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TSRA’s Fishing Business Growth Package catches local resident hook, line and sinker

The TSRA’s Fishing Business Growth Package has caught local resident James Mills hook, line and sinker – allowing him to purchase a fishing vessel, refit it to his specifications and transport it home to the Torres Strait.

His brand-new vessel, named the Nekana II, now houses larger accommodation quarters than his previous boat, and will allow Mr Mills to further grow his business and increase training capabilities.

Following the official launch of the Regional Economic Investment Strategy (REIS) which recommends the TSRA focus its business assistance services on opportunities within three key focal industries: Fishing, Arts and Creative Industries and Tourism, the TSRA delivered the Fishing Business Growth Package as the first phase of the REIS implementation in 2016/17.

The Fishing Business Growth Package comprises a mix of financial (loan and grant funding), business and industry support services tailored to each client’s business needs.

TSRA Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, said the Fishing Business Growth Package would provide much-needed funding and assistance toward such an integral industry in the Torres Strait.

“Fishing is not only a major contributor to our local economy, but an essential part of the culture of our people and their lifestyle,” Mr Stephen said.

“Mr Mills’ new vessel has been refitted to multifunctional specifications, with longer range and increased crew capacity.

“This means he can target a range of different products without having to return to port for equipment changeover.

“The new vessel will also act as a platform for upskilling and developing Indigenous fishers in the various fishing sectors in a safe and comfortable environment.

“Ultimately, this will allow Mr Mills’ business to operate across the various fisheries in a cost effective and productive manner.

“We are pleased to provide Mr Mills with this assistance and will continue to foster his business growth throughout the region.”

Thanks to the TSRA, the Nekana II is a significant upgrade from Mr Mills’ previous timber fishing vessel, which he originally purchased through a Business Funding Scheme loan with the TSRA.

Although the timber vessel served Mr Mills well over the last five years, helping him get established in the Tropical Rock Lobster (TRL) industry, he says it was time for new horizons.

“Unfortunately, timber marine vessels are very costly to maintain for their size,” Mr Mills says.

“Maintaining such a vessel often means limited capacity to grow the business, so I looked to the TSRA to see what options were available for a much-needed upgrade.

“Thanks to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m now able to maximise the efficiency of business and boost profitability over the crucial period of the next fishing season.

“It takes a certain vessel to really get the job done properly and I am incredibly grateful to the TSRA, so we can continue to provide quality product sourced directly from the abundant waters of the Torres Strait.”

Nekana II will provide enough deck space to train new Indigenous crew to be multi-skilled – not only empowering them to one day become primary vessel operators but also increasing the available labour pool in the industry for primary vessels to choose from.

If you are interested in growing your business, please contact the TSRA Economic Development Programme to find out more.

Phone: (07) 4069 0700 OR Email:

Pictured: Local fisher James Mills returns to the Torres Strait with the new Nekana II.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.