Mermen, Mermaids and Merpups – Meet some of the WA families living the ocean

The Bradley’s family fishing story stretches over forty years and three states, but for the past thirty years Esperance has been their heart and home.

Chris and Cristine originally came from South Australia to fish one season of Southern Rock Lobster.

They brought two families to the community, which has now built to five, including their son Jeremy, daughters Melanie, Talor and Jordan, sons-in-law David and Tom, and grandsons Forest, Grover and Jack.

The Bradley’s are a fishing family to the core. Everyone has a job to help get the boat ready and no one misses out. Even the sons-in-law lend a hand.

The family fishes Southern Rock Lobster with pots, and shark by longline, plying the isolated waters from Eucla to Hopetoun, with camps as remote as Cocklebiddy, Cape Arid and Starvation Bay.

Fishing and its remote beauty have touched most aspects of their lives. The Bradley’s two youngest children grew up on the southern beaches until they needed to start school. They then commuted from Cocklebiddy/Madura every week, travelling the Parmango track to Eyre highway and home to Esperance totalling more than 1200 kilometres each week.

These experiences and lifestyle have given them a deep affinity for the coast and its pastimes, including beach fishing and jet skiing.

One lasting memory occurred on anchor at Thomas Fishery when the family was on deck enjoying some sun and listening to Pearl Jam. Suddenly, they heard a noise coming from the back of the boat and as they leaned over, they discovered a whale with her calf, their noses pressed against the boat listening to the sound and vibrations of the music! The whale and calf stayed on for another half hour, serenaded by 90’s rock.

Both fisheries the Bradleys work are regulated and quota-restricted to ensure a sustainable future.

The current State Government marine park proposal is disappointing to them as they have always looked after the area and fished sustainably. Frustratingly, they also note that it has been the commercial fishermen who have pro-actively stopped the exploitation of certain fisheries in Esperance, including gill-netting in the Archipelago. No one has a more vested interest in marine sustainability than fishers.

Cristine said there has been little to no change in the environment or the size of the fishing fleet and the fishermen have a demonstrated commitment to support the community and the region.

“Our industry is sustainable because we manage our industry. We are farmers of the sea and don’t abuse areas. Since we arrived in WA, this sentiment has always been the driving force with any management processes that influenced our fisheries. Fish stock control was always a major consideration. This type of forward planning hasn’t just been an afterthought, it’s been a driving force for well over the past 30 years that I know of. The statement ‘Sustainable fishing for the future’ has always been the theme for any previous management of our area and this has not changed,” Cristine said.

While son Jeremy, now has 25 years commercial fishing and is fast catching his father’s 40 years, the Bradley families outreach stretches far beyond fishing. The family also brings a wealth of health and education professionalism to the regional community. Cris instructs swimming and fitness at BOILC, while also working in cardiac rehabilitation at Amity Health and their daughter Jordan teaches at Esperance Primary.

The Bradleys are keen for a future where they can pass their business they have built from scratch to their children, and their children’s children thereafter.

  • Story by Esperance Professional Fishermen’s Association.

The Bradley family love their life on the southern sea and are hoping it can be shared with family generations to come. Photo courtesy Cris Bradley.