CRAY fisherman Wayne Hanegraaf has been fishing in rough seas off Port Campbell since he was just 12 years old.
For more than 40 years he has navigated boats around the Limestone Coast in search of the prize marine crustaceans.
He knows every inch of the seaside village; its history is etched into the deep lines of his sun-worn face.
"For as long as I can remember Port Campbell has been cray fishing and nothing else," he said.
"When I started back in mid-1976 there was only three of us. Within three or four years of me starting there would have been up to six or seven boats turning up, and when I got my skibs ticket a few years later it just went through the roof. You had to leave at three o'clock in the morning just to get the boat in the water.
"We'd leave with no lights on so the ring-ins couldn't follow us. They all went broke because if you can't make money cray fishing you'll go broke very, very fast."
Cray fishing is a very expensive exercise but if you play your cards right it can be a very lucrative business.
Mr Hanegraff can make an easy $40,000 a week these days but it wasn't always the case.
"This winter we worked about 40 days for about $280,000, it's good money especially for a guy who left school when he was 12," he said.
"In the old days you had to pay next year's tax this year, so when I was a kid and started my own business up you got hit with a $70,000 tax bill for this season, and then you had to pay next year's tax bill as well.
"So the first year of business you got double-taxed, it was unsustainable and businesses were going broke everywhere.
"Virtually you made no money for the first two to three years you started. That's all changed now."
He left school to be a fisherman when he was just 12 years old and by the time he was 13 he was the only deckie on the boat.
By the time he was 16 he was running the boat. He now catches seven tonnes of crayfish a year.
"You were only doing it back then for the love of it, because there was no money in cray fishing, not like today," he said.
But that's all changed: Hanegraaf's crayfish cartel is now a multi-million-dollar business and his crayfishing vessel has combined licenses worth more than $6 million alone.
But at one stage Port Campbell's cray fishing industry nearly crumbled.
"They were over-quoting so in three or four years - total collapse. That with the seismic testing which destroyed all the ground out here, it all went belly-up," he said.
"They all but destroyed the industry."
This year their best price was $110 per kilogram of cray.
"If go out and catch eight tonne for 40 days, it's happy days," he said.
"Up until the end of September we were averaging 60-65 kilograms a day on males-only."
Hangraaf said unsustainable fishing practices - what he calls "bad cookies" - continue to threaten the future of the cray fishing industry in Port Campbell.
"The future here is really strong, but it takes one bad fisherman to turn up and all our work is undone. It only takes one bloke," he said.
"Bad fishermen destroy the industry."
He and the Port Campbell community are planning a brand new event to celebrate the town's rich marine history.
Suitably dubbed 'Crayfest', the event will take place in April 2020 and celebrate fresh local produce from the Shipwreck Coast region.
Port Campbell Grassroots Deli Cafe owner Maria Gordon is coordinating the event.
"It's all about people understanding that this is a cray fishing village and it always has been, but it's getting harder and harder as far as that being sustainable especially in terms of people getting in and out of a town that's becoming increasingly busy," she said.
"We have to support what has been our primary producer since forever.
"A lot of people don't understand that the cray fishing industry is doing it really tough - education is a big thing. It's about keeping the industry going in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
"That goes to anything to do with the ocean really."
The day will celebrate local produce and producers, market stalls, performances and a community parade featuring a giant float made from recycled materials.
"We're inviting any community groups to put together a float using recycled or used materials. Something authentic that represents that community group," Ms Gordon said.
"We want to invite as many local producers as possible to be part of the market and get the awareness out there about what they do.
"We want to bring life back into why we live in this area, sometimes we forget to see the beauty that surrounds us here."
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