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Portland is the major fishing port between Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria and Port Lincoln, South Australia; about forty-five vessels, ranging in size from 10 metres to 35 metres, use Portland as their base throughout the year.
The History of fishing can go back to early settlement days, with the whaling and sealing industry of the 1830?s. The 1930?s saw all fishing carried out under sail with out motors, and if there was no wind, fishermen used a large oar to propel their vessels, ?couta boats?, to fish.
With the amazing developments in vessels, machinery and technology over the past five decades the fishing industry has changed from a sustenance industry to a valuable primary industry; second only to agriculture, in value to the Portland district.
Commercial Fishing now operates under sustainable principles, managed under licence restrictions ensuring fish stocks are not depleted, and will be harvested in a responsible manner for the long-term benefit to everyone.
Deep sea trawling.
Fourteen deep-water trawlers operate from the port edge of the ?Continental Shelf?. Towing a net fishing on the over mud bottom between 180 metres and 800metres deep. These vessels unload up to 7000 tonnes of fish for the Melbourne fresh fish market annually.
Species such as Blue Grenadier, Ling, Blue Eye Trevalla, Trevally, Orange Roughy, and other deep-water fish are equal in taste to any throughout the world. Vessels operate under an ?Individual Transferable Quota? system where operators pay a levy for and are allocated a share of the sixteen species under Quota. The allowable catch of each species is set annually after extensive monitoring of the fish stock and research. Approximately 7000 tonnes of fresh fin- fish from trawling is supplied to the Melbourne Fish Market each year.
Rock Lobster / King Crab
Portland is the biggest lobster port in Victoria with Victorian lobster vessels and three Tasmania vessels. The income from the Victorian lobster landed in Portland is around $4 ml and from Tasmania about $2 ml, about 90% is exported overseas. There is also about $1 ml of King Crab also landed in Portland .The main markets are China and S.E.Asia, all Lobster and King Crabs are exported live.
The Victorian Lobster / King Crab industry is managed by quota and there are two zones,Western zone (S.A. border to Apollo Bay) and the Eastern zone (Apollo Bay to the N.S.W.). The TAC (total allowable catch) for Lobster in the Western zone is 450 tonnes and for the Eastern Zone it is 60 tonnes. King Crabs are mainly caught in the Western zone and are caught around the continental shelf between 150 meters to 300 meters There are also closed season for Lobster/King Crab from 1 September to 16 November and there are also a set number of pots fishermen can use. Using pots is the only method used to catch lobster/ King Crab. The pots are baited with fish like Couta, Carp and salmon. Pots are hauled and set ever day depending on the weather. There is also size limits for both male and female Lobster. Female Lobster can not be taken between June to 16th November because of breeding. The peak of the Lobster season is from November to March.
The vessels from Portland fish from S.A. border to Apollo Bay, a majority of the vessels work locally. The Tasmanian licensed vessels mainly fish of the west coast of Tasmania and King Island. Nearly all the vessels are owner / operated and are an important part of Portland's economy.
Rock Lobster landed in Portland is regarded as one of the best in the world for its taste.
So when you visit Portland, come down the wharf and see the Lobster vessels unload and then go to one of the mainly wonderful restaurants or cafes and try the best tasting Lobster in the world.
This fishery operates from early March, to end of June each year with vessels fishing from Portland at night. Approximately 15 boats use Portland as a base when squid are in the area. The vessels vary between 10 ? 35 metres in length and have bright lights on deck, which attract the squid to the shadow (under the boat), where they are caught on jigging machines with lines over the side. Boats catch up to 8 tonnes a night. These boats are only successful on moonless nights.
Abalone diving began in Victoria in the early to mid 1960?s. Portland became a significant centre of this activity with the industry pioneers numbering up to 70 vessels. As with all gold rushes this was a time of much drama and excitement and technological experimentation. Legends were made and lives were lost in these turbulent times.
The size of the fleet fluctuated until 1968 when the cost of an access licence fee charged by the Government was increased from $2 to $200. This was seen as a huge impost and the fleet reduced drastically in numbers. The fee this year was around $60,000 per operator, testimony to the value of this ecologically sustainable renewable resource.
Over time the number of diving operations in the western zone, that runs from the S.A. border to the Hopkins River near Warrnambool has stabilized at 14, seven of which operate out of Portland.
The industry is now a quota managed fishery, in other words each operator may only harvest the tonnage of abalone specified for the 12-month licence period. The amount is determined by Govt. annually with input from all interested stakeholders. Along with licence limitation and quota management there is a legal minimum length (LML) under which abalone cannot be harvested. It is currently set at 125mm, except for two small areas where the LML is set at 120mm.
The professional industry strives to achieve the desirable outcomes of ecologically sustainability to ensure its own survival. This policy of enlightened self interest must contend with illegal fishing by the unlicensed on the one hand, and the misplaced morality of others, who have convinced Govt to lock abalone divers out of some areas permanently on the other. They call these areas Marine Parks.
Abalone diving is conducted from small planing hulls either mono or catamaran up to 26 feet long. The diver is supplied with air from a compressor via a hose; the majority use a wet suit to maintain body temperature while spending approximately 4 to 6 hours in the water per diving day. The coast around Portland is mainly exposed to the Southern Ocean. The weather dictates the number of days available for abalone harvesting, approximately 40 per year. The abalone are prised from the reef using an ab iron, they are placed in a net bag that is lifted to the surface using an air filled lifting bag attached to the net bag. The abalone is then processed on shore for export to Asia either canned, frozen or alive.
This multi million-dollar industry can be seen by visitors to Portland who can arrange to tour processing sheds by contacting the Portland Information Centre on the foreshore. Divers when working can be seen from the GSWW or launching or recovering their vessels at the boat ramp in Portland or at Bridgewater Beach.
Only two vessels drop line for Blue Eye Trevalla from Portland, catching this very popular restaurant fish.
A live export of Blue Throated Wrasse to overseas and local markets allows Rock Lobster Fishermen and several others to supplement their income off-season by handline catching of Wrasse. This brightly coloured fish is very popular with the Asian population in Melbourne and Sydney.
The opportunity to view vessels unloading their catch over such varied fisheries has great tourism potential for the area and is being upgraded and developed with the cooperation of the relevant parties.
Contents provided by John Sealey.