Recherche Bay (AOT, PH30/1/3136)

Abalone, blacklip and greenlip shellfish, was harvested by Aborigines, then Chinese miners. Chinese residents of Recherche Bay preserved abalone by smoking it, and exported some to Melbourne. European residents largely ignored abalone.

In the 1950s fishermen tried commercial production unsuccessfully, but by 1963 modern diving equipment and the growth of Asian markets meant the industry had become viable. The first management measure was a minimum size limit, then in 1965 a limit of 120 annual licences. Problems developed in the 1970s, but by 1984 the catch of 4500 tonnes was 22 percent of the world total, and high prices in Japan meant some divers joined the ranks of Tasmania's wealthy. Worry about overfishing led to the industry and government imposing a quota in 1985. Since then, the industry has been highly regulated, and in 1998 its value was over $70 million.

Further reading: Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, 'Policy Document for the Tasmanian Abalone Management Plan', History of the commercial fishery, Hobart, 2000.

Alison Alexander