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Research Guides

Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


From the early years of the colony of South Australia, its inhabitants fished and dredged for native oysters. While fishing was regulated by various colonial government Acts, it only really became a viable commercial industry in the 20th century with the arrival of steamers and railways, construction of ice works and eventually refrigeration. South Australia's major fishery products include tuna, prawns, abalone, rock lobsters and oysters. Aquaculture has increasingly become an important part of the South Australian fishing industry, producing oysters, tuna and freshwater crayfish.

The Fisheries Co-ordinating Authority was established in 1943 in the Department of War Organisation of Industry. The authority was set up to increase efficiency in the fishing industry, in view of the importance of fish as an essential foodstuff and the drastic reduction in output that had resulted from wartime call-up of fishermen and the diversion of boats and gear to war uses.

When the Department of War Organisation of Industry was abolished in 1945, the Fisheries Co-ordinating Authority became the Fisheries Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction.

The work of the Fisheries Division included organising local cooperatives of fishermen, planning the use of fuel, developing a labour register, surveying the availability of boats, and assisting the Prices Commissioner in fixing prices for fish.

The need for a permanent federal authority to control the industry in the post-war period, in collaboration with existing state government organisations, led to the transfer of the Fisheries Division to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in 1946. The division was to administer all fisheries of concern to the Commonwealth Government, including coordination of fisheries administration of the states by conference of officials, administration of the legislation concerned with extra-territorial waters, oversight of development of all commercial fisheries, design of a coordinated marketing scheme, extension work for the industry (which was to include publicity through a journal), and a school for fishermen.

Records held by the Archives relating to fisheries in South Australia include statistics about catches, licensing records, logbooks and correspondence.

Selected series containing records relating ot fisheries in South Australia
Recorded by: Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research/Fisheries Co-ordinating Authority/Fisheries Division
Statistics of fishermen's average catches – all states, 1941–47 CP436/5
General correspondence, 1944–51 CP436/1
Auctioneers' sales books – South Australia, 1918–42 CP436/14
National Security (Manpower) registration forms of fishermen – all states, 1943–45 CP436/8
Correspondence and returns relating to the registration of fishermen, 1942–47 CP436/7
Fishing licensing and related records, 1969– A9178
Fishery logbook forms, 1980–92 A9715
Selected items relating to fisheries in South Australia
South Australia – full time fishermen's register, 1945 CP436/7, 5
Photograph of tuna fishing off Port Lincoln, South Australia, 1963 A1200, L42944
Deep sea trawling – South Australian Government, South Australian Fisheries Co-operative and Dalmor Deep Sea Fishing Company, 1976–77 A1209, 1977/1474 part 1
Fishing grounds and sea routes protection regulations, 1931–54 D1911, NS1950/43
Acts and regulations – fishing grounds and sea routes regulations, 1958 D935, 1958/93
Tuna fishing mother ship, 1960 D935, 1960/184


Chapter 14
Primary industries and natural resources