Sunday 13 January 2019

From On Board: True North in South Australia: Victor Harbor


From on board MV True North II
Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: Victor Harbor, SA

True North visits South Australia every year (RE)

The waters off South Australia are renowned for their big creatures, not all of them friendly. But the story of tuna fishing is certainly one of outstanding success and yes you can actually swim with these massive, powerful fish in the open ocean.

Early this morning, True North motored imperiously past Rosetta Head and through Encounter Bay where Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders had their famous rendezvous in 1802, dropping anchor in the shadow of Granite Island, a couple decent casts from the beach at Victor Harbor. (yes, that's how it's spelled)

Once operated out of the tuna capital of Australia, Port Lincoln, the whole operation is now located across the Gulf, just over an hour south from Adelaide and under the new name of 'Oceanic Victor'. Not only do we get to swim in the pen as these muscular missiles dart around in bursts of up to 70kmh chasing prostrate pilchards tossed in amongst us, we learn about their physiology, life-cycle and commercial importance.

Southern Bluefin Tuna - always on the prowl (RE)

Once cheap sandwich filler and petfood, Southern Bluefin Tuna ((Thunnus maccoyii, aka SBT) now commands tens of thousands of dollars per fish on the auction floor in Tokyo. The quota is around 6000 tonnes annually and is valued at more than $400million in export dollars. SBT are raised in “sea ranches” after they are caught wild in the ocean and fattened to market size.

True North guests up close and personal with giant Southern Bluefin Tuna (RE)

The 40-odd fish here in the pen are around 50-60kg each and consume at least one kilo of pilchards each per day. These are hungry fish and weigh more than 100kg by the time they hit the market in Tokyo.

The tuna certainly are fascinating fish, but the 'cuteness' award goes to the pair of Port Jackson sharks rescued as bycatch from local fishermen. Christened Lilly and Charlotte by the team at Oceanic Victor, they are soaking up the cuddles and tummy tickles. Yes, really. They sit with us for an hour, posing for photos and nuzzling for more attention like a couple of friendly puppies. They live in their own big tank and can swim off at any time, but seem determined to spend as much time with us as they can.

Charlotte just loves a good tummy tickle (RE)

Back to True North for another fabulous lunch prepared by chefs Luke and Gav before we set out across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island to catch the next days' feed, namely the superbly tasty King George Whiting famous in these waters and – thanks to our expert guides – we bring back a healthy catch of these delicious fish.

True North remains here at Kangaroo Island for the next few days, sampling local pleasures and more fishing!


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