River prawners hope for the best
CLARENCE River prawn trawlers are back on the water working this week, earning money for the first time in over a month.
“The size of the prawns is good so we’re up and running,” fisherman Donald Johnson said.
“It’s all good.”
The positive news couldn’t have come any sooner for around 45 professional fishermen who rely on the income from catching school prawns in the Clarence River and Lake Wooloweyah to feed their families and pay the bills.
On December 14, the fishermen declared the worst prawn season in memory.
School prawns had virtually disappeared from the river and what prawns fisherman like Mr Johnson did pull in were too small.
After several meetings, Clarence River fishermen made the decision to voluntarily close the estuary and river fishery until January 4.
“It was a very tough decision for the fishermen to make, to close,” Professional Fishermen’s Association spokesperson John Harrison said.
The Christmas holiday period was the peak time for river trawlermen to cash in on school prawns.
“Historically this is when people like to get a good feed of school prawns and they also use them for bait,” Mr Harrison said.
But finally this week fresh Clarence River-caught school prawns will be back on the market.
The fishery was reopened on Monday and Mr Johnson said prawners were finally pulling in decent-sized schoolies.
He puts the good catches down to the voluntarily closures and recent rain.
“We have had a fresh down the river which really helps,” he said.
However, Mr Harrison said they didn’t want to seem overly optimistic.
He said the first few days had brought in good catches, but what the fishermen really needed were steady catches for the rest of the season.
“We’ll wait and see,” Mr Harrison said.
“That’s all we can do.”