End of an era

End of an era

More than 150 years of Lakes Entrance history came to and end last Tuesday – the commercial lake fisherman pulled in their nets for the final time.

The State Government licence buyout of the final 10 licence holders has taken place, those licence holders now reluctantly saying goodbye to an industry that has been in their blood for many a year.

Arthur Allen’s family has been fishing the Lakes since the industry was first established in Lakes Entrance.

“My great, great grandfather came to Hollands Landing when the first trains started running to Sale, in around 1876. He then settled in Lakes Entrance,” Arthur said.

Arthur has been fishing since he was old enough to get on the boat to give his mother a break, around the age of three.

He has been supplying seafood for McLaughlins Consolidated for the past 50 years.

“It is the end of an era, this industry built this district and town,” he said.

“We were at the forefront of settlement of the area and many place names can be related back to fishing.”

Arthur said the fishermen have been treated deplorably by the Victorian Government.

Jaala Pulford, Minister for Fishing and Boating, was invited to speak to the affected parties. At first she would not respond, but eventually did meet with them.

“March, last year, she came to a meeting with us. We thought she showed some empathy, but we soon realised she was just another politician,” Arthur said.

Arthur feels the fishing families have been treated with contempt by the State Government and Victorian Fisheries Authority.

“With fires and now the coronavirus, fishing may be the only viable business left, but they have taken away 10 businesses at a time like this,” he said.

“The only positive support we have had is from Rural Finance, they have been great.”

Lakes Entrance Fisherman’s Co-Operative general manager, Brad Duncan, said it was a depressing day amid what is already a tough time for the local community following bushfires and now the coronavirus crisis.

“Today (Tuesday, March 31) sadly marks the day that over 150 years of history comes to an end,” he said.

“There are 10 families that are now without a job and the Victorian public will now sadly miss out on what the Gippsland Lakes has to offer as far as fresh produce goes, especially in today’s climate.

“I would sincerely like to thank those who have been involved in the commercial fishing sector over this vast period of time for making the town of Lakes Entrance the place it is today.

“The support that all of you have given this town over the years will never be forgotten.

“A lot of people still to this day would have no idea how much the commercial lake fishing fleet has done for this community and wider Gippsland over this time.”

Mr Duncan said he feels the pain of the 10 licence holders.

“My heart goes out to you all during this tough time and I thank you for being so professional in both the fishing sector and also when it came to fighting for your livelihood,” he said.

Seafood Industry Victoria, in a statement, said it was proud of the licence holders for they way their have carried themselves through a difficult time.

“Today is their last day providing fresh, local and extremely healthy seafood for all Victorians. Fourth, fifth and sixth generational fishers who have been forcefully removed from their livelihoods,” the statement said.

“Such a sombre moment to farewell some amazing characters who in the face of all adversity have held their heads high and represented themselves respectfully at all times.”

IMAGE: Arthur Allen unloads his boat for the final time last Tuesday as 150 years of commercial lake fishing in the Gippsland Lakes came to an end following a State Government licence buyout. (PS)