The first port at Bermagui was established on the point in Horseshoe Bay in the 1830s. The port was built for the local dairy farmers and the town but Bermagui quickly became known as a game fishing mecca. It soon became an important commercial fishing port with many trawlers, tuna boats, and fish trapping boats unloading at Bermagui.
Bermagui Fishermen’s Co-operative Limited was founded in 1946 and was located on the eastern side of the Bermagui Harbour where the current Mooring Wharf is located. Originally the co-op consisted of 28 members all fishermen who were licensed to fish in the Bermagui Area. The first Board of Directors was elected in 1947 with Tom Paddon elected as chairman.
Due to an increase in fishing vessels the co-op was relocated to its current location in the 1970s. The fishing industry was the single largest income earner for the town employing the majority of young people from the town and surrounding areas. With local fishing vessels as well as many visiting vessels unloading their catches at the co-op it was always a constant hive of activity.
In its prime in the 80s and 90s the co-op boasted a fleet of 16 trawlers and 12 tuna longliners in its port. However the introduction of the Batemans Marine Park and the restructure of the Commonwealth Fisheries in 2005 severly affected the co-op. The combination of the marine park and the Commonwealth restructure meant the buyout of many of the fishermen’s licenses, which dramatically reduced the number of fishing vessels in its port.
Following the restructure of the fishing industry in 2005 the members of the co-op wanted to ensure that the future of fishing in Bermagui was secure. With this in mind the members began planning the Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf.
Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf venture begins…
With the support of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and The NSW Land and Property Management Authority planning commenced in late 2005 for the construction of the new Bermagui Fishermen’s Co-op. World renowned architect and local resident Phillip Cox was commissioned to design a building he thought would suit the location. Cox Richardson Architects were then engaged to act as the projects architects and Rankin Builders of Pambula were successful in there bid for the building contract.
In January 2009 building commenced with the demolition of the old co-op buildings. The building was constructed using timbers from local and north coast forests sustainably managed to international standards. The poles, cladding, and flooring are Yellow Stringybark (Eucalyptus muellerana) and White Stringybark (Eucalyptus globoidea) from Bermagui State Forest. The floor bearers and joists are Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) from State Forests on the north coast of New South Wales.
The new co-op is now located within metres of the wharves where the boats unload. The fishermen were consulted when designing the layout of new co-op floor. The flow through design and state of the art equipment guarantees the shortest possible time from boat to scales to cool room to truck to market.
As well as housing the new co-op the building also contains restuarants, cafes, gift shops, wine bar, art gallery, real estate agent and fish and chip shop. The fish and chip shop supplies the public with fresh local fish which is purchased from the co-ops boats.
The new building was completed in November 2009 and was officially opened by Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP Federal Member for Eden Monaro and Hon Tony Kelly MLC Minister for Lands (NSW) on 11th December 2009.
The Co-op today…
Today the Bermagui Fishermen’s Co-op continues to be a major supplier to the Sydney Fish Market as well as many Melbourne markets. The co-op is able to supply over 100 different species of seafood to the markets. These include Blue Fin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Yellow Fin Tuna, Swordfish and Albacore from our longline vessels including FV Sea Angel. A large range of table fish such as Flathead, Ling, Mirror Dory, Silver Trevally and Ocean Jackets from our trawlers including FV Shoalhaven. Our drop liners, Marcello and Kunara, provide us with a range of top quality deep water species such as Blue Eye trevalla, Ocean Perch, Ling and Gemfish. Our smaller producers also supply a range of Kingfish, Yellow Fin Bream, Cockles, Clams, Mullet, Scorpionfish, Wrasse species, Sand Whiting, Luderick, Garfish and Octopus.
The co-ops location in Southern New South Wales is an advantage to our fishermen. As well as being the shortest distance from the mainland to the continental shelf, our fish are caught in waters ranging from 15 to 22 degrees celsius. These colder temperatures means the fish have a higher fat content and are generally larger in size, making them more desirable to buyers.
The co-op’s excellent reputation for supplying high quality seafood was recognised in July 2011 when the Bermagui Fishermen’s Co-op was awarded Best Supplier (NSW) at the 2011 Sydney Fish Market Seafood Excellence Awards. The award was great recognition for the co-op who has been supplying the Sydney Fish Market for 62 years.