Australian Oyster Fisheries Before 1908

Like researching historical information about pearls? I do. Australian oyster fisheries before 1908 will give you insight into the days before abundant cultured pearls were available.

Beginning of Australian Fishery
Eyewitness Account of Australian Pearl Fisheries
Australian Pearl Divers
Oyster Species in Australia

Searching for Pearls in Australia
Searching for Pearls in Australia

I have an Australian friend, David, who worked giving tours on an old pearling lugger off the coast of Australia. He's promised to write about his experiences complete with photos. I can't wait to read all about it.

This information is from the Kunz and Stevenson book about pearls, printed in 1908. Keep that fact in mind, while reading. This information is a century old, when pearls were natural and not commonly cultured.

Ocean's gems, the purest
Of nature's works! What days of weary journeyings,
What sleepless nights, what toils on land and sea,
Are born by men to gain thee!


Australian Oyster Fisheries Before 1908

As regards area of distribution the most extensive pearl-oyster grounds of the world are situated on the northern and western coasts of Australia. These are located within the jurisdictions of Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia; and extend in irregular patches from near Cooktown on the northeast almost to Fremantle at the southwest, a distance of nearly 3,000 miles. Those in Queensland are commonly known as the Torres Straits fisheries, as they are especially important there; but they extend a considerable distance beyond each end of the strait, and pearling expeditions are made from the limits of the Great Barrier coral reef northward to the vicinity of New Guinea.1 Those of Western Australia are commonly spoken of as the Northwest fisheries.

The fisheries of Queensland and of Western Australia are approximately equal in extent, as regards number of vessels, boats, and men employed, and the quantity and value of the catch, with the advantage slightly in favor of the Northwest fishery in the last four or five years.

In 1905, according to the official figures, the Queensland fishery gave employment to 348 vessels and 2,850 men, and yielded shell and pearls worth £135,000, which was the smallest output since 1890. The Western Australia fishery, exclusive of Sharks Bay employed 365 vessels in 1905, and about the same number of men as in Queensland, and yielded £196,000 worth of shell and pearls. The fishery of South Australia employed about 60 vessels and 375 men, and yielded about £25,000 worth of shell and pearls. This makes for the whole of Australia, except Sharks Bay hereinafter noted, a total of 773 vessels, 6,075 men, and an output worth £356,000. It should be understood that the South Australian oyster fisheries before 1908 were not prosecuted on the southern coast of the continent, but on the northern coast, in what is known as the Northern Territory of South Australia.

1 "Report on Pearl Fisheries of North Queensland," Brisbane, 1890.

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