Port Lincoln has more of a vested interest than most communities in the sustainability of the southern bluefin tuna fishery.
The importance of this fish to the city’s economy and social fabric is hard to overstate. Along with Dean Lukin and Makybe Diva (who both have their own tuna links) and great white sharks, Port Lincoln is known for tuna.
Southern bluefin tuna forms a significant part of the city’s history from the first commercial trolling fishery and the early days of poling tuna to the establishment of Port Lincoln Tuna Processors in the early 1970s and then the groundbreaking innovation of tuna farming.
Since locals learnt the tuna poling ropes from two Norwegian/American brothers they have taken tuna fishing technology in leaps and bounds and shared Port Lincoln’s tuna expertise internationally.
The industry has had its ups and downs over the years as it moved from over-exploitation of fish stocks to the introduction of the quota system in the 1980s, weathered storms – literally and figuratively – and prices and the Australian dollar fluctuated.
Tuna fishing pioneers have taken big risks, some of which paid off and some of which cost them dearly but there is no doubt tuna has brought significant wealth to the community and laid the foundations for the region’s international reputation as the seafood capital of Australia.
These days the focus of the fishery, like the many other fisheries that operate out of Port Lincoln, is sustainability.
World Tuna Day this Wednesday aims to raise awareness about the importance of tuna and to promote more sustainable fishing practices.
This sustainability is not just important to the future fish stocks, it is crucial to the future of the local industry, which has a wide reaching impact on the local economy beyond those who work on fishing boats or for tuna companies – from tourism operators giving locals and visitors the opportunity taste or buy (and previously swim with) tuna to the many other industries that benefit by maintaining boats and keeping local fishing companies running smoothly.
All that is without even taking into account the community philanthropy from the industry that often remains anonymous.
Many benefits have flowed from the tuna industry and hopefully ensuring the sustainability of the industry will ensure they continue to flow.