In a first for Australia’s Southern Bluefin tuna industry, traditional owners in the Eyre Peninsula have joined forces with a major fishing company.

Key points:

  • Wanna Mar means ‘sea food’  in Mirning and Wirangu languages 
  • Wanna Mar is a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned commercial fishing venture with Port Lincoln’s Stehr Group
  • Future profits will be used to help strengthen local Aboriginal communities 

Wanna Mar, which means ‘sea food’ in Mirning and Wirangu languages, is a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned commercial fishing venture, started with the help of the Stehr Group in Port Lincoln.

Wanna Mar has acquired 25 tonnes of Southern Bluefin tuna quota for traditional waters in the region.

Wanna Mar director Pauly Vandenbergh said this new venture came about through a chance meeting with tuna baron Hagen Stehr.

“I used to work for the Port Adelaide Football Club as director of their Aboriginal program and I met with Hagen to discuss opportunities for Indigenous people in the industry through his work as chairman of the Maritime Fishing Academy,” Mr Vandenbergh said.

“We just got talking about who my people were and the connection to the Eyre Peninsula and just how much sea country means to us as a community.”

The next step

The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) was approached to source grants and helped to secure $3.5 million. 

A school of southern bluefin tuna swim around in the ocean

Wanna Mar has acquired 25 tonnes of Southern Bluefin Tuna.(

Supplied: CSIRO

)

Wanna Mar is one of the first aquaculture projects ILSC have been involved with.

CEO Joe Morrison said it could be difficult for groups to get access to capital to embark on enterprises like Wanna Mar.

“It is very pleasing that the ILSC is able to help with something like this … there are many coastal and Indigenous people around the country that have got long ties to marine resources,” he said.

“I think the trick … is to make sure that we are attracting the right levels of capital and partners to work alongside Indigenous people so we can get more of these projects up and running.”

‘Stehred’ in the right direction

The Stehr Group is one of Australia’s largest Southern Bluefin Tuna producers and has been involved in the $130 million industry for 50 years.

As part of the new venture, Wanna Mar fishermen go out and catch the tuna under the supervision of Mr Hagen’s son Marcus, who is the Stehr Group’s managing director.

The tuna is brought back to the pens to be fed and fattened for market.

Wanna Mar will work with the Stehr Group on selling their part of the quota. 

Two men stand at the front of the boat with one man pointing out to sea

Stehr Group’s Marcus Stehr is looking forward to working with Wanna Mar’s Pauly Vandenbergh(

Supplied: Wanna Mar

)

Pauly Vandenbergh said a big part of Wanna Mar is setting an example for future projects and getting more Indigenous people into the industry.

“A big part of working with Stehr’s is the training aspect and one day maybe have our own boat that is managed by a full Aboriginal crew under the watchful eye of someone like Marcus,” Mr Vandenbergh said.

Marcus Stehr said he welcomed the opportunity to work with Wanna Mar and the local Indigenous community.

“I thought straight away this could be really good with the two different cultures working collectively together and looking at new ways we can run our fishery and I was really excited by the prospect,” he said.

“I am also looking forward to helping train for different roles into the future whether it be as a diver or getting their coxswain certificate or learning about sales, marketing, and finance.

“Together we are looking forward to further developing our business in the future.”

Fishing for the future

Pauly Vandenbergh said the future of Wanna Mar is exciting.

“For years, Aboriginal people have stood on the shore and watched the tuna fishing boats pass through our country and fish in our waters,” he said.

“We are proud to be partnering with Stehr Group to change that.” 

Two men sit at the front of a tuna boat both wearing life jackets

Wanna Mar’s Pauly Vandenbergh and Stehr Group’s Marcus Stehr are working towards more opportunities for Indigenous people on the Eyre Peninsula(

Supplied: Wanna Mar

)

But he said the idea behind Wanna Mar is to not just think about tuna.

“Hopefully at some point into the future we can enter into other species … there is some really cool and unique opportunities that we are looking at right now.

“That is the whole idea behind it is … how do we create more opportunities for local Aboriginal people, so they can have a job and have a career and have Indigenous people working on Indigenous businesses.”

Mr Vandenbergh said future profits from the venture would be used to address disadvantage and strengthen local Aboriginal communities, including through education and sports scholarships.

Tuna joint venture a first for Aboriginal participation in seafood industry
Source:
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