IT’S BACK: The Love Seafood festival, which celebrates the Port’s seafood industry, runs throughout August.As Port Stephens settles into the month-long Love Seafood festival, new research has made it crystal clear just how important the seafood and fishingindustry is to the area.
Two University of Technology Sydney-led studies, released earlier in 2017,found that the commercialfishing industry is significant to the area’s economy, cultural heritage, community life and overall well-being.
UTS associate professorKate Barclay led the two year study.
Ms Barclay saidthe study, called Valuing Coastal Fisheries,was conducted in many towns, including Nelson Bay,to understand the diverse ways fishing contributed to their local communities.
“The findings show professional fishing is an essential part of the fabric of communities,” she said.
“It supports, and is in turn supported by, an intertwining range of community life and work-related activities.
“It generates vital income and jobs in rural towns.
“It is also very much interdependent with other businesses including gear suppliers, mechanics, fuel providers, freight and helps support tourism and hospitality with sought-after fresh locally caught seafood.”
Kate Barclay and Michelle Voyer at the Nelson Bay Fisherman’s Co-Op in September 2014 when they were conducting research for the UTS study Valuing Coastal Fisheries. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Nelson Bay is one of ’s many coastal towns that was built up off the back of the fishing industry.
As the nation’s fishing industry grew in the 1800’s,so too did the population and township of Nelson Bayand with it the Port Stephens identity was born.
Fingal Bay fisherman John “Stinker” Clarke, who has written four books charting the history of fishing in the area, said the Port’s handful of first European inhabitants almost solely relied on fishing when they first settled.
“When Port Stephens was first inhabited in the early 1800’s there wasn’t much here,” he said.
“There was only about 30 residents in Nelson Bay for a long time.
“As the fishing industry grew, so did Nelson Bay.
“We relied very heavily on fishing, now not so much.”
An image John “Stinker” Clarke collected for his book Old Salt. In the latter part of the 1800’s the fishermen, photographed on Nelson Bay Beach, sold their catch locally or to the Chinese merchants who salted and sun dried the fish.
Tourism has overtaken fishing as an economic driver in Port Stephens.
An average 1.3 million people visit Port Stephens each year, generating more than $335 million.
Tourism is also one of the Port’s key employment sectors. According to Port Stephens Council figures (2014), tourism employs 1669 people.
The UTS study found that the professional fishing industry withinthe Hunter-Great Lakes area, of which Port Stephens is part of, generates $83 million per year and creates 727 full-time jobs.
According to the study,90 per cent of Hunter-Great Lakes residents believe that the fishing industry is important totheir area.
It also found that 87 per cent of residents feel thefishing industry is also good for tourism.
Mr Clarke agreed, but argued that the recreational fishing industry played a bigger part in drawing tourism to Port Stephens
Recreational fishing is arguably ’s biggest leisure sporting activity.
It isestimated five million ns spend $10 billion each year to take part in it.
Jessica Hay and Natalie Hay from Nelson Bay try their hand at fishing at Taylors Beach.
The research also revealed a number of hidden or unrecognised relationships.
In particular it found that in NSW coastal communities, professional fishing and tourism support and sustain each other.
In particular, professional fishing and tourism was found to support and sustain each other in NSW coastal communities.
A survey found that89 per cent of NSW residents expect to eat local seafood when they visit coastal communities.
Meanwhile, 64 per cent of people surveyed saidthey would be interested in watching professional fishers at work while on holidays.
Grahame Lewis, manager at Nelson Bay Fisherman’s Co-Op, told UTS researchers that “people love watching” fishermen work.
“They come down and watch the boats unload, they see what sort of fish are coming in, they see it getting wheeled over to the shops and they know there’s stuff going in there from the local fishermen,” he said.
“It’s a drawcard really.
“People love going to seaside ports and just watching – not only here but everywhere along the coast.”
Aside from the benefits to tourism and the economy, the UTS study found the fishing industry in the Hunter-Great Lakes is an important part of the region’s history, cultural identity and community life.
A second study was run alongsideValuing Coastal Fisheries.
CalledSocial and Economic Evaluation of NSW Coastal Aquaculture, this study looked at how communities benefit from aquaculture such as oyster and prawn farming.
According to research published in the paper, aquaculture also plays asignificant role inproviding employment and contributing to regional economies across NSW.
“The economic output for aquaculture and the flow-on effect to seafood processing and retail businesses was $226 million in 2013-14,”Dr Geoff Allan, the Department of Primary Industries’ deputy director of general fisheries, said.
“Aquaculture contributes to community well-being through local employment, environmental stewardship including the protection of water quality, and provision of sustainable seafood.”
Port Stephens has a long history in oyster farming, stretching back to the 1940s.
The Port is also home to two fish farms –the land-based Tailor Made Fish Farmand the newly established sea pen aquaculture farm in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
Tailor Made Fish Farm managing director, Nick Arena. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
The NSW Governmentpartnered with Tasmania-based Huon Aquaculture to establish the fish farm, which is located about4km south of Broughton Island.
Tens of thousands of yellowtail kingfish fingerlings were released into the pens late last year. They will be monitored during a five-year research lease.
Seafood, commercial fishing and the Port’s fishing families will be celebrated during the second-annual Love Seafood festival.
Running throughout August, the festival program is peppered with a series of events thatpay tribute to the fruits of Port Stephens’ pristine waters.
This year’s festival received a $20,000 boost from the NSW Government in the form of anIncubator Event Fund grant.
Destination Port Stephens has worked with industry partners to serve up the festivaland please the growing number of visitorskeen to samplecuisine from the very region they’ve come to see.
“Locals are absolutely passionate about their seafood,”Danny Eather, the destination marketing manager from Destination Port Stephens, said.
“It’s been in the blood of our oyster growing and fishing families for generations and a vibrant restaurant culture has built up around it.
“The producers all rally together to ‘share the love’ at Love Seafood, making this the best possible time to come and experience the premium local product.”
Activities in the festival include an expo weekend,cooking demonstrations by local and celebrity chefs andseafood lunch and dinner specials at participating eateries.
2017 Love Seafood Festival ProgramMonday to Friday throughout AugustSelect Port Stephens restaurants and eateries
Fish to Dish: Local restaurants and cafes will have lunch and dinner seafood specials. Whether it is freshly shucked Oysters, a King Prawn Salad or local market fresh fish, our local restaurants and cafes will not let you down when it comes to fresh and local Port Stephens seafood.
See the participating Fish to Dish eateries here.
Saturday, August 12d’Albora Marinas, Nelson Bay, 10am to 2pm
Farmers of the Sea:Oysters have been farmed within the pristine waterways of Port Stephens for many years by generations of families. Meet the Port’s Farmers of the Sea to learn about the local oyster industry, what is the difference in how the oysters taste based on locations and the all-important secrets to shucking.
Stephen Cole, from Cole Bros Oysters in Karuah. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
Friday, August 25, Saturday, August 19 and August 26Trawler to Table: Enjoy a delicious seafood-inspired meal over lunch or dinner with our local producers as you learn about the local industry and hear tales of the past.
Participating restaurants(bookings essential)
Lunch on August 25:Little Nel and Galley Kitchen
Dinner August 19 and 26:Wharf Restaurant and The Greenhouse Eatery
Friday, August 25Broughtons at the Bay, d’Albora Marinas, Nelson Bay, 6.30pm
Gala dinner: Afour-course seafood inspired dinner, prepared and introduced to you by Ludovic Poyer from Poyer’s, Ben Way from Little Beach Boat House and Matt Keyes from Little Nel. Guests will be treated to freshly shucked oysters and champagne on arrival. Each course will be served with selected paired wines.
Tickets cost $120 per person, available here.
Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27d’Albora Marinas, Nelson Bay
Fish and Fun: This will be the signature weekend with a program of activities from celebrity and local chefs providing cooking demonstrations and masterclasses, seafood tastings, kid’s fun zone of interactive displays, touch tanks and fish feeding.
See the full 2017 Love Seafood festival program hereHear from more fishermen and families involved in the Port Stephens fishing industry here