Port Lincoln prawn pioneer's discovery recorded

As a new season dawns for the Spencer Gulf King Prawn Fishery, the story of the man who found the first commercial quantity of prawns in the Spencer Gulf.

Roger 'Doc' Howlett's story of the founding of the fishery has been recorded which details how he found the first commercial quantity of prawns at an area known as the 'Gutter' in 1967.

Mr Howlett died in February last year but before his death approached prawn fishery coordinator at sea Greg Palmer with his story.

His daughter Sharyn Graham said her father was a very private person.

"He didn't want his name in lights and wanted to write a book for his family," she said.

"He wrote something down and gave it to Greg Palmer and said 'don't reveal it until the time is right'," she said.

The story details Mr Howlett's early years in the fishing industry and early discussions with E.J. Kemp and Phil Anderson who had expressed interest in a fishing boat to go prawn fishing as they thought the Spencer Gulf had potential despite fishermen finding some signs of prawns, but no commercial quantities.

While in Western Australia Mr Howlett spent time prawning on the boat 'Blue Fin' in Shark Bay to get a first hand look at prawn fishing and build knowledge on what was needed to do it in South Australia.

Mrs Graham said despite it being commonly agreed he was wasting his time, her father went out into the gulf to find a good amount of prawns.

She said the area known as the 'Gutter' produced a great amount of prawns and it was a contributing factor to the start of the Spencer Gulf fishery.

"It's a very interesting read, Dad had a very unique way of telling his story," she said.

Mr Palmer said Mr Howlett's contributions to the fishery were significant and he was a true pioneer for the prawn fishery.

"He was the reason we have the fishery we do have," he said.

Mrs Graham said she thanked Mr Palmer for his help in and support regarding her father's story.

Record juveniles sets up promising future

The Spencer Gulf King Prawn Fishery is ready to go for the new season and is looking forward to a potentially bright future following recent surveys.

The fishery conducted surveys on October 27 and 28 to determine the makeup of the prawn stock before fishing could begin.

Mr Palmer said a record number of juveniles was recorded with an increase of 138 per cent from the previous year.

He said one particular area with a high recording was the area Mr Howlett found the first commercial quantity of prawns, the Gutter which had a juvenile catch rate of 31 pounds per minute, the average being four pounds per minute.

While the future recruitment of stock will have factors including food availability, predators and outside influences, it could ensure a promising future for the prawn stock in the Spencer Gulf.

"It's nice to know (potential) recruitment is healthy for future seasons," he said.

Mr Palmer said the fishery was looking at a seasonal catch of about 2000 tonnes, which was in line with the last three to four years.

The Spencer Gulf only catches adult prawns and has Marine Stewardship Council certification as a sustainable fishery.


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