Meet the crew behind Prawn Trawler ‘Belo Star’

1.Christina, a young backpacker who asked for a job five years ago and five years later has never looked back. Currently 2nd in charge but according to her team runs the ship;
2. Skipper Greg, a true gentleman who has been on the seas since the 1970’s and;
3. Deckhand Teale, only 19, and already knows the ins and outs of living a life on the high seas.

After a 7 ½ month season, prawn trawler Belo Star pulled into Fremantle earlier this month, making its way down from the largest prawn fishery in Western Australia, the Shark Bay Prawn fishery. WAFIC staff had the opportunity to sit down and meet some of the dream team or “Team Hollywood” as they are known who worked tirelessly to haul in tonnes of prawns… (just in time for Christmas).

Cristina came to chat one afternoon at the WAFIC offices. I opened the door and in walked this energetic, petite young woman. She walked past with this wave of freshly permed hair and a big bright smile, announcing “Ciao”, in her thick Italian accent – creating quite the memorable entrance. Immediately drawn to Cristina’s personality, I wanted to know one question, how did you get to work on prawn trawler, Belo Star.

I soon found out that Cristina was no stranger to hard work and long hours.

Cristina got out her phone to show me on Google maps where she lived in Italy. “My hometown is called Calcinato, near Milan. Back home I was an athlete, a professional swimmer, competing in national competitions”.

Eventually deciding to travel to Perth, Cristina said that she was walking through Fremantle where she met Ian Ricciardi of Northern Star Ocean Products. They started talking and Ian offered her the position to work on the trawler. And, that was how Cristina fell into prawn trawling.

But that was 5 years ago.

And 5 years later, you can tell that Cristina had a passion for the industry and the work she does.

To begin with, she said the job was difficult.

“It was a new job, there were no set hours but lots of hours. It was different, a whole new world where everything was quick.”

“Now I have more of an understanding and a routine. I start work at 5pm and from there check the nets, engine room and check the oil levels. Day in, day out, you catch, sort, grad, pack, snap freeze and handle volumes of prawns into boxes, ready for distribution to market. I have had oil from the engine room all over my clothes, my face – actually it is quite a good facial mask, makes you skin glow,” she laughed.

“And you want to know the reason why I like the job. The boat is my personal gym. I am constantly active. And I save money… no online shopping for me!”

Cristina said, there are a lot of perks of the job and being out on water 24/7  you never miss out on those glorious sunsets, lovely weather and the tourist opportunities.

Later joining the conversation was 19-year-old Teale. This was his first year as a deckhand on board Belo Star. He said that he first realised he wanted to pursue the profession after learning about it in an outdoor education class.

“We learnt how to drive a boat and about fishing. I decided to go with my passions and put the two together and after a successful interview with the skipper – here I am.”

“I enjoy the work – being active. There are no set hours or repetition. You never know what could happen in a day,” he said.

Teale said he was looking forward to continuing again next year.

“I have to admit the first week was rough, but after that you get used to it – water, prawns, water, prawns,” he laughed. “I one-day hope to become a skipper,” he said.

And the million dollar question – who is the boss, I asked?

Teale laughed,”Greg Ayres is our skipper, and does a great job at that. But both Greg and I both say Cristina is boss!”

Cristina agreed, nodding, with a big smile on her face.

Cristina said her advice for young people looking at opportunities like this – “Go for it! It is good experience so get out there and try! It is also great for your self-esteem, releasing that you can achieve so much. My only word of advice is do not count the days when you’re on board ship – just go with the flow!”

Both Cristina and Teale are having a well-deserved break, currently spending their days catching up with friends/family and refurbishing the boat, before the prawn season starts again in the new year.

Written by WAFIC staff, Dani

Cristina and Teale

Greg Ayres and Ian Ricciardi