The professional fisherman Santo still hanging on at 101 years old
Once the catch is loaded in the back of their ute, they walk the 42 kilometers to the fish market, arriving around 3 a.m. so Bobbie can sort the shrimp from the crabs, the squid from the whiting and label the various fruits. Weighs to be left in separate boxes in the auction room.
“Sometimes I drop dad at home, but he thinks it’s a waste of time,” explains young La Macchia. “Usually he also comes to the market.”
“When I fish I feel brighter. I like to see the other boats and feel the freedom of the water. ‘
Santo La Macchia
By the time they get home to Beacon Hill, it’s usually 4.30am – a long shift for anyone, let alone a centenarian.
“I love to go fishing,” Santo says with his strong Italian accent. “It’s my life. It’s not a job, it’s a passion. When I fish I feel brighter. I love seeing other boats and feeling the freedom of the water.
Around the same time last year, when he turned 100, he received congratulatory messages from the Queen, the Governor General, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian. This anniversary celebrations will be quieter – spent with a few families and friends.
The elder La Macchia started fishing for sardines, anchovies and mackerel at the age of eight, taught by his grandfather and uncles in Sicily. Her father, Bartolo (quickly renamed “Bobbie” by his Anglo-Saxon teammates) had come to Sydney Harbor to fish in 1924 – ultimately saving enough money to bring the whole family to Sydney in 1937.
At 17, Santo’s first job was in a Neutral Bay fruit store. “But I was fired after a week because I couldn’t serve customers,” Santo remembers. “I didn’t speak English. “
Since then he has spent his entire life as a commercial fisherman, sometimes with his father and brother Joe.
His professional life is a personal story of the Sydney fishing industry. For many years he and his father divided their time between trawling for shrimp in the Parramatta River and longline fishing outside the heads for schnapper, but rockfish and sea bream were also caught. longline.
“I haven’t stood in line for over 50 years,” admits the old man. “It’s too dangerous to be three miles offshore, especially if the lines get stuck.”
Santo commissioned Joyce in 1951 from a Sydney boatbuilding company in Berrys Bay. “Most fishing boats were custom built at the time,” explains the son. “If you wanted to become a fisherman, you just chose the boat you wanted and went to the fisheries department to get a license.
“Now if you want to get into the industry you have to buy another fisherman. “
Santo knew exactly what he wanted. Joyce is 24 feet long with a nine foot beam and is made of Spotted Gum hardwood below the waterline and softwood above. He left Sydney Harbor in 1967 (“It was too busy”) and brought Joyce to Pittwater – first based in Newport, then in Palm Beach and since 1974 at her current mooring at Careel Bay (although the trawling is not permitted in Pittwater itself).
“Young Bobbie” joined his father on Joyce in 1972, and now a trawler, license, and trading company bears his name.
So which of them is the skipper? “He is,” Santo said, pointing to his son. “But sometimes when he does something wrong I’m the skipper.”
How long they can stay in business is debatable.
“I consider myself lucky that we still have the right to go fishing,” says Bob. “They closed Botany Bay to commercial fishing in 2002. Then they closed Sydney Harbor in 2006.
“Broken Bay could be next. Everything is political. We are not wanted here by recreational fishermen.
“It cost me $ 10,000 in 2017 when the Ministry of Primary Industries introduced a new licensing system, which meant I had to buy another 50 fishing stocks from another fisherman who was leaving the industry.
“There is no guarantee that the rules will not change again.”
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