The first time I heard of Waggafish was back in the summer of 1995. At the time I was living in the upper reaches of Middle Harbour at Primrose Park. My neighbour, Victor Pringle, mentioned he thought Waggafish were loose throughout Sydney Harbour and causing many serious problems.They were preying on garfish and yellowtail at the time. When they schooled up in our suburban bay, the water appeared to be cloudy and tinted with a pinkish hue, with red boils at the centre of their activity. Victor took me for a walk down along the cove and we watched as a school of Waggas cleaned up a bay full of mullet in about thirty minutes.
I’ve been told these predators were created by a CSIRO experiment in genetic engineering that backfired. When the fingerlings were released into the wild, supposedly to eradicate the plague of European carp that had infested our inland waterways, things started going wrong. It was around this time, as far as I can tell, when the Waggafish, originally a freshwater species, crossed over to the salt.
Months passed until I mentioned these extraordinary fish to Professor Douglas Barbour, a poet and teacher in Canada. Doug was also a science-fiction enthusiast on the side, and something of an authority of the work of E.D. Blodgett, the Poet Laureate for the City of Edmonton, Alberta. It turned out that Blodgett was familiar with the feral predator fish, in fact he had caught one on an ice-fishing trip in 1996. Blodgett called the specimen he caught the red Edmonton Toothfish. Photographs were sent to Dr. Ben Diggles, a marine biologist and Fishing World correspondent. Diggles confirmed that the fish was definitely a Wagga. This news confounded us all. What did it mean?
What follows is a series of letters put together by a researcher at U.T.S., Martin ‘Red’ Harrison. Red became obsessed with Waggas and worked tirelessly for several years before finally leaving the country to further his research in the U.K. at Cambridge University. Harrison continued his Red Research overseas, and collected many of the Waggafish Letters. His commitment to the project and unwavering belief in the letters was absolute. These letters bring to light the deception and betrayal that has plagued both scientific circles and the heart of Australian poetry for years. Sadly, many of the earlier letters were destroyed, however there are hundreds still to be transcribed and edited. The following letters are not in chronological order. They were arranged by Red Harrison, and it does not take long for the reader to discover many threads and traces that will lead to certain conclusions. These discoveries may appear to be bleak, but they are the raw material for further researchers. To read them is to experience a hidden world that will become more and more apparent as the months and years pass.
Lee Ann Payne