Sydney Fish Market is home to the Sydney fishing fleet, made up of ocean fish and deep water prawn trawlers, many of which have been operated by the same family, the Bagnatos, for decades.
While fishing can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous profession with no guarantee of success, these local fishers are typical of those in 300 communities across Australia who passionately devote their lives to supplying Sydney Fish Market with the fresh seafood that goes on to be enjoyed in homes and restaurants across the Sydney region and beyond.
Today, we honour the life of one of the key members of this family, Giuseppe Bagnato (1934-2023). Sydney Fish Market sends our deepest condolences to the Bagnato family and friends in this difficult time.
Giuseppe Bagnato was born in 1934 in Bagnara, in Southern Italy’s Calabrian region. When he was 10, his family moved to the small fishing village of Petronelli where Giuseppe began fishing with his family. Five years later, the family moved again, this time to another fishing village; Nicotra. The family built a successful fishing business, boasting five boats. Giuseppe and his brothers all went on to become professional fishermen and spend significant parts of their lives working in the Australian fishing industry.
In 1954, 20 year old Giuseppe was called up for two years’ compulsory National Service. Born with sea legs, he naturally chose to serve in the Navy, and spent time in Naples and Reggio in the Calabrian region. When Giuseppe returned from Service many of his brothers had gone their separate ways, so Giuseppe and his brother Rocky Bagnato went into partnership, fishing and making nets.
Four years later, in April 1960, Giuseppe’s brother Diego sponsored him to come to Australia. When he arrived in May of 1960, Giuseppe turned his seafaring skills to fishing and bought the trawler, Isabella Star, in partnership with his brother Paolo. He went on to buy a number of boats including the Calabria Star, Santa Maria, and the Leeton Star, which he owned for 17 years. Giuseppe became one of the leading fishermen in Newcastle, setting standards for trawl fishing in the area.
As you can imagine, over decades of fishing, he had some incredible stories to tell. In 1970, a fishing net got caught at the side of the boat as Giuseppe and his brother Domenico (pictured) were shooting the net to sea. As he moved to free it, Domenico's boot became tangled in the net and he was dragged overboard and under water. Luckily, the quick-thinking Guiseppe managed to winch the net back up at top speed, saving Domenico, and the two were back to work within the hour.
Giuseppe sold the last of these vessels, the Leeton Star, in 1979 and bought a fish retail outlet in Newcastle, which he called Bagnato Seafood and he owned for three years with Domenico. His love for the sea was too great, however, and the business was sold and replaced with a small trawler, the Siti S, which sold in 2008.
Pictured: Domenico (left) and Giuseppe (Joe) Bagnato (right) mending their fishing nets. Approx 1960s.