Retired fisho offers glimpse of history for industry, region
RETIRED local fisherman Brian Bienke has just self-published the second volume of his history of the Australian prawning industry, Prawners Down Under - The (Fishing) Life of Brian.
Family members were fishermen for four generations and Mr Bienke, who turns 80 in November, started in the business at the age of 14, working with his father who moored his boats at the original Byron Bay jetty.
"I wrote the books so people could see what the fishing and prawning industry was really like and to see it through my eyes, for I have loved doing what came naturally to me," Mr Bienke said.
Starting out in the 1920s, the family worked out of their home base of Byron Bay and then Brunswick Heads, before carrying on the business in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The family sold the last of their fishing boats in 2009 but still have fishing units in the Gulf that they lease.
At a time when Australia is striving to maintain a balance between a healthy marine ecology and a healthy fishing industry, Mr Bienke's perspective on the Australian fishing industry is unique.
He loves the fishing industry but sees it under threat from over-regulation.
"I'm as green as the next man but there seems to be too much regulation; I just hope the newgovernment will open things up a bit more," he said.
"Fishermen are very careful to preserve the fishing resource; any cowboys (who do the wrong thing) get ironed out of the industry."
Mr Bienke now lives quietly in retirement in Byron Bay after 66 years in the highly competitive prawn trawling business.
Over the years he faced many hardships and dangers but his love of the fishing life shines through in his writing. He opens the book with one of his favourite quotations from Christopher Columbus.
"And the sea will grant each man new hope as sleep brings dreams."
Prawners Down Under, Volumes 1 and 2, The (Fishing) Life of Brian is available from Mary Ryan's Bookshop in Byron Bay.