Shelter Bay is a beautiful white sandy beach and a popular camping spot for four wheel drivers and a sheltered anchorage (hence the name!). We went ashore one morning and we decided to go a beach walk… but I also bring a book and sarong to lounge out for a bit of time on solid land ( which was sooo needed at this point).
We start walking the beach and see so many fish skeletons. Piles and piles, one after another of massive fish carcass’s with the head left on. Four wheel driving and fishing here go hand in hand.
The camp we walk past has about 10-12 people with tents and marquees and then small power boats in the water just out the front. We realise later that they keep the Fish skeletons in case fisheries comes to check their fridges and freezers, and the fish remains prove they are legally sized fish.
We walked along the beach and collected marine debris. There were more bottles, cans, wrappers and bait bags than at other beaches. This seemed like rubbish from the campers. As we round the corner the white sandy beach continues and we keep walking.
Base had expressed interest a few times in walking out to Steep Point, the most Western Point in Australia. I thought it was a pretty far walk and said he could go solo if he wanted to. He told me he wasn’t going to go. So as we get to the end of the beach, I turn around to walk back, and Base says ‘let’s just go a bit farther and see what’s around the next corner.’
I brought a pair of thongs (flip flops for the non Aussies) and we had one water bottle with us. We keep walking. But we weren’t prepared for a long hike.
As soon as we get to the next point, I see what Base is up to. He says to me, ‘it’s not that far to the end. Maybe it will take us an hour, want to go?’ I reluctantly agree and we start walking. By then I am committed we are walking all the way out there. So we stick to the 4wd track, and then see it cuts to the coast, we decide to take the coastal route. Walking along the shoreline, we see no human impacts, just wild dog tracks and the occasional Kangaroo print.
During the 5km walk, we get to talking. We talk about fishing and what we saw back at the camping area in Shelter Bay. We know that many recreational fishermen and women come up to places like Shark Bay and fish for a week or 10 days. They had a pretty big camp and we know from talking to fishermen that they bring a big freezer and run it on a generator, so they can freeze and take fish home with them. They often even have a cry vac sealer to seal the fillets and keep them fresh.
When we saw all the massive piles of fish carcasses along the beach, we thought it was more fish than either of us have caught in our entire lives. And this is one group, and it’s one weeks worth of fish. This started us thinking…why is there not more limits on the fish they can take. The limit is 10kg per day per person. With 12 people there for 12 days that is 1440 kilos of fish for one fishing trip.
We have a plentiful coastline and we are so lucky that we do, but can we really afford to have that much fish taken from our Ocean by each recreational fishermen that 4wd’s up the coast? With world fish stocks on the decline, do we need to be more vigilant that we keep our fish populations healthy and abundant for decades to come?
We catch fish, but we do so for self sufficiency… to us that means we catch a fish to eat ( to supplement our plant based diet) and then we stop fishing. We eat that fish and appreciate it, and maybe in a day or two or three we might try our luck and catch another fish. We don’t stockpile and freeze fish, we catch a fish to eat and then have a break from fishing. We also make sure we release any fish that are undersized.
We had lots of time to talk as we walk to what felt like the edge of the world. Especially when we arrived to the top of towering cliffs that drop off into the Indian Ocean.
Quite amazing that we sailed past this a couple days ago and now we see it from above… it makes me think – why the hell would you want to have a little 32 foot sail boat out there in that wild and raw ocean! Hahaha.
We got to the edge just in time for a small weather system to roll in. So we got rain and howling wind to help us with our long walk home! Walking in sand for 10km is a good way to keep our legs fit, after the last month of sailing.
The views were breath taking and I am really glad we made the effort to walk to the Most Western point in Australia. By the time we got back to the boat, we were beyond hungry. Dinner and an early night because tomorrow we sail to the top of Shark Bay skipping out on an amazing area but we had to choose To Stay or Go (read it here)).