19 December 2018

With the expansion of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) into Lakes Entrance, we thought that we would catch up with a local commercial fishing family.

Australian Wildcatch Fishing (AWF) is managed by husband and wife team David and Shelley Guillot and has been a family owned and operated fishing business in Lakes Entrance since 1970.

After a company restructure in 2007, David and Shelley along with their son Matthew and David’s younger brother Adam have been managing the business. According to them, it has been both a challenging and rewarding adventure.

Shelley was raised on a farm and her father was a local Danish Siene fisher. She met David when he was a deckhand, and they were married and had a family early in life. David attended the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania and quickly progressed through the ranks to be Skipper, purchasing a share of a vessel and eventually moving up to becoming the Managing Director of the company. Shelley and two administrative staff are responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

Since 2007 AWF has expanded to a fleet of five vessels and diversified to constructing fishing gear for the industry and netting for sporting facilities. It also runs marine service that provides abrasive blasting, engineering, marine engine maintenance and environmental management products, both on and off shore.

AWF has harvested an average of about 1,800 tonnes of sustainable seafood from the South East Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) over the last decade. It employs over 36 staff across its business, including marine diesel apprentices and has an ethos of supporting local industry whenever possible.

The changes to their business model in an evolving regulatory space has meant that AWF had to adapt quickly, reworking processes to incorporate the use of electronic logbooks and while working out how to incorporate historic data into the modern environment.

Shelley says that, although at times building the business has been challenging, the move to modern technology on board the fishing vessels has had a significant upside.  Maintaining contact with the skippers daily is a pivotal part of the business and allows the operational logistics to be managed efficiently. This also helps in minimising the down time of the vessels. 

In her role as business manager, Shelley works closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), using GoFish to manage their quota.  The data collected via AFMA’s electronic systems is used to help make decisions about the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species.

In quota-managed fisheries, the TAC is important for maintaining sustainability and long-term economic efficiency of a fishery.

The expansion of AFMA into Lakes Entrance has been an added bonus for AWF and the other commercial fishers based in the Victorian sea-side town. This is allowing more direct relationships with fisheries managers and compliance officers to be developed.  

The Commonwealth commercial fishing fleet based in Lakes Entrance brought over $22 million into the Australian economy in 2016-17. It delivers fresh flathead, gummy shark, whiting, scallops and squid to fish and chip shops, supermarkets and fish markets around the country.