I write a weekly column for my local paper; The Torres News. The column is called Ailan Yarns (translates to Island Chats) and it focuses on sharing positive stories from within the community. It also shines a light on local issues to give the community a chance to voice their opinions. Enjoy.
Published in The Torres News
Printed: 15th June 2018
Author: Kantesha Takai
Like most Torres Strait men, Hideo Shibasaki grew up on the water and spent a great deal of time with his uncles, who were Crayfishermen.
“We went out in the boat a lot and they taught me how to dive, where to dive and how to find crays.”
Unfortunately, Hideo has a debilitating ear condition that restricts him from diving deeper than 1.5 metres. So, although he has learnt how to dive and wishes he could dive (he’s tried multiple times), Hideo will never be able to dive for crays.
But, as a young kid that looked up to his uncles, Hideo refused to let his condition stop him from pursuing his passion.
“I was always disappointed that I couldn’t dive like my cousins, even for fish.”
Instead, Hideo became a sponge. He learnt how to read tides, navigate at night and by the age of 15, he was driving for his uncles, night spearing on school nights and earning pocket money, which he smartly chose to save.
“From what I can remember about High School, I spent most of my weekends and school holidays working with my uncles.”
By his year 12 graduation, Hideo had saved enough money to buy a car; a goal he set for himself from when he started working.
Hideo’s ability to self-motivate, manage his time and money were the right skills for a career in Crayfishing, so it was only natural that he decided to work in the industry. And, to work around his ear condition, Hideo decided he’d be a dinghy driver rather than a diver.
Setting up an ABN and organising his self-employment and taxes was a struggle to begin with, but over time, it became manageable.
“The ABN was the easy part, we just had to fill a form in back then, and you got your fishing ABN pretty quickly.”
The next step was getting his own dinghy. In a partnership arrangement, he and his brothers bought a dinghy and it wasn’t long before Hideo was able to buy them out.
“The cray numbers and prices were better back then. And, it wasn’t that long ago. But even I can see a big change in the crayfish numbers from then to now.”
Over the years, things only got harder for Crayfishermen like Hideo and being only a dinghy driver meant that he couldn’t work without a Cray-diver. And, one wasn’t always guaranteed.
But, Hideo was always resourceful and found ways to make money.
“If I didn’t have a diver to work with, I’d pick up shifts at the factory.”
With three beautiful daughters, Hideo (like all other local Crayfishermen) is currently feeling the pressure of trying to earn enough money to sustain his family before this season closes. And, if you’ve read the Torres News or spoken to a local Crayfisherman, you’d know that they’re currently going through turbulent times.
Hideo is one of many local Crayfishermen under the age of 30 that have chosen Crayfishing as their primary career.
“All I know is Crayfishing. I couldn’t really do anything else permanently because I love what I do. But, I’ll do what I need to do to provide for my family.”
Although Hideo will never free dive or use the Hookah gear as a diver, he didn’t let his ear condition limit him or stop him from pursuing the career he wanted.
And, he is quite determined to not let anything else limit or stop him either.
Today, Hideo continues to drive for other Cray-divers and he goes night spearing when the tide is right. He’ll do that until the season closes and will be out on the water as soon as the next season opens.
If you’re a Crayfisherman and you’d like to share your story, please get in touch.