A decade before Kevin Hoad was down on the beach opening up the commercial pipi fishery in the early 1960’s, Ross Tuckwell was born in the local hospital to proud parents Andrew Alfred and Olive May Tuckwell, on the doorstep of Australia’s soon to be largest pipi fishery. Today, ‘Tucky’ is the fisheries most senior digger. Whilst opting for part time status he is still more than capable of digging his share and holding his own in the beach banter stakes amongst the younger members of the crew. In his own wise words, “there wouldn’t be one metre of the 70km beach that he hasn’t dug in his forty eight years of mucking around with pipis”.
Tucky has lived through it all. He’s seen everything in the evolution of the pipi industry from bulk hauls of low grade bait in the early years through to the introduction of quota management and precision on-beach grading to accurately meet the specific needs of customer orders in a sophisticated just-in-time wild caught seafood business. Stories of collecting driftwood and lighting fires in the dunes to dry wet clothes off when crews and poorly lit vehicles were swamped by rogue waves in the dead of night, are a reminder of how far things have come with equipment and safety. And Tucky has been part of it all.
At 67 he says that every season is his last, but like the surf that he fishes in, he keeps rolling back every year. He’s a much loved institution of the pipi fishery. After all those years of extracting the pipis out of the ground with his bare feet, they are a bit worse for wear, but he’s probably one of the happiest guys you’ll meet. Good on ya Tucky. You’re a legend.