‘Kawahagi’ is a Japanese word meaning “to skin”, because the Ocean Jacket skins are easy to remove.

Hugh Bayly

As a 17-year-old, I left Adelaide for Port Lincoln and first started fishing when I was 19 years old, working on the tuna boats. I’ve been involved in fishing for crayfish, prawning and abalone shelling.

In the early 1980’s, Jackson Lennoll was the first commercial fisher to take up Deep Sea Ocean Jacket fishing.  Ocean jackets are a species of leather jackets that are found near the sea bottom in depths to about 80m to 200m.  I became interested in Ocean Jackets and in 1987 bought a marine scalefish fishing licence.  In 1989 I bought my first boat and, although I’ve fished for other species, including cockles, my main business is ocean jackets.

At the moment I am busy branding and marketing our fish, as well as fishing for cockles one or two days a week.  Our brand is Greenly Island Kawahagi.  ‘Kawahagi’ is a Japanese word meaning “to skin”, because the Ocean Jacket skins are easy to remove.

I fish about 100 days a year and have two crew to help me: it’s a three-man operation and I use traps to catch the ocean jackets, so they are in prime condition when caught.  Jacket fishing is hard work and, at my age, I probably shouldn’t still be doing it!  I am up at 4:00 am, put out to sea, am out all day and then back around 9:00 pm.  It’s a strenuous, long, day.  We normally do a two to three-day trip, sometimes even four days.  A lot of times we sleep out in the weather on the grapple and sometimes overnight on anchor in the shelter of an island.  Every year I get a better feel for it, the currents and El Nino effects.  You learn to read what’s around you; the mutton birds might leave or come back early, you’re seeing the krill coming in or baby crabs.  Every year things are happening, sometimes earlier or later.

There are always signs where the fish might be, especially if there’s a lot of life, like birds, dolphins, and pilchards.  You’re always hoping you’ve got the gear right in the current.  You have to plan your trip.  In good weather you can go further out but when it’s rough you have to stay closer to land.

I have my own van, to transport my fish from Coffin Bay to Port Lincoln.  From there it goes to the local market or to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.   Also, years ago, I was exporting to Korea and Japan and then, most recently, to China but now they’ve stopped taking them.  Here in Australia we’re lucky, our wild-caught fish are the last wild caught premium protein on the market.

Out there, on the ocean, it’s honest, beautiful.  You know that you’ll never know it all.  It’s amazing some of the things you see.  I have seen thousands of pilot whales.  I have pulled up soldier crabs – there must have been millions of them.  Days of so much life, the exceptional sea life.  The birds, the fishes, the grasses, the sea itself – at sea, I love the abundance of life.

Commercial fishers are really the care takers of the sea.  We make our livelihood out of fishing, care the most about the Industry and see fishing as a legacy we need to look after, because it’s our, and our descendant’s future.

Greenly Island Kawahagi

 Suite 27, 6-8 Todd Street, Port Adelaide SA 5015

Email: enquiries@mfasa.org.au