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Pearling in Western Australia existed well before European settlement. Coastal dwelling Aboriginal people had collected and traded pearl shell as well as trepang and tortoise with fisherman from Sulawesi for possibly hundreds of years. After settlement, Aboriginal people were used as slave labour in the emerging commercial industry in a practice known as blackbirding. Pearling centred first around Nickol Bay and Exmouth Gulf and then around Broome to become the largest in the world by 1910.
The farming of cultured pearls remains an important part of the Kimberley economy, worth A$67 million in 2014 and is the second largest fisheries industry in Western Australia after rock lobster.
The importance of pearling to the Fremantle economy is suggested by the establishment of the Pearlers Hotel on the corner of Leake and Pakenham Streets.
... During his stay in Fremantle de Rougemont lodged at the boarding house kept by G. A. Seubert, a three-storey building [Daniel Scott's house] that stood on the present site of the Union Bank. It was the best establishment of its kind at the time and was the favourite resort of the North-West pearlers as well as of shipmasters, who in those days spent most of their time on shore while their ships were lying out in the roadstead, the discharging and loading being done by lightering. The pearlers flocked from the North-West in large numbers during the off season and before steam communication with the Eastern States they went no further than Fremantle. Being well equipped with money, they made things hum in the town during their stay. Much has been heard of the ”Roaring Nineties” of the golden era, but many old residents retain pleasant memories of the ”Roaring Seventies” of the pearling era. (58)
Garry Gillard | New: 30 May, 2021 | Now: 30 May, 2021