Celebrating WA’s fishing families – Meet the Daniels family

In the Daniels’ family, blood is salt flecked from birth.

The Daniels name is synonymous with Esperance fishing. A second-generation fisherman, Paddy Daniels has fished for forty-two years, taking after father Ross, who fished for twenty-five years, before running a seafood processing business with wife Melda for a further twenty years.

Salt ran in Paddy’s veins from a young age.

“When I was thirteen my dad used to wake me up at 2am to go out fishing -without letting mum know… It was the best way to wag school,” he says.

Paddy’s ocean affinity is now shared by wife Manue, and children Ellie and Dillan.

The Daniels’ now produce octopus, Southern Rock Lobster, deep sea crab and scale fish for local, interstate, and international markets.

The local market is important to them; the family are proud to provide the community with seafood. Interstate markets give them the volume they need for business viability, and international sales allow higher prices for premium, boutique products that have higher input costs. However, closures continue for the traditional Chinese rock lobster market, so most Southern Rock Lobsters are sold within Australia.

The Daniels family alongside their fishing boat in Esperance.

The Daniels’ vessel, A.Vespucci II, works year round from Hopetoun to Eucla; swapping between species to fit around weather events, fisheries seasons and market conditions. It’s impossible to work all fisheries at once.

“Most our fishery are on quota, seasonal and vary depending on the weather. The Southern Ocean is wild. We are farmers of the sea; we farm our fishing ground for the future. We are conservationists in our own way,” relates Paddy.

“People think we rape and pillage but that’s not the case, as it’s our livelihood for the length of a lifetime. Once you are a fisherman it’s near on impossible to do something else.”

Paddy loves being with nature. It’s where he has been since age seven, and where he feels most complete. It’s unsurprising then that family life revolves around nature, and favourite family outings include four-wheel driving, camping, swimming, and surfing.

Over the years Paddy has been on the receiving end of two helicopter rescues at sea due to vessels deciding to ‘retire without notice’.

Manue notes that as a spouse it is incredibly scary and saddening. For fishermen, boats are become part of the family, and the loss of a vessel cuts deeply.

While Paddy is fishing, Manue is busy wearing multiple hats. She works as a public accountant, is an active fishing community representative and a keen supporter of woman in leadership roles.

As a mother, she also helps as much as possible with various sports that Ellie and Dillan play within the community.

The Daniels’ would like to be able to grow their business so they can provide products at better prices; however, restrictions and red tape are pushing the trend the other way. They would love for Ellie and Dillan to take on the business, but it’s starting to seem like the odds are against them having such a choice.

“We would also love to foster a better understanding of what fisher-families contribute to broader society,” relates Manue.

Story by Esperance Professional Fishermen’s Association