The Northern Star and Trochus Fishing


A collection of newspaper articles on trochus fishing from the early 1950s, together with links to Trove.

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 - 1954) Sat 1 Jul 1950 Page 5

TROCHUS SHELL HARDER TO FIND Masters of two trochus fishing boats at present in Townsville said yesterday that following the intensive working of the past few years, the shells are again becoming difficult to find. At the end of the war, after practically six years of respite, the beds on the reefs had been built up. Vessels could leave Cairns and Innisfail and in a few days obtain a full cargo. Now, says Mr. M. W. Millard, of the former Navy craft Lorraine, and Mr. A. A. Shield, of the Tropic Star, owned by Mr. Van-Dawson of Cairns, fishermen obtain at the most 10 tons a month. However, the price in Cairns is £90 per ton, and the market will take all that can be obtained. Mr. Millard has an engineer on his 72ft. craft, Mr. Ken Davis, and as full crew 12 native boys from the mainland and from Thursday Island. At the moment, however, he has only six, and is hoping to obtain the rest in Townsville. He expects to leave on Saturday, working along the reef north from the Palms. His vessel carries four dories, which are manned by three native boys— two of whom dive at a time. They bring the shells to the surface in their hands. At the stern of the trochus craft a large boiler is erected to enable the fish to be taken from the shell. An accident with the boiler aboard Tropic Star was responsible for her coming into Townsville. On Wednesday one of the boys was struck on the head as the boiler tipped over, and it was necessary that he receive hospital attention.

Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954) Wed 25 Oct 1950 Page 5

LAUNCH DESTROYED BY FIRE OFF HIGH ISLAND BELIEVED TO BE LORRAINE The launch Lorraine, a small type Fairmile engaged in trochus shell fishing, which left Cairns about 1.30 o'clock yesterday morning for Innisfail, is believed to have been destroyed by fire off High Island, about 30 miles from Cairns. It is understood that only two men were aboard the Lorraine when it left Cairns, the skipper (Mr. M. Millard) and the engineer (Mr. Ken Davis). It is stated they intended to pick up a crew at Innisfail. The Lorraine is believed to be owned by Mr. Roley Millard, manager of the National Bank of Australasia Ltd, Townsville branch, and formerly manager of the Cairns branch. Early yesterday morning the overseas ship Heough Silverlight reported to the -Townsville Customs House by radio that a vessel was on fire off High Island and that a number of small boats were seen near the beach, but that there were no distress signals observed. The launch, Northern Star, left Cairns early last night for the scene of the fire and about nine o'clock a launch with members of the police force aboard left Smith's Creek, Cairns, for the scene. At the time of going to press, no further information had been received as to the definite identification of the launch or as to the safety of the skipper and engineer.

Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954) Thu 26 Oct 1950 Page 1

LAUNCH SURVIVORS RESCUED AFTER TWENTY-FOUR HOUR ORDEAL GRUELLING ROW TO HIGH ISLAND (By our Special Representative) The two occupants of the 72ft. motor launch Lorraine, which burned to the waterline and sank off High Island, about 40 miles south of Cairns, early on Tuesday morning, were brought to Cairns yesterday by the rescue craft Sea Mist and Northern Star.

The men were Kenneth John Davis (34), married, of Townsville, engineer aboard the Lorraine, and Malcolm Millard (29), married, of Innisfail, skipper. Millard received second degree burns to his hands, face and arms, while Davis escaped with shock. The men, who were picked up at Russell River Heads yesterday morning, told a grim story of the horror of fire at sea and a 17-mile row in a small dinghy, first to uninhabited High Island and then to Russell River Heads. SURVIVORS' STORY. Millard said that the Lorraine left Cairns about 2 a.m. on Tuesday for Innisfail with the intention of picking up a crew and then heading for the trochus fishing grounds off Mackay. Millard said: "It all started about 4.30 a-m. We were some 10 miles off High Island, inside the reef. Davis had been taking his trick at the wheel but had gone below about 20 minutes before I first noticed the flames. "At first I thought the flash I saw forward was the Franklin Islands light, but then there was a burst of flame from the forward hold and I called out to Davis. "He tumbled out and we rushed to the open hold to see what we could do. The fire, which was probably started by a short circuit in the wiring, had in a few seconds gained a good grip and the hold was well ablaze. We tried to smother it, but it was no good. Things started to get pretty hot up there with the flames sweeping back toward the bridge. ATTEMPT TO SAVE MAGNETO. "Ten minutes after I first noticed the fire, the blaze was pouring back through the wheel house. I remembered that the magneto for the power dinghy was in there and tried to get it. The flames forced me back. I got burnt about the face, hands and arms and a lot of my hair was singed off. I rushed down to the engine room and managed to get out a few tools. We could see by then that there was nothing we could do. The whole forward part of the Lorraine was blazing and the heat was terrific."

TERRIFIC EXPLOSIONS. Millard continued: "We got off into the dinghy and pushed off from the Lorraine. We had three other dinghies tied in line behind. I could not row because of my burnt hands and Davis pulled like mad to get as far away from the launch as we could. "We were dead scared that a 44-gallon drum of benzine would go at any minute, together with the two tanks of kerosene for the engines. We pulled off about a mile and stayed there to watch the end. The benzine went up suddenly with a terrific explosion and the flames shot about 25 feet into the air. Then the kerosene went up with another roar. That was the end, and the Lorraine, by this time burned to the waterline, slid under. TANKER PASSES BY. "Just before the end we were sighted by a tanker. The vessel (Heogh Silverlight) turned in toward us, but then put back to her course and continued on her way." Davis took over the story: "We were about 10 miles off High Island by then," he said, "and it must have been about 6 a .m. I did most of the rowing at first and when I began to play out Mal took over one and rowed with his good hand. It must have taken us between three and four hours to pull the 10 miles to High Island. We beached the dinghies on a coral cove on the north-west part of the island, but we could not find any water there. We rowed around to the next bay and found a little fresh water in a soak." MADE FOR RUSSELL HEADS Millard continued: "We stopped by the dinghies until about 5 p.m. and then, after pulling three of the dinghies clear of high water, we rowed the other round, to the other side of the island in the hope of picking up one of the sugar lighters going between Cairns and Innisfail. "We did not sight anything and then I decided to make for Russell Heads. That was about another seven miles off. We reached the beach settlement at 8.15 o'clock, by which time we had rowed a good 17 miles. A few chaps at the Heads put us up for the night and at daybreak I borrowed a motor launch and went up the Russell River to Deeral. I phoned the police and when I got back the Northern Star was lying off shore. It was a good sight too."

Davis, who had been left at the Heads, was picked up by the Sea Mist about 9.30 a.m. yesterday while Millard was at Deeral. RESCUE ATTEMPTS News of the accident first reached Cairns about midday on Tuesday, following, a radio message to Brisbane from the tanker Heogh Silverlight. The owner of the Lorraine (Mr. R. Millard), uncle of the skipper, chartered the Cairns Fairmile cruiser, Northern Star, skippered by Captain R. Adams. The Northern Star left Cairns about 6 p.m. on Tuesday to search for survivors off High Island. The motor vessel Sea Mist was chartered by Mr. J. Goldfinch, a friend of the men aboard, the Lorraine and left Smith's Creek at 9 p.m. With the Sea Mist went a Cairns ambulance bearer and Sergeant L. Bramley, of the Cairns police. The Sea Mist made contact with the Northern Star off High Island just before 1 a.m. yesterday. The Northern Star, drawing about seven feet of water, had been unable to get close in-shore to the island, but had trained a spotlight on all beaches and reported no signs of life. MOONLIGHT SEARCH The Sea Mist, drawing less water, then circled the island and parties went ashore on the is-land's coral beaches in bright moonlight. Hopes were raised that survivors might be found on the island when fresh footprints and the remains of a fire were found near some charred wreck-age from the sunken craft. However, nothing more was found and the two vessels anchored until day break. The rescue craft then split up. The Northern Star made another circuit of High Island by daylight while the Sea Mist made toward the mouth of the Russell River with the intention of searching back up the coast. Signs of wreckage from the Lorraine were sighted through binoculars on the beaches. The Sea Mist pulled close in by the huts on the beach at Russell Heads and Davis, shaken and still suffering from the shock of his long ordeal, rowed out.

The Sea Mist signaled to the Northern Star, which had proceeded to search the nearby Franklin Islands group, and it was decided that the Northern Star should wait for Millard, while Sea Mist, with Davis aboard, should collect the dinghies at High Island and then go on to Cairns. The Sea Mist reached Smith Creek landing at 3 p.m. yesterday and the Northern Star, after picking up Millard, reached the Fairmile wharf at Cairns at 5 p.m. The Cairns ambulance bearer, who had transshipped to the Northern Star, gave first-aid to Millard for the burns he had received, and on arrival he was taken to the Cairns Base Hospital. Later he was allowed to leave. The lost launch, which was insured, was formerly a naval harbour defence vessel, built for the service at a cost of £4,000. 

Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954) Fri 9 Mar 1951 Page 5

OVERSEAS DEMAND FOR TROCHUS SHELL CONTINUES Over 120 Tons Sold In Cairns Since Beginning Of Year Since the beginning of the year over 120 tons of trochus shell have been sold in Cairns. This is a much higher quantity than that received in any corresponding period in previous years. In the last five weeks, nearly 80 tons have been landed at the Smith's Creek wharf from trochus boats operating from Cairns. Large quantities of shell have been marketed here and at other ports recently, but there is every indication that there is still a very keen demand for shell overseas. Cheaper to gather than pearl shell, the current high price makes trochus shell one of the "get rich quick" industries in the Far North. The price of shell continues to rise, and in the last few days has risen from about £260 to nearly £300 a ton. There seems to be no limit to the spiraling price for this recently neglected sea product. Throughout northern waters boats are putting to sea in search of rich trochus beds. Little has been done ln the industry since the Japanese left Australian waters over 10 years ago. Until 1949 prices were so low that very few fishermen could make a living from the sale of shell. The price was only £50 a ton as recently as 1949, in comparison with pearl shell at £500. Even now pearl shell is only £640. This shows the rapid rise in the price of trochus, which is now half the price of pearl shell as compared with a tenth a few years ago. BOATS NOW IN PORT In the last week 10 boats have been into Cairn to unload, in many cases, excellent hauls. The Tropic Star, with 10 tons in nine days, holds the record, but many other boats have gathered a ton of shell in a day with good divers on an unworked reef. Torres Island boys working the boats said yesterday that good hauls of shell were being obtained by most boats working from Cairns, and many of them were on good trochus grounds within a few days' sailing from port. Reefs as close as Green Island have been worked by the luggers in the last few weeks. The Jack Can, with 36 tons of fair shell, had one of the largest catches. The vessel had been out since early in January. The Mary Ann unloaded eight tons after three weeks' fishing, and the Senorita was unloading more than 10 tons yesterday afternoon. The other luggers which brought in shell this week are the Albatross, Saraband and Dahlia. PRICE EXPECTED TO HOLD. Trochus men are of the opinion that the price will hold for some time as poor pearl shell hauls in recent years have created a big demand for mother of pearl in the East and also in America. The high cost of equipping pearling luggers-a diving suit costs nearly £150 has hit the pearling fleets and many private pearlers have left the industry since the war. Pearl shell in the north-western grounds has been worked for many years and the large hauls taken by the Japanese have diminished the beds. The luggers are being forced to go further away from Thursday Island to get their shell. The lack of good deep seas divers in recent years has also helped to decrease the production, as most of the shallow grounds have been worked out.

The trochus shell on the other hand is usually found in reef waters at a depth of about 10 feet. In some cases the shells are found in shallow coral pools. No diving gear is required for the work, and divers can work much more quickly in the shallow water. Working from five or six dinghies the skin divers can cover a large area in a day, as many of the shells can be clearly seen from the drifting boats. BOILING PROCESSES. Trochus shell is much harder to prepare for export and all shell has to be boiled at least once to loosen the shell fish so that it can be extracted from the spiral shell. Even a small portion of the animal left in one shell can spoil a bag of good shell because of the smell when it decomposes. Some local fishermen are failing to obtain top price because their shell is not properly cleaned. Early this week a seven ton lot was declared to be not fit for export, and all the shell had to be cleaned again. Most crews clean their shell as soon as they have collected it, as the fish is easily removed if it is boiled soon after leaving the sea. For export the shell is graded, but a Cairns agent said yesterday that many fishermen were not getting top price because they made no attempt to grade the shell by size. Shell which would normally bring £260 a ton is being sold for £240 because it is not properly sorted. Old shell which is over four and a half inches in diameter and covered by lime encrustations also lowers the value, because the lime adds to the weight and has to be chipped off the shell before it can be used to make buttons. Under the Pearl Shell and Beche de Mer Act the minimum size of shell to be marketed is two and a quarter inches. Packed in double bags the shell is exported as first grade shell the most even in size and with-out any lime growth, or second grade-containing the large shells and those covered with lime. A lot of these are wasted in processing as the cutting machines can only cut a certain number of buttons from the one shell. When the Japanese were in the trade the wasted shell was ground into a fine powder and then made into paste for the manufacture of artificial pearls.

Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954) Wed 30 May 1951 Page 2

FLEET GROWS EACH DAY. TRADE NOW RIVALS CAIRNS Boom in trochus MACKAY'S rapidly expanding trochus industry has reached boom proportions, as new luggers arrive from day to day. The fleet at present numbers about 12, and new arrivals are expected in the next few weeks. The lugger fleet now operating off Mackay rivals Cairns in size. It is expected to grow bigger in the next few weeks. What is probably the biggest trochus fishing vessel at present in the trade, the 112ft. Fairmile cruiser Northern Star, will leave Mackay this morning with 15 white divers aboard, on a six-weeks' trochus cruise in Mackay waters. Her mate Mr. Jim Ninness, who is in charge of diving operations, expects she will pick up 30 tons of trochus, worth £7500, in the next six weeks. Three new luggers arrived yesterday morning from Thursday Island and Darwin, where they had been operating on pearl. They are owned by Darwin pearl fisherman, Mr. R. Tait, and will be based here for the rest of the season. There were six trochus boats in Mackay harbor yesterday, and as many more working the reefs off the coast. Trochus men interviewed yesterday said Mackay waters were more attractive because they had not been worked as heavily as northern grounds, and the shell seemed of better quality. They said the industry should bring brisk business to city firms dealing in food and fuel. Northern Star left Cairns a fortnight ago, bound for Mackay, and did eight days' fishing en route. She arrived yesterday with six tons of shell, valued at £1500, and immediately restocked with fuel and medical supplies. The six boats in the harbor constitute the biggest trochus fleet here at one time since prewar days, when Japanese craft operated in Mackay waters. The three luggers owned by Mr. Tait are the Toorbul, skippered by Mr. Fred Motlop, the Southern Cross (Reg Lee), and the Fram (Pedro Guivarra). Another Tait boat, the Moa, at present on the slips in Cairns, is expected to arrive In Mackay shortly. Pedro Guivarra told the 'Mercury' yesterday the pearl shell season was over in Thursday Island and that more luggers would come south to Mackay. "Pearl is worth more than trochus — it is £750, compared with £250 for trochus — but you get more trochus than pearl shell, as it is shallow diving," he said.

The Fram was originally owned by a 70-year-old white man who was caught in Surabaya when the Japanese invaded Java. He was interned and the Fram was sunk. When released he spent months raising her from the bottom and refitting her and set sail for Australia. He spent three months battling against the weather before he reached Thursday Island, where he sold his boat to Mr. Tait, the present owner. A former Brisbane River tug, the Vera, which arrived in Mackay about three weeks ago, is ready to leave for trochus in a few days. She has been almost completely refitted by her skipper, Jack Kennell, and a mixed white and colored crew. Vera is owned by Mr. N. A. Phlllpott, of Mackay, and has a crew of 10 divers, Her skipper hopes to add another five for the next trip out.

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld: 1933-1954), Wednesday 30 May 1951, page 6

State of Queensland


LUXURY ... The Fairmile cruiser, Northern Star, which leaves Mackay today on a two-months' trochus hunt, is the most luxurious shell fisher on the Queensland coast. In six weeks on the reef the mate (Mr. J. Ninness) hopes to win 30 ions of shell worth £7500. The vessel carries 15 divers, all whites. They will sleep on rubber sponge mattresses, have hot and cold showers, and eat three course meals prepared by a former tourist ship chef.

Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954) Wed 30 May 1951 Page 2


TROCHUS craft in Mackay harbor yesterday ranged from the sleek luxuriously appointed Northern Star which took the late Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey on a tourist cruise of the north — to squat luggers from Darwin and Thursday Island, and a refitted river tugboat.

The Northern Star, owned by Mr. C. R. Patterson, a Cairns timber merchant, is probably the most luxuriously equipped craft ever to enter the trochus trade.

She can carry fresh food and supplies for a two months cruise without returning to port, and has modern steam boiling equipment, installed for cleaning trochus. The boiler, the first of its kind used in trochusing, was invented by Mr. Paterson, who is a Bachelor of Engineering. Oil fired and blower operated with an injection pump, it is the latest thing in shell cleansing. All other luggers In port use a big iron drum or vat heated by an open wood fire, on the stern of the vessel.

Half the races under the sun were represented in the 50 men aboard the six boats in port yesterday.

Torres Strait, Islanders, half and quarter caste lugger boys, Latvians, Norwegians, Finns, an Englishman, and a big proportion of "dinkum Aussies" man the trochus fishing fleet.

Aboard the Northern Star, everything is run like a first class tourist cruiser. The men sleep on rubber sponge bunks, have hot and cold showers, and great three-course meals prepared by a former tourist chef Mr. Alan Coles.

The Northern Star's 10 ton refrigerator carries fresh milk and vegetables for six weeks' cruising. Her skipper, Captain Roy Adams, and her engineer, Mr. Arthur Bosca, were both with the vessel during Field Marshal Blamey's cruise.

Aboard the other luggers, the staple diet of the colored divers is fish and rice, cooked in oil drum fires on deck. On the Toorbul last night, the lugger boys were cooking their evening meal of dugong, steak and rice when a reporter went aboard. "It tastes like pork," one of 3 said, as he ate it off a wooden stick, which he said was a "sea fork."

Mate of the Northern Star, a Mr. Jim Ninness, who is in charge of trochus diving, said yesterday all of his white divers were working hard, and liking the game. Only one had previous diving experience, but they were all shaping very well, he said. One of his divers, Nazimis Magometovs, of Latvia, told the 'Mercury' that the only thing wrong with trochus diving was "infernal sharks and sting grass on the reefs." He has been in Australia for three years, and has tried his hand at cane cutting, cow-punching, and carpentering, Yesterday he met a formers shipmate and fellow Latvian, Noldemars Kalejs, whom he had not seen for three years. They came out as migrants together, and Noldemars is now a baker in Mackay. "I am trying to get him aboard the Northern Star as a baker," said Nazimis.

Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 - 1954) Sun 24 Jun 1951 Page 4

Trochus Boom hits Mackay NEW DOLLAR INDUSTRY

From a Special Correspondent

MACKAY, Sat. — Boom price of £250 a ton offering for trochus shell has brought a rich and colourful new dollar industry to Mackay, now the southernmost lugger port in Queensland.

Four months ago Mackay had hardly heard of trochus. To-day, it is a thriving industry, with more than 20 trochus craft operating from the port. Trochus men believe the current high prices is caused by its use in the manufacture of American war materials. The shell has been used for years to make -buttons, knife handles, and as a face powder base, but the price until recently did not warrant going after it. Since April, luggers have sailed south from Darwin and Thursday Island, Cairns, and Townsville to be 'in' on the rich trochus beds, off Mackay, untapped since the Japanese left on the outbreak of war. Local fishermen are stall fitting out to join the rush. -

White divers

Diving has long been the vocation of coloured men — Japanese, Torres Strait Islanders, and men of Malay descent — but in the current, trochus boom the white man is proving his worth as a diver. Australians, Englishmen, Norwegians, and other Europeans who have never dived before in their lives are taking it up, and doing well. On one craft alone, the 112ft. Northern Star, there are 15 white divers of five nationalities. Although white divers are bringing in a good share of shell, by far the greatest quantity is still obtained by coloured divers. They live more cheaply, on a staple diet of rice and fish.

Big influx

Mackay's new industry has not been without drawbacks. Half the fishing fleet has switched to trochus, with a resultant drop in export of fish to southern markets. The big influx of coloured men has caused some trouble on the waterfront. Police have had to take into custody teenage white girls found living aboard luggers with native crews. Residents have complained of drunken orgies by trochus divers, and a strict watch has to be kept on waterfront hotels. Nevertheless, the city is settling down well to what promises to be its biggest source of wealth from the sea.

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 - 1954) Sat 30 Jun 1951 Page 2


A Barrier Reef luxury cruiser Is now trochus shell fishing in northern waters. The vessel is the m.v. Northern Star at present berthed in Townsville. Northern Star has a crew of 16, including 12 divers. Cabins and saloons have been reconverted Into holds and crew's quarters. The original main saloon is now the main crew's quarters and contains 12 bunks installed in four tiers of three. Northern Star sailed from Cairns on May 6 and headed for Mackay from where operations commenced. Trochus shell hauls from Redbill and Denton reefs only totaled three and a half tons, because these reefs had been worked previously. White divers were used as an experiment in the trochus shell gathering on the reefs. Crew members on the Northern Star say that although the Northern Star was originally a luxury cruiser their journey was not a luxury cruise. They say they are dissatisfied with the ship and the trip in general. For the past month Northern Star has been cruising the outer Bel Cay reef.

The Maritime Worker (Melbourne, Vic. : 1938 - 1954), Saturday 12 January 1952, page 3.

The Northern Star By J. HOWE

People sat lazing on the Esplanade, Cairns, cooled by a slight breeze, idly watching a grey spot on the flat sea that took the shape of a Fairmile cruiser. As she came up the Trinity Channel, there were many romantic thoughts concerning her. But there was nothing at all romantic about the vessel, which as she came by the Esplanade was seen to be the Northern Star. The 18 divers aboard seemed pleased, as they lined the deck, clean brown bodies shining in the sun. And well might these Murray Island boys seem pleased. They were soon to be taken to their home, Murray Island, freed from the contract that bound them to work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with food at starvation levels, diving into shark and groper infested waters for trochus shell at the wage of £3 16. - a week. These boys had been pleased when they "signed on". Not being awake to the tricks of slave-driving skippers and profiteering owners, they thought that their share of the catch would be one half. This would have given them good wages. They were soon disillusioned. Instead of half shares, which is the usual thing, they were to receive £15 a month. The usual minimum wage is £20 a month at £5 a week! They were to find out how an unscrupulous skipper could rob them in another fashion. When the Northern Star called at Thursday Island there were sailing races on, and the skipper turned "bookie", and, after his crew had backed the winning boat, "welshed" on them. By this time they were learning something about the white man's way of life and they were not liking it. "Pinchbeck" Bully Hayes At Cooktown the skipper, who, by the way, is reputed to be an ex-Commander in Hitler's navy, bashed up three of the boys just to keep in practice, as there was no provocation! He didn't like the looks of his white engineer, so he cleaned him up as well. The food supplied to the boys never varied. It consisted of rice and bully beef supplied to them in one large dish, not to the individual but to the lot. While the vessel was off Cairns one of the-boys did not finish off his share quickly enough for the skipper, so he laid him out. These expert divers commenced diving at 6 a.m. and, with one break, continued until 6 p.m. Hitler's ex-Commander was quite a clever chap, and, like a lot of other "clever" people, he went in for an incentive system. He promised the boys that if they brought up 12 tons of shell within a specified time, he would give them a week's spell. They brought up the shell well within the time, but, instead of a week off, all that this skipper did was to give them one day off? Another lesson learned the hard way as to the honesty of, at any rate, this particular white man. Incredible Meanness! Trochus divers wear goggles, usually provided by the owner, but not in the case of the Northern Star; the boys had to provide their own. As is well known in the "North", trochus boat owners never ask their boys to dive in more than 12 feet of water, because fast reef currents could sweep them out to sea, and to the dangers of shark and groper." The noble example of Aryan insolence attempted to force his boys to dive in 20 feet of water, but did not succeed, so he came into Cairns and sacked them. When berthed in Cairns he decided to fire the first shot. He called the police down to the wharf and wanted them to send the boys to Palm Island (an aboriginal settlement), but the boys' island councilor was there and persuaded them to let the Murray Islanders go home. The promised bonus of £2,10/- a week was withheld. Tricked and Robbed Apart from the starvation, brutality and exploitation, these boys had to show the skipper where to get shell, and they suffered a common anxiety; when on one occasion he tried to turn the Northern Star into an amphibious Jeep by getting over a reef. The shell landed in Cairns was 18 tons and was worth £4680. It is alleged that her owner is one Patterson. However, whoever owns the vessel must have found it a very profitable venture, and the skipper would get a handsome commission. But, in order to get the handsome profit, the boys who dived for the shell were tricked, robbed, starved and bashed. The Northern Star is a nice-looking vessel, but she will have to look past Torres Straits Island for another crew.


  1. Here is a summary of the web page you are viewing:

    - **The Northern Star and Trochus Fishing**: This page is a collection of newspaper articles on trochus fishing from the early 1950s, together with links to Trove, a digital library of Australian cultural heritage.
    - **Trochus Shell Industry**: The articles describe the boom and challenges of the trochus shell industry in Queensland, which was driven by the high demand and price of the shell overseas for making buttons, knife handles, and other products.
    - **Northern Star Vessel**: The articles also feature the Northern Star, a Fairmile cruiser that was converted into a trochus fishing vessel, and its crew of white and colored divers, who faced dangers and hardships on the reef.
    - **References**: This page contains many references to the original newspaper articles on Trove, which can be accessed by clicking on the links.

  2. Yes, there are some conservation concerns with harvesting trochus shells. According to the web search results, some of the issues are:

    - Overexploitation: Trochus shells are in high demand and can fetch a good price in the international market. This can lead to overfishing and depletion of the natural stocks, especially in areas where there is limited management and enforcement. Overexploitation can also affect the ecological balance of the coral reef ecosystem, as trochus are important grazers and prey for other organisms. ¹²
    - Habitat degradation: Trochus shells are often collected by divers who use destructive methods such as crowbars, hammers, or explosives to pry them off the reef. These practices can damage the coral structure and reduce the habitat quality and diversity for trochus and other reef species. ¹²
    - Illegal trade: Trochus shells are subject to illegal trade and smuggling, as some countries have banned or restricted their export or import. Illegal trade can undermine the efforts of conservation and management, and can also pose health and safety risks for the consumers and traders of trochus products. ¹²

    To address these concerns, some of the possible solutions are:

    - Marine sanctuaries: Marine sanctuaries are areas where fishing and other human activities are prohibited or regulated to protect the marine resources and biodiversity. Marine sanctuaries can serve as sources of breeding and larval dispersal for trochus, and can also enhance the resilience and recovery of the reef ecosystem. ²
    - Quota management: Quota management is a system where the total allowable catch or harvest of trochus is set and allocated among the different sectors or stakeholders. Quota management can help prevent overexploitation and ensure the sustainability of the trochus fishery. ¹
    - Community-based management: Community-based management is an approach where the local communities are involved in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the trochus fishery. Community-based management can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among the fishers and users of trochus, and can also promote the integration of traditional knowledge and practices with scientific information and methods. ¹²

    Source: Conversation with Bing, 09/12/2023
    (1) East Coast Trochus Fishery - Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
    (2) Coral Reef Sanctuaries for Trochus Shells - National Oceanic and ....
    (3) Trochus - Wikipedia.


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