From catching lobsters to growing pearls, Jane Lydon has lived an extraordinary life on the far-flung islands she calls home.
But she never envisioned her work and her story would become part of a touring event held in her backyard.
Jane moved as a child from England to the Abrolhos Islands, 60 kilometers off the West Australian coast.
She continues her father’s legacy of commercial crayfishing using jet boats, and has diversified into pearl farming 20 years ago.
Her “boutique” pearl farm now produces beads that are sold around the world, championed by Jen’s son Jesse and his wife, Michaela, who designs the jewellery.
Their passion for the family pearl, and the joy in sharing the story of the rugged but beautiful environment where they grew up, have seen them begin a new chapter in the life of the Lydon family in Abrolhos.
“And Jesse and Michaela are walking in with him. I probably wouldn’t have done that, but it’s come to me.”
For the past two years, Lydon has hosted weekends of long lunches for 60 people at a time on the post office island where they are located.
This is a new marketing strategy that is bringing the masses to the pearl farm.
“Pearls & Plates is a phenomenon we have created over the years that combines all our passion and love of music, art, beautiful food, beautiful drinks and our pearls,” said Jesse.
“And it just creates a nice feeling that the people on the island experience our family island, having a great time.”
For Jesse, visitors to the island are the way to the future, but in a “light touch” way.
“Perhaps [tourism] The shift is moving away from traditional types of fishing charters and it’s going more towards what we do, which is high value, low impact,” he said.
create tourism opportunities
The remote and pristine Abrolhos Islands are dotted with colorful huts that are a base for lobster fishing while working in the local waters.
Some tour operators take visitors to the islands, but the weather can make travel from the mainland difficult, and regulations do not currently allow guests to stay overnight on land.
Developing more tourism opportunities in Abrolhos has been on the WA government’s agenda for many years.
In 2017 it was committed to “developing a new whole-government approach to better protect Abrolhos and create tourism opportunities” and later this year, Abrolhos, integrating tourism, conservation, aquaculture and fishing. is expected to issue a new Management Plan for ,
Consultancy firm Agdots was contracted by the state government to meet with members of the Abrolhos community as part of its preparatory work to create a new management plan.
Although it was found that most members of the commercial fishing industry supported marine-based tourism activities on the islands, it was also a point of conflict due to the fear of tourism posing a “risk” to the fishing industry.
For the past 19 years Jay Cox has chartered Eco Cruises to Abrolhos, which takes guests on five-day sails around the islands.
He said that developing an eco-tourism business was not easy, mainly because the islands were visited by people not involved in the fishing industry due to protests from some concerned people.
Mr Cox hopes a new tourism infrastructure will allow him a permanent base on the islands and access to infrastructure such as jetties and walking paths, which he says tourism operators cannot currently develop.
“We end everything with every visit, if [we] To have a base there with camps and things to put our crews and ferries, and have the boat based there and fly everyone in and out, it would be a lot easier.”
Mr Cox said that as more tourism developed, the pristine nature of the islands should be maintained.
“The bait balls and birds are feeding on them, mackerel and tuna are coming in, that’s all there is going to be.”
Essential services for tourists
Crayfisher and pearl farmer Andrew Basil, one of four of the fishing industry representative groups in Abrolhos, heads the southern group body Corporate.
He said that tourism, fishing and aquaculture can coexist and develop if managed properly.
“We need capabilities for someone in reserve to make a phone call in case of an emergency.
“I’d like to see some dedicated rescue resources and an increase in the public pier just for the people who got there on their boats.”