Yanchep Surf Life Saving Club watched over abalone fishers at Yanchep Lagoon

Charles Tetai with his abalone catch at Yanchep Lagoon.
Charles Tetai with his abalone catch at Yanchep Lagoon.

A LOWER turnout of fishers, calm conditions and high number of lifesavers on patrol result in a smooth start to the abalone fishing season in Yanchep.

There were about 100 fishers on the reef at Yanchep Lagoon on Sunday, November 2, for the first one-hour fishing period, compared to the hundreds who usually took to the water.

A dozen volunteers from Yanchep Surf Life Saving Club kept watch on the reef and beach, plus one jetski from Perth and the Two Rocks Volunteer Marine Rescue Boat patrolling the water beyond the reef.

Surf club president John Heesters said despite good conditions, there was a low turnout, partly a result of the roadworks that blocked the usual access to the lagoon.

‘We had nice weather with a low swell,’ he said.

‘We had 12 people which is the biggest we’ve ever had.’

Altogether, Mr Heesters said the volunteers did 16 preventions and no rescues, although one lifesaver required basic first aid for grazing his leg on the reef.

Charles Tetai, of Yanchep, said he found his 15 abalone by diving on the other side of the reef.

‘There’s plenty on the other side of the reef, but not on top,’ he said.

‘They’re well established.’

With the bag limit lowered from 20 to 15 this season, Mr Tetai said the Department of Fisheries could do more to protect the abalone. ‘It would be good to see them leave it for a couple of years, or even for one season,’ he said.

‘The stocks are getting really low and you want them to be there for future generations.’

Mr Tetai said he planned to make paua (Maori for abalone) fritters with his catch by mincing it with onion and parsley then barbecuing them.

‘I’ve been fishing since I was a kid back in New Zealand, and been over here for 26 years,’ he said.

‘We’ve been living here (in Yanchep) for five years.’

Mr Tetai said the choice of clothing by some fishers and rough conditions at times was a ‘recipe for disaster.’

He was at the lagoon two years ago when one abalone fisher, Malaysian man Beng Keong He, drowned during the first fishing session and said he found the missing man’s shoe as well as rescued another fisher.

Although some fishers had taken the precaution of wearing fluoro vests, lifesaver Scott Jessamine said he still took a dozen preventative actions, including telling a woman with a baby strapped to her chest not to go onto the reef.

With four more one-hour sessions this abalone season, Mr Heesters said the next one could be rough.