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Fishing on North Stradbroke Island

For thousands of generations, the Quandamooka people cared for the lands and seas to maintain a sustainable and abundant fishery.

Colonisation saw the commercial exploitation of these marine resources.

Fishing is one of the earliest industries in Queensland. The dugong industry operated in Moreton Bay from the 1850’s.  The Oyster Act 1871 made provision for the licensing of oyster banks. From the late 1870’s until the 1920’s the biggest operating entity in Queensland was the Moreton Bay Oyster Company.  For almost the whole of the 20th century, the Levinge family managed the Moreton Bay Oyster Company. The ocean beach and inshore fisheries have operated since the late 1800’s and prior to the Queensland Fisheries Act 1877.  The prawn fishery commenced in 1849.

In the 1950’s the whaling industry commenced at Tangalooma on Moreton Island until the decline of the whale population forced closure in the early 1960’s.

Through the story of the fishing industry of Moreton Bay, it is possible to gain an insight into indigenous and non-indigenous relations. Aboriginal families on North Stradbroke Island utilised local knowledge to participate in the fishing industry and the capitalist economy.  They were in a large part exempt from the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 1897.

In 2013, the Museum received a Redland City Council Project Support Grant to research, record and make accessible the fishing industry history of North Stradbroke Island. This grant made possible the recording of eight substantial oral history interviews which were recorded with retired commercial fishermen and people associated with the sector. Interviewees include: Ailsa Perry, Robert Anderson, John Campbell, Thelma Bowman, Sid and Kay Campbell, Barry Hoare, Sonny Chaplin and Peter Spinner.

"The Museum has an archive of video footage, historic and contemporary photographs, documents and ephemera of the commercial fishing industry. We welcome community and visitors to come and explore our collections."

Talk given by Ailsa Perry on 23rd November 2013

“My name is Ailsa Perry. I am the proud great grand-daughter of George Shillington Crouch. I was born in Wynnum and lived there until I was 20 years old. Grandfather Crouch’s Grandfather was a fisherman in Kent England and migrated to Australia in 1839 on the Cornwall. He landed in Botany Bay and took up his occupation as a fisherman there. He moved to Bulimba in 1864 where he continued fishing. The Crouch family lived in Bulimba raising ten children until George, his brothers Syd and Bill and a cousin Alf moved to Wynnum, this would have been in the late 1800’s. Grandfather lived in St Catherines Terrace with Wynnum Creek at his backyard, Uncle Syd lived in Corrinne Street, Uncle Bill lived in Agnes St and Uncle Alf lived in Gibbs St. The Crouches were reputed to be the first professional fishermen to fish Moreton Bay but I reckon the Aboriginal people of Stradbroke Island would have been the first, they never sold their fish for money (that came later) but they bartered the fish to acquire things that were needed, remembering that Stradbroke was one of the first places to be settled by white people.

Grandfather was a carpenter by trade and was to build all of his fishing boats himself, the names of these boats were the Violet, Faith, Hazel, Vera and the Wynnum, I’m not sure in what order they were built except the Wynnum and it was the last boat that was built, I don’t think the Wynnum was built as a fishing boat , more as a run-a-bout for Grandfather to keep motoring around the bay because he had retired and given the Faith and the Violet to his son Edgar as he was fishing too, I’m not sure what happened to the Vera and the Hazel. I will always remember the Wynnum because we spent nearly every school holidays at Amity and Grandfather would take us over in the Wynnum.  Grandfather was involved in sailing in Waterloo Bay and also built his own sailing boats. My mother, May Day, told me she used to love sailing and would sail in regattas off Darling Point. I can remember as a child going to grandfathers and seeing a sailing boat under his house and he told me he had built it. Uncle Edgar and two brothers-in-law, Percy Gardiner and Bill Parsons and later on his son Cliff were in his crew, I’m not sure but I think Cliff started fishing when he left school. In the early days they would row the dinghies to where the fish were, they graduated to sails and then to motors.

When I was about 10 me and my brother Don 11 years old my mother would send us with a cart down to the fish markets to see if the boats were in from work (we lived in Gibbs St) if they were in, Uncle Edgar would give us a feed of fish and when we got home it was our job to scale and gut them, this was a job that we didn’t mind doing, especially if it was sea mullet as the roes were something to look forward to. One day when I was about 12 I took my younger brothers and sisters for a walk to visit Grandma and nobody was home, Uncle Edgar lived next door to Grandma and Grandfather so we went to see Aunty Gerty. I knew Uncle would be out at work, but Aunty wasn’t home either. There was a fishing dinghy tied up to the home jetty so I decided to take the kids for a row, we had grown up around boats so I could row fairly well,  I rowed them to the mouth of the creek  and then got over enthusiastic and continued on towards St Helena Island. I hadn’t got far when I saw Uncle Edgar coming home, I didn’t have a worry in the world but boy did I cop it ,firstly for taking the dinghy without permission, secondly for going right out past the jetty. Uncle could see the danger in what I had done – he said that the weather could have changed, which Moreton Bay is renowned for, or one of the kids could have fallen over board or it could have got dark before I got back to the creek. Who knows what could have happened if he hadn’t come home from work?

My father bought a shop and the family moved to Dunwich in 1954, while working in the shop I met my husband to be, Charlie Perry. Charlie was a local Aboriginal man and a professional fisherman. We married in 1955. Charlie had two brothers – Dick and John, and with Cecil Iselin, Donald Enoch and Graham Martin formed a crew. Charlie’s boat was the Mavis 2. They would leave home late Sunday afternoon or early Monday morning depending on the tides and come back on Thursday afternoon. The nets had to be tarred and this was done on Friday. If they got fish through the week they would be taken to either Wynnum Fish Markets or Cleveland. They preferred Wynnum because the boat could get right into the landing, at Cleveland someone would have to go down to the beginning of the Jetty (and it was a long jetty), get Peter Miller out of bed (if it was night time) – he was the manager of Cleveland Fish Markets and he had to unlock the gate,  cases had to be put onto the trolley and then pushed back out to the end of the jetty, the fish had to be put into the cases then the trolley would be pushed back in, the fish sorted out, weighed and then iced.

Uncle Syd Crouch Jnr started fishing at Amity with Danny Hall in the sea mullet season. They had a tractor on the beach and pulled the dinghy to where there was a patch of fish and row the dinghy around them to let the net out and then pull the net in by hand. Charlie and his crew joined up with them and they would take the catch over in Charlie’s boat. Later on, Barry Litherland joined them and Dick, Cecil and Graham left the crew, Charlie and John started working the oyster banks in the summer, only fishing with Barry in the winter. Barry introduced a boat with a motor to go out around the fish and ropes on the tractors to pull the nets back in. The barge had started to run from Redland Bay so the fish were then loaded onto a truck and put on the barge to be taken straight to the Fish Board at Murrarie. This made things a lot easier and the hours shorter. They still had to get up at 4.30am to go to work but they got home at a reasonable hour unless they had a late shot in the afternoon. The nets no longer had to be tarred because mono-filament nets were now used. My husband passed away in 1983. Two of my sons – Ricky and Simon – started fishing with their father as soon as they left school and Kevin started when he was 17, another son Alan had his father’s oyster bank left to him so he worked the oysters. Today Kevin and his sons Marley and Dylan fish the bay in the summer and beach fish in the winter and Ricky and Simon only fish the beach in the winter.  I think descendants of George Crouch will be professional fishing for a while unless the laws change that much that fishing becomes unviable.

There have been a lot of changes in the fishing industry over the years with buyback of licences by the Government, increases in licence fees from $30 in 1979 when my husband was fishing, to $600 in 2013 for a Master Fisherman’s licence, separate licences for different species. Kevin now pays around $2000 a year for his various licences, and there have been closures of fishing grounds for green zones and the way the fish is transported now. The Fish Board was abolished and private buyers now send their own trucks over to the island when the sea mullet are running to pick up the fish.

Thank you for listening to me waffle on.”

Date & Time

- Present


15-17 Welby Street, Dunwich


With Entry


All Ages

00:00 / 01:04
00:00 / 01:04
00:00 / 01:04
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