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Tycoons of the tides

Victoria's coastline is teeming with seafood delicacies. OUTBACK's nomadic chef, Adrian Millman, joined two professional fisherman to harvest a mouth-watering catch of shellfish, rockfish and other species.

Tycoons of the tides"Tassie" Warn is as much a pioneer of his primary industry as the Overlanders of the 19th century.

Each year the veteran abalone diver harvests a vast, wet "outback" that yields millions of dollars of product for overseas markets.

Like early inland pastoralists, the straight-shooting 61 year-old oversees a domain that can be hostile, dangerous, remote and hauntingly beautiful.

And like the wisest cattleman, Tassie values the long term survival of his resource. he even refers to his licensed abalone grounds as his "paddock".

Tassie, a fourth-generation fisherman who operates out of Ocean grove on Victoria's south-west coast, dives for abalone on reefs that claimed dozens of ships in the poorly charted days of sail.

His workplace stretches from Wilson's Promontory in the south-east to the Shipwreck Coast, home of the curious Twelve Apostles. Tassie is cagey about the worth of his license, but the 30or so permits in his zone are worth more than $4 million each.

Licenses didn't exist when he began diving professionally in the 1960s. Then he operated with commonwealth and state licenses which allowed him to fish anywhere.

His current licence permits a take of 20.58 tonnes annually, or about 65,000 abalones.

With south-east Asian diners prepared to pay $40 a serve, its no surprise that abalone divers are regarded as the tycoons of the tides.

Adrian's recipe: Southern Seafood Banquet

Tycoons of the tidesEntree: Abalone baked on coals in its shell

Method: Place live abalone in its shell on hot coals. When juices are almost evaporated shuck the meat, slice thinly and serve on a bed of bull kelp.

Main Course: Convict's Fish Soup

(Selection of southern rock fish - leather jackets, flathead, gurnet, pike. Add any available shellfish or molluscs - abalone, sea snail, Moreton Bay bugs.

Method: Place in a 10-litre pot with thickest fish on the bottom. Cover with fresh water and add two cups of seawater. Add finely shredded bull kelp and simmer for 15 minutes. Before serving, add finely sliced abalone and top with sea urchin roe. Story end

Full story Issue 10, April - May 2000

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