Saturday , October 16 2021

Live to fish and fish to live

The crew of the reef fishing boat Maharani I have a job that many people would envy.

Manager Will Neill said fishing on the Great Barrier Reef was an incredible work environment.

"We also see the other side," he said.

"We had to stay on the reef during the recent winds.

"We were the only vessel out there in the last coup and we got stuck there for five days waiting for it to clear."

O Maharani has seven crew members, a captain, sailor and five fishermen who go to sea for two weeks in a row.

"We fished the Swains Reef, which is about 120 nautical miles from Gladstone and takes from 6 to 6 hours to get there," Neill said.

"We're going to run up to the reef about 18 times a year and pretty much quit at any time."

SUSTAINABLE FISHING: Coral trout aboard the Maharani reef fishing vessel.

SUSTAINABLE FISHING: Coral trout aboard the Maharani reef fishing vessel.

Fishermen work out of dories using handlines to capture about 30 to 50 fish per day.

"In a good race, we will catch 2000 fish, including coral trout, red emperor, sweetlip, parrot fish, hussar, stripeys, red throat, red emperor, cod, trevally and Spanish mackarel," he said.

"Sometimes we can get nothing in an area, then we'll come back a week later and the boys will get 50 fish a day."

Most of the fish is processed on board and frozen, but the coral trout is stored in a large live tank in the Maharani.

"The tank is huge, runs the length of the boat," Neill said.

"Live coral trout goes to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and about 22% are exported, mainly to Hong Kong.

"All of our frozen product, about 25 tons per year, goes to the local fish markets."

Owner of the Maharani Reef fishing boat, Will Neill defends a blameless Christmas by eating fish instead of turkey.

Owner of Maharani Reef Fishing Boat, Will Neill. Matt Taylor GLA191218FISH

He said fishermen spend most of their days alone in the seas fishing on the reef.

"The Swains are so big we rarely see other boats out there," Neill said.

"It's an incredible job, especially when the weather is fine."

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