Home' Ausmarine : September 2009 Contents The "Kaiser's" tribute to the late Tory Puglisi reminded me
of something Tory remarked on following an old Union of
Co-operatives meeting at Bermagui.
There had been a fair bit of whingeing about what we lacked
and what we wanted, and the hard times being suffered. All the
usual stuff. On the way home Tory said, "These hard times are a bit
different to the hard times I remember."
Nowadays I don't get to spend much time at Ulladulla, and I
didn't hear of Tory's passing until well after it had happened. Back
in the '70s and '80s Tory didn't like to do much driving, and if Joe
Greco, the Ulladulla Co-op Manager couldn't get to an industry
meeting, Tory would travel with me. At the time I regarded it as a
happy chance to hear about the characters and events long past,
and laugh or marvel at the way Tory and his compatriots coped
with the prejudices of the day.
With the passing of the years the real value of those occasions
strikes home. Reading about the early days is great. But nothing
compares with hearing it directly from those who lived it. Being of
Italian heritage during World War II was no bed of roses.
Restrictions on movement, internment for some, and boats
commandeered for the war effort -- all part and parcel of fishing's
Even getting the catch to market was no easy matter. Tory
talked of sending it boxed in fruit boxes with ice and straw, lashed
to the luggage rack of a motor coach bound for Sydney, on only
occasionally sealed bits of the Princes Highway goat track. Or, if
they timed it right, as cargo, on the weekly coastal steamer. Block
ice would come on the steamer's return trip. Sometimes, just as it
has been for fishermen over the ages, instead of a cheque for their
efforts, there was a bill.
As Hagen said in his tribute, losing true pioneers is a depressing
reminder of what people such as Tory contributed. It's also a sharp
example of the difference between the hardships endured by
fishing communities of that era and the hardships complained of
today; often in the Qantas lounge on the way home from an air-
conditioned committee meeting.
Next time I whinge about uncaring bureaucrats and hostile
government, I'll try to imagine what a hostile administration
meant if you were an Italian born fisherman on the South Coast
Queer fish indeed
Professor David Booth at Sydney's UTS has revealed the
presence of oestrogen among the diversity of pollutants
that supposedly contaminates New South Wales (especially
The state abattoir outfall, paint factory, gas works and various
industrial plants along Sydney's Parramatta River were all part of
fishing the river for determined kids during the '40s and '50s.
Needless to say, we ate a fair bit of the river's bounty over the
years, yet most of our mob grew up minus unusual physical
characteristics. Of course there were a few who were not
genetically blessed, but the fish had nothing to do with that.
Intellectually we all seemed to match up pretty close to the
community expectations of the day. I can't recall any eventual
Rhodes scholars but some went on to successful enterprise,
including a couple of much married millionaires and a well
As for weird behaviour, well yes, there were some oddities.
More likely attributed, though, to the six o'clock swill in pubs of
the era, or family adherence to dogma. One bloke was
notoriously fond of wearing women's clothes but in those days
the pill wasn't available. So it couldn't have had anything to do
with oestrogen in fish.
No one would deny the need for food safety. Equally I think
Sydney folk would agree the harbour and estuaries are looking
better every day. Despite all this we are regular recipients of all
sorts of reasons not to eat our local seafood.
Perhaps it's time the fishing industry took a leaf from the book
of its antagonists. Research funding is suffering. It is much easier to
get funding if projects are attached to threat. Even if it is of
questionable validity, it is a safer funding bet than a project
exploring productivity gains. Radical preservationists will beat the
political drum to support any project which might provide
quotable findings for their anti-production agenda.
If research loses its objectivity as a consequence of funding bias,
then that's a game that industry will have to play. Meanwhile,
from what the good professor's research suggests, we are not at risk
of suddenly leaning towards purchases of g-strings and lip gloss
after eating New South Wales fish -- although the fish themselves
may start fooling around in schools.
'How are you going to keep 'em down on the farm?'
Fish farming took on a whole new meaning for me when I
heard a talk on farming beyond state waters. The technical and
logistical difficulties are truly formidable and it was therefore
enlightening to hear just what the justification was.
With a coast the length of Australia's you would think the
last thing to worry about would be location. But, no! The sheer
number of parks, reserves, native title claims and anti-farm
objectors meant a bureaucratic wall of Olympic proportions.
This gets back to what I mentioned earlier about impediments to
funding for projects or research that seeks to increase
production. What I find predictably amusing is that the
Commonwealth is so wedded to bureaucratic advice for its
future needs that no regulatory arrangements were in place to
cater for an industry initiative such as this.
I bet the oil and gas miners had a set of rules to follow. Or
maybe they wrote their own. From the little bit I could gather
the trials overseas are encouraging, with remote control
technology and submersible farms to cope with weather
problems. I wish them well.
A personal comment from Ulladulla's very own
Barry McRoberts on Management Matters.
September 2009 AUSMARINE
'Nothing is more responsible
for the good old days than a
-- Franklin P Adams
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