A beach-haul of around 18 tonnes of sea mullet at Horseshoe Bay, Bermagui on Sunday created a spectacle for a large crowd to watch. Leading the operation was indigenous fisherman Andrew Nye of Mogo, who is a fifth-generation fisherman and who hopes his son Craig can continue to be the sixth generation.
Mr Nye said catching mullet in nets from the beach typically happened this time of year as the mullet moved out of the estuaries and headed north. They were able to get around 700 boxes on Sunday, with the fish headed to fish markets in Sydney and Melbourne.
The fish increase in value as they become more laden with eggs or roe, which is a delicacy. The fish on Sunday were around 11 per cent roe, but this could increase up to 14 per cent.
Mr Nye said the beach-hauling mullet fishery was sustainable with only 20 to 30 per cent of the fish taken at most, and these sea mullet could not be targeted with lines.
Sunday’s catch comes at a time when the local indigenous community involved with the NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group is trying to raise awareness of the importance of cultural fishing. Last month’s gathering at Quota Park, Narooma was successful according to group member and Narooma resident Wally Stewart, who said the Al Jazeera broadcasting network was there filming a segment on indigenous fishing.
Group members including Mr Stewart and Mr Nye were now planning on attending a national native title conference in Darwin in June, where they planned to make a presentation on cultural fishing.
Mr Stewart said beach-hauling was important for indigenous fishing families up and down the NSW coast and the winter mullet haul was very important culturally, with the oily fish typically smoked skin-on and the “onion” internal organ a special treat for the men. And he acknowledged the economic significance of the mullet fishery for local indigenous families, although he would like to see the middle-man cut out and the families doing their own processing.
The NSW Aboriginal Fishing Rights Group has written to the Prime Minister asking him to spend a day in Yuin country learning more about their fishing culture, but still no word on whether the PM plans to take them up on their offer. Read more here