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Throughout the twentieth century the catch of “scale fish” in the Western Australian fishing industry has remained relatively small. Line and net fishing, when compared with the high value sea foods of crayfish (rock lobsters) and prawns, represents a modest proportion of the total value of the local fishing industry. In 1997-8 it was worth less than 8% of a $538 million industry.

At the time of Federation in 1901 Western Australia had a population of just 180,000, scattered throughout a third of the continent. Most Western Australians lived in the mining districts of the goldfields, or along the southwestern shore and the western coastal farming districts. The main fishing industries, based at Fremantle and Rockingham, catered for this small local market. Fishermen were presented with considerable difficulties in supplying their produce to consumers. From the late 1890s there were two canneries operating in Mandurah.

In the early part of the century most of the State’s fish were caught from inshore waters such as bays, estuaries and inlets using nets.  Fishermen operated from locations like Mandurah, close enough to Perth to allow for fish caught in the morning to be transported by rail on the same day.

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