Wild Catch

6 December 2018 – 15 December 2019

Over 100 species of abalone can be found around the world, and it has been a traditional food supplement valued by all first nation peoples that have had access to it.  The growth of Australia’s abalone market was initially influenced by the migration of Chinese to the Australian goldfields, and later in the early 1960s as natural resources in other countries became overfished.

In late 1963, a concentrated effort in the commercial abalone fishery started on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.  These waters proved extremely attractive for divers to make big earnings, and it wasn’t long before abalone stocks became vulnerable to overfishing.  Today, the commercial abalone fishery is a tightly regulated industry with a concern by all involved to ensure the longevity of the species, its natural environment and its long term availability for future generations.

Abalone divers have been described by some people as having a unique character that enables them to enter  and withstand the cold depths of the ocean in order to harvest by hand one of the world’s most unusual delicacies.  Wild Catch explores the unique underwater ‘office’ of the abalone diver and the intriguing mollusc that has been a prized catch for thousands of years.

Title image:  Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Mrs K Luobikis.



Watch some of the local stories about the industry which has been called a ‘colourful’ chapter of Eden’s fishing history.

John SMYTHE has been a commercial abalone diver on the NSW Far south coast for 43 years.  He describes getting into the industry, the styles of boats used, and their evolution as a result of changes in the abalone industry.


Dennis ‘Tas‘ WARN was in Eden at the very beginning of the abalone diving industry in 1963-64.  Tas describes his experiences of the early days of the industry.