Charlie is a master shipwright and has no time for journalists, while his partner, Jack Helmore, organises the business and works on the diesel engines. Jack is large and voluble, a wizard on metal and machines and can talk the deck off an iron yacht. These two opposites keep an industry afloat.
Two ships are on the slips being repaired and refitted after a burst of heavy weather which caused many of the boats to be damaged at the wharf. The fishermen cry out for a safer mooring as many boats have sunk at their ropes after heavy seas have burst into the harbour, snatch ing boats of all sizes from their berth.
Charlie saws and hammers away aboard the slipped boats and inside the workshop Jack and his engineer are turning steel into drive shafts and couplings. The shop is hung with belts and pulleys, miles of chain and rope, buckets of nuts and bolts and a wall full of 12 volt globes of various wattage and size. There’s not much you can ask for that isn’t there. Not much that you would need at sea anyway.
The fishermen of Eden fish the southern waters for gemfish, mor- wong, mackerell and tuna. The fishing has developed from line fishing in the early days to seine net fishing to the very modern Otto trawling which enables the boats to fish for more hours at a time. Almost nonstop fishing.
At present there are 100 boats working out of Eden, valued at over $20 million and some of the fishermen like Freddy Woods and Owen Allan have been fishing from Eden for over 40 years.
With the advent of the increased territorial limit of Australian waters to 200 miles, Jack Helmore believes that the boats of 30’—40’ will be swallowed up by larger syndicate-owned ships of 70’—100’. These ships will fish the deeper water and stay out for weeks at a time.
Jack says the Aussie fishermen will need government help to tool up to the larger scale fishing and if they don’t help them the Japanese, Yugoslavs and Russians will walk in, perhaps that should be wade in, and utilize another Australian resource. All nationalities have to eat, says Jack, and if we don’t use our fish someone else will.
Johnny Breardon, master of the ‘Kendon’, says you’ve “gotta be mad to be in the game” and believes fuel prices could cripple the industry in the future. Boats have 6 hrs steam to the continental shelf before they even look like catching a fish. The future will be in the equation between the relative price of fish and fuel.