Port Lincoln welcomes Tuna Poler

GLORY DAYS: Jack Bellamy and Dr Hagen Stehr AO, both former tuna polers, at the unveiling of the Tuna Poler on the Port Lincoln foreshore.
GLORY DAYS: Jack Bellamy and Dr Hagen Stehr AO, both former tuna polers, at the unveiling of the Tuna Poler on the Port Lincoln foreshore.

More than 350 people gathered on the Port Lincoln foreshore on Sunday morning to see the unveiling of a long-awaited sculpture paying tribute to Port Lincoln's tuna pioneers.

Initiated by the Port Lincoln Rotary Club and created by Port Lincoln sculptor Ken Martin, it features a scene reminiscent of the tuna polers of the mid to late 20th century.

In his speech, Mr Martin said he was grateful for insights he gained about tuna polers, such as the rooster neck feathers on the lure, Rangoon cane poles and the green hide leather pads strapped around their waists.

"This and other fundamental equipment, borrowed from what was known in other countries were adapted and built on to suit the local conditions," he said.

"This all reflects the innovation of the pioneer's mind, these are important details of the narrative of the sculpture and the sculpture texture."

Dr Hagen Stehr AO, who provided seed funding for the sculpture, talked about how he started out as a poler and how pioneers built the industry from the early days.

"The tuna poler memorial is as much a legacy for those who lost their lives at sea as for those of us who are still in the industry today," he said.

"In the old days (there was) no modern technology, only bamboo poles, hook and line, and a fierce desire to pull fish on board.

"Brute strength and certain technique, lots of determination to catch tuna in a time of horrendous weather conditions of wind and sea shaped the mystique of this tuna industry and of tuna poling."

Jack Bellamy was one of a small group of tuna polers at the unveiling and said the detail captured what he and others experienced during those days.

Fellow tuna poler Lawrie Vahlberg said it was great to see the sculpture forever on the foreshore to tell the poling story.

"It was the best fishing I'd ever done," he said.

Special guests on hand for the occasion included Member for Flinders Peter Treloar, PIRSA fisheries and aquaculture executive director Sean Sloan and Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone.

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