Australia’s wild prawn fishers are both men and women, are diverse, in culture and industry heritage, and are proud of how they catch quality prawns for Australian families.

Who are the prawn fishers?

Australia’s wild prawn fishers are courageous and often leave families behind for days, weeks or months at a time to catch prawns in challenging conditions.

From cyclonic weather that hits the West Australian coast, to the heavy humidity in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the roaring 40s through the Great Australian Bight or the perils of crossing the bar at Clarence River, prawn fishermen’s seafaring skills are essential to their safety and repeated return home. 

To hear live stories about what it’s like at sea, watch “Frontier Fishermen”.

Prawn fishers at Skull Island
Michael Wiseman and his baby girl.
Good-bye Dad.
Spencer Gulf - Captain & Owner

Australian prawn fishing is not just a business – it’s a way of life.

“I take a lot of pride in the Spencer Gulf Fishery in the way that we manage it so sustainably. Not only are we looking after the environment but we’re reaping the rewards. I get a real kick out of going to a restaurant and seeing a Spencer Gulf King on the menu.

My goal as a fisherman is to leave the fishery in as good a state to my children to what it was handed to me and to how my grandfather found it some 40 – 50 years ago.”

Clinton Scharfe, 2014, 3rd generation prawn fisher, Spencer Gulf.

“I never knew anything else. I liked the river. Yes it’s quite a good way (of life) but it’s hard work, just the same. Well that’s all I knew like. Like if you’re a bricklayer you wouldn’t want to go and get a job in an office somewhere, would you?”  

Albie Singleton, 1990, 2nd generation Hawkesbury River fisherman.

“We love the environment out there… We want to be doing this for another 50 to 100 years and I want my sons and their sons to enjoy what people before me have been enjoying.” 

Steve Paleologoudias, 3rd generation prawn fisher, Venus Bay SA 2016. 

But the reality of the dangers hit home each and every time a boat goes missing, sinks and fisherman lose their lives , it can happen in the blink of an eye.” 

Tonia Rose, 2016, Gulf of Carpentaria and QLD fisherman’s wife and mother.

“It is a dangerous way to make a living, but we all accept the risks in exchange for our mostly magic workplace. You never have two nights the same. The ocean changes from being like a millpond to a raging, frightening mash of great waves and white water everywhere. But deep down that is part of why we love it.” 

Merv Hargraves, 2016, NSW and QLD prawn fisherman.

“They just went out and you just didn’t know what was happening out there and you just had to wait patiently for them to come home. … It was my job to keep the children, well to keep as many hassles away from him as possible. I found that there were times when he would not have seen our children for three days sometimes at a time.” 

Dulcie Stace, 1990, Laurieton, NSW fisherman’s wife
Image credits Header and L-R:
header image © Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fishing Association;
image © Austral Fisheries;
image Michael Wiseman, Mooloolaba with his baby girl June 2016 © Roxanne Abrahams;
image © Salt of the Sea;
image © Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Fishing Association