The Coombell Star had been one of only two full-time trawlers left at Evans Head.
The Coombell Star had been one of only two full-time trawlers left at Evans Head. Halden Boyd

Evans fishing industry on brink of death after trawler sunk

WHEN the Coombell Star sank off the Evans Head coast in the early hours of Thursday morning the small coastal town lost one of its last remaining legacies of a once thriving fishing industry.

Geoff O'Rourke, who has worked at the Evans Head Fishermen's Co-op for 45 years, said he could remember a time when trawlers packed the Evans River.

>> MORE ON THIS STORY: How a wet mobile phone and lots of luck saved these men

"It's changed dramatically," Mr O'Rourke said. "It was a thriving industry, it was the industry in town, it was everything for the town, and now it's gone down to this."

Now, the Havanna is the last full-time Evans Head fishing trawler following the tragic loss of Brett McMahon's Coombell Star.

"It's been just a downturn slowly and progressively just getting worse and worse every year," Mr O'Rourke said.

It all started off with prices when they started to import vannamei prawns and we couldn't get any money for our product then

"The Clarence is the same, and Ballina is the same."

Mr O'Rourke said the combination of cheap overseas imports and rising production costs were to blame.

"It all started off with prices when they started to import vannamei prawns and we couldn't get any money for our product then," he said.

"Back when I first started you could buy diesel for about 18 cents a gallon. It just goes to show you how much it's changed."

The Coombell Star ran into trouble off the Evans Head coast at about 1.30am Thursday morning.

Both crew members Brett McMahon and Glenn Deas were forced overboard but managed to climb aboard a tinny that had been secured to the roof of the trawler.

Following an almost four-hour search, the fishermen were located about 2km off Snapper Rock and taken to shore by the Ballina Jet Boat Rescue.

Fortunately, one of the mobile phones survived the ordeal and was used to contact nearby trawlers as well as attract the attention of the Ballina Jet Boat which was using night vision equipment in the pitch black to search for the men.

Mr McMahon said he would like to thank everyone involved in the search and rescue, including the Ballina Jet Boat Rescue, the Puglisi's, water police, Marine Rescue Ballina and Evans Head, Marine Rescue NSW and Chris Bienke on the Havanna.


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