
Photo by Leigh Henningham
Project Number: 2018-181