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July 16, 2024

Not ‘hoons’ or ‘lazy’ say mullet fishers at Shaws Bay

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Cameron Bobeldyk, Mario Puglisi, Chairman – Ballina Fishermens Co-operative (BFC) Ltd and Mullet Crew fisherman and Skipper Tony Bobeldyk at Sahws Bay. Photo Aslan Shand

Concerns were raised over the impact of the trucks brought onto the beach at Gawandii Beach at Shaws Bay by fisher people during the mullet run.

Responding to concerns local fisherman told The Echo that they take care with the way they access the beach and that safety and managing the environment are key parts of this process as do other users like NSW Marine Rescue. 

The mullet run is an annual two-month event and the zone the local fisher people work across runs from Evans Head to the South wall at Tweed Heads and Shaws Bay is part of this recognised hauling ground under NSW state government legislation. 

‘The run begins in Eden and runs up the coast to Bundaberg with about two months in each zone,’ explained Skipper Tony Bobeldyk. ‘Each zone lasts about two months and this year we have caught around 50-60 tonnes of mullet.’ 

The mullet fishing has been taking place in its current format since around 1930, explained Mr Mario Puglisi, Chairman – Ballina Fishermens Co-operative (BFC) Ltd and mullet crew fisherman. 

‘Depending on the way the sand moves and the current conditions will impact on how we access the beach,’ Mario explained. 

‘This track from the carpark to the beach is the one we have used for the last three to four years. Previously we have used the access track at the other end of the beach where the old Missingham Bridge is. That was before 2017 when the access track at the carpark end had an almost 10ft drop because of the way the sand had moved on the beach.’

Cameron Bobeldyk, who works with his father Tony during the mullet run season, said they hadn’t ‘destroyed the beach’ as others had claimed. 

‘Yes there are tracks on the beach when we bring the trucks down to collect the catch but they are washed away at the next high tide. We are the ones who have fixed the footpath leading down to the beach and put road base in along the footpath where rain had washed the path away. Now you can walk on it and there’s not a tripping hazard.’

Dune and plant destruction at Missingham Bridge end of beach. Photo supplied

Dunes damaged

One of the key concerns of the Tuckombil Landcare Group who have been working on the area for the past three years was the damage done at the old Missingham Bridge end of the beach that hadn’t been accessed by the mullet fishers during that time. However, the mullet crew have agreed with Ballina Council that they will not use that access again this year and pointed out that the grass and other plants are recovering well. 

‘We are not “hoons” or “lazy”,’ they told The Echo

‘The environment is something we are very aware of and we depend on. We have assisted with financial contributions to the fish ladder at Casino, we’ve helped fix up the weir, and provided money to OzFish for a water quality monitor device. We prefer it when people come and talk to us directly.’

Mario said that they have always had a good relationship with people who use the beach in the past. 

‘We have good public relations, people are always coming over to talk to us about what we are doing,’ he explained. 

‘They get to find out about the history of the area, what we are doing, and the kids get to take a look. We park the boats on the grass near the carpark for safety which is very important for us and everyone else. We take safety very seriously. At the end of the season we work with Ballina Council and fill in the tyre tracks and rehabilitate the area.’ 

The mullet they catch each season is sold through the Ballina Fishermen’s Co-operative they then sell on to Chinderah who distribute internationally. 

‘The mullet run brings in money and jobs to local communities up and down the east coast,’ explained Tony.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Good on them hope the tradition continues.Really is a shame that a whinging whinging minority feel compelled to complain.

  2. The mullet run only brings in money to the families doing it. How does Ballina or anyone else benefit. I’ve seen those tracks, they’re bloody awful. What rehabilitation work do they do, I haven’t seen them down their doing anything other than trapping a shitload of fish in a tiny bay where they can’t escape. And taking from our local area just to sell it internationally… For 2 months it’s a bloody disgrace & kills fish going about their business.

  3. Sometimes traditions need to change – just look at whaling. Do these men contribute back to the natural environment by supplying fingerlings for the next year? Have they studied the marine environment and have an education in keeping the natural environment healthy and sustainable? Perhaps while they are standing around waiting for a week for the poor unsuspecting mullet to naturally run their course, the fishermen could be raking the sand back and filling in the huge divets created by their fourwheel drives. What and who gives them the right? Surely a fishing licence doesn’t give you permission to plunder the bay of mullet and damage the grass and forshore. The heading is apt and the picture reinforces the obvious.

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