Dongara fishermen were joined by their families, friends and community members today to celebrate the start of a new fishing season with the traditional Blessing of the Fleet ceremony.
Local Catholic Parish Priest, Father Brian Ahearn, led the community in prayer, blessing the fishing boats, their skippers, crew, and family members and praying for a safe and bountiful year at sea.
The annual blessing marks the beginning of the Western Rock Lobster season, one of Western Australia’s most iconic fisheries which contributes almost $8 million to the local Dongara economy and more than $500 million to the Western Australian economy each year.
Western Rock Lobster Council CEO Matt Taylor, said the community and industry involvement in the Dongara Blessing of the Fleet reflected the importance of the industry to the local community.
“The Blessing of the Fleet is one of Port Denison Marina’s oldest traditions and a much-loved community celebration,” Mr Taylor said.
“It is a day which acknowledges the resilience of this incredible industry which has grown from humble beginnings in this region in the early 1950s.
“It clearly demonstrates how proud the local community is of the industry’s strong history and its commitment to the future of the Western Rock Lobster fishery.”
Known for its plentiful off-shore reefs, the Dongara and Port Denison area is an iconic rock lobster fishing and recreational fishing location.
Mr Taylor praised the Dongara Professional Fishermen’s Association, which organises the annual event, for its ongoing support of the local community.
“The Western Rock Lobster industry drives economic growth and supports job creation in regional towns and coastal communities, such as Dongara,” Mr Taylor said.
“A sustainable rock lobster industry will help keep Dongara strong and continue to offer employment opportunities to local residents for generations to come.”
Local fisherman and Director of Bass Marine, Clay Bass, said the Blessing of the Fleet has been a local tradition in the town since the 1960s.
“Over the years the Dongara Blessing of the Fleet has become quite a big event, especially for a small country town,” Mr Bass said.
“There’s a lot of participation at the event. People come to enjoy a day on the water.
“All the vessels that take part in the blessing welcome people aboard and take them out on the harbour, which is nice way to get the local community involved.”
This year’s event featured a range of activities for the community to enjoy including live big screen fishing action, local market stalls, judging of the best decorated boat and the annual rope coiling competition.
Mr Taylor said while the event acknowledged the economic contribution of the industry, it also highlighted the importance of maintaining the highest safety standards on vessels.
“The safety of our fisherman is paramount. As an industry, we promote best practice safety at sea at all times,” he said.
“On behalf of the Western Rock Lobster Council, we wish the local fleet a successful and bountiful year at sea in 2018.”