A professional fishing industry began operating in the southwest of the State by the 1890s. Until then Albany fishermen had supplied fresh fish to the mail steamers that called in that port, but the construction of the railway between Albany and Perth gave them access to new markets. The opening of an ice works in the early 1900s allowed fish to be packed in ice for shipping, enabling Albany's fishermen to begin to overcome the distances which separated their fishery from the main population centre.
During the twentieth century off-shore fishing relied on hand-lines and long-lines to catch fish such as snapper and
jewfish, which live near the bottom of rocky portions of the sea shore. Trawling - a method requiring large fish stocks and a clear sea floor - was experimented with as early as 1909, with subsequent attempts made during the
late 1920s, the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In the early 1900s more than 50% of licensed fishermen in Fremantle were of Italian
origin, and throughout the first century of Federation Italians played a prominent role in the fishing industry. At the same time Greeks dominated the wholesaling and
re-selling of fish. At the end of the twentieth century successful companies like Kailis Brothers reflect this long involvement in the fishing industry. The Blessing of the Fleet
ceremony, which began in Fremantle in 1948, is another reminder of the importance of the fishing industry in multi-cultural Western Australia.
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