Project number: 2018-181
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $25,000.00
Principal Investigator: Lynda Mitchelson-Twigg
Organisation: A Twigg
Project start/end date: 31 Aug 2019 - 30 Aug 2020


This project will document and acknowledge the contribution and social-cultural history of Australia’s oldest small-scale commercial fisheries which have operated since the 1800s. The Australian commercial fishing industry which is now valued at over $1.5 billion, was built on these original small-scale fisheries operating in the bays, inlets and estuaries. However, with increasing population, development, and competition for space and access increasing in recent decades, these original fisheries and the associated ways of life are disappearing all around Australia.

In Victoria, eight out nine Bay and Inlet fisheries have been subject to closures over the past 20 years. The Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery is the most recent to face closure. The fishery began in the 1870s and formed the basis and beginning of a number of fisheries which now operate from the largest fishing community in Victoria, Lakes Entrance. In 2018, the remaining ten Gippsland Lakes commercial licenses were informed they would be compulsorily acquired, ending a multi-generational and historically significant fishery.

This project will document and present the social-cultural history of the last ten Gippsland Lakes fishing families, their journey and stories, their connection to the land and sea, and their contribution to fishing communities and the Australian fishing industry as a whole. The project will use oral histories, audio recordings and photography which will be collated by the National Library of Australia, and publicly exhibited in Lakes Entrance, Melbourne and online. While it is important to record this important pioneering fishery for the East Gippsland communities and Victoria’s social and cultural history before it disappears, this project will also contribute to public acknowledgment of the importance of small-scale near-shore fisheries around Australia and provide a tested template for other fisheries to tell their rarely-heard stories.


1. To collect and preserve oral life histories of the Gippsland Lakes Fishery, the way of life and connection to place and people
2. To collect and preserve photos documenting Gippsland Lakes Fishery, the way of life and connection to place and people
3. To exhibit an interactive display of the Gippsland Lakes Fishery locally, in Melbourne and online
4. To provide a template for other Australian fisheries to showcase publicly their fishery
5. To write a report that captures the history of the fishery from inception, with a focus on how the fishery has adapted and changed over time

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-6487136-1-6
Author: Lynda Mitchelson-Twigg
Final Report • 2022-08-01 • 3.54 MB


With little fanfare or attention, commercial fishing in the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria ceased on 1 April 2020. The small-scale commercial fishery, which was crucial to the establishment of the town of Lakes Entrance roughly 150 years ago, was closed by the Victorian State Government as part of its Target One Million plan to grow recreational fishing. But this 2018 election promise also spelled the end of an era for many family fishing businesses, specifically the remaining ten licence holders, many of them ‘generational’ fishermen whose families had commercially fished the lakes for decades. They pulled in their nets for the last time on the evening of March 31, 2020.

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