Rock lobster fishing at Kalbarri, Western Australia
In Kalbarri, I decided to do something new - lobster fishing. It was a fabulous adventure and I am very glad that I got the opportunity to experience it in this part of the beautiful coastline of Western Australia.
Meeting Kalbarri Rock Lobster Tours at 7.30am, I was greeted with a smile and a welcoming cup of coffee by Rose. Rose and her husband Vaughn were great hosts. Three other guests were aboard that day as well and we all chatted to each other as if we were old friends.
After a safety briefing we sailed about 4 miles south along the coast to where the lobster pots had been previously placed. Each pot has identification markings on the floats so that others don’t accidently take your catch. The pots are made of jarrah and pine.
I am a total novice about these sea creatures. In fact, I didn’t know the difference between a crayfish and a lobster. Vaughn explained that a lobster is a salt water creature and a crayfish is a fresh water one. The female lobster produces 6 million eggs, and spawns 2 to 3 times a year. Only 2-3 of these eggs will survive. They like to eat octopus, prawns and small fish. It takes 4-5 years for them to grow to maturity. Vaughn had photos of the different stages of development to hand around. As a third generation crayfisherman, he loves his work. He learnt crayfishing from his father.
Vaughn explained that several years ago, the Australian government had introduced a quota system on all lobster caught in Australia, different quota numbers for different areas. It is a now a well-managed industry and there are plenty of lobsters out there for everyone, both commercial and recreational fishers. We called out friendly greetings to local fisherman.
Starting the recreational tours in 2019 with his wife Rose, brother Mark and Mark' wife Kate, this is a true family business. They also organise sunset tours (which I had been on the night before), fishing charters, whale watching tours, and party hire for birthdays etc. There is a bbq on board and you can BYO drinks. Rose said that watching the fireworks from the boat on Australia Day was magical.
Vaughn is a chef by trade. He cooked some delicious crayfish delicacies for us during our tour.
As the pot was raised onto the boat, each lobster was carefully measured to ensure that they were of legal size. Any that are too small are given back into the ocean. Next, they are checked to see if they are breeding females. If they are, they also go back into the ocean.
The pots are designed so that they lobster can get out of them, and a small area at the bottom allows undersized lobsters to escape the pot.
We watched Rose cut a piece of the tail off each lobster. She said it did not hurt the lobster, it was similar to cutting your toenails cut. This is to show they are recreational catches and cannot be sold, traded or bartered.
I asked what they did in their spare time, and they laughed at me. “What spare time?” they both said. Yet, I found out that they also have their own fish and chip shop in town. Vaughn, Rose, Mark and Kate are all part of the local fishing club. Rose likes to read and go to her book club. She is also treasurer of the local sport and recreation club. When they can get away they enjoy going north in their roof top tent and want to do more of this is the future.
Mark is a commercial fisherman and he and Kate have 5 children. They like to go on cruises when they can.
Future goals? Both couples want to keep running these tours as long as they can.
All the guests on the boat had their photos taken with some of the catch. With instructions on how to humanely euthanise the lobster (in a cold area such as a freezer) and cook them, it was a new experience for me. As they came out of the pot, they shells were the correct shade of red, and the delicious meal was enjoyed.
The tour was fantastic. It was a valuable experience both in learning and enjoyment, and a great value. We received 3 lobster each at the end of the tour. I would have paid more than the tour price for the lobster if they had purchased them on land. It was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that I highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. People in wheelchairs or with mobility issues can get aboard and enjoy tours on the boat too.
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