Fifty years of fisheries history preserved for the future

As the world marks World Fisheries Day today, Australia celebrates with the release of fifty years of fisheries history preserved in digital format through the National Library of Australia’s online service, Trove.

Australia has a long history and reputation for its fisheries science and management. This is now documented and available for the world to see following the complete preservation of the historical Fisheries News-Letter. This publication provides a chronology of Australian fisheries development post-World War 2.

The preservation of this publication and its subsequent mastheads 'Australian Fisheries Newsletter' and ‘Australian Fisheries’ was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), in partnership with the National Library of Australia and it allowed the digitisation of 593 issues of the newsletter from October 1941 to June 1995, now available online, for free, through the Library’s Trove portal.

Australian Fisheries newsletter Jan 1982

The series encompasses the development and ultimate demise of the whaling industry, including the Commonwealth's promotion of shore-station whaling. The army fishing unit and call for tinned seafood to provide nourishment for the Australian soldiers. It also describes the initiation and progress of 'Commonwealth' fisheries such as those for Southern Bluefin Tuna, northern prawns, deep-water trawl-fish and pearls.

The editorial statement in the first issue notes the aim of the newsletter was to bring together scientists and the fishing industry: “This review of the work of the Fisheries Division is published chiefly with the idea of bringing the scientific worker on fisheries problems in closer touch with those people who depend on fish or its by-products for their living. It is difficult to explain the necessary slowness of scientific work. […] it is hoped that the circulation of this ‘Newsletter’ will lead to much interchange of information and ideas between all engaged in every sphere of fisheries work.”

Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General of the National Library of Australia, said she is delighted with the collaboration which has given this historic Australian publication ‘a second life’ via the Library’s digitisation program.

Albert Caton, a fisheries biologist for 36 years with the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry Fisheries Division and its subsequent manifestations was instrumental in achieving the digitisation of the collection. “The ‘Fisheries News-Letter’ was first published quarterly by the Fisheries Division of CSIRO’s precursor the (Commonwealth) Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.” He explains “By 1950, after joint production with the Department of War Organisation and Industry and later the Ministry of Post War Reconstruction, ‘Fisheries Newsletter’ had become a monthly magazine and publication was taken over by the Commonwealth Fisheries Office of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture.”

The Commonwealth Fisheries Office and its subsequent incarnations such as the Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry had the primary Commonwealth role in fisheries development (gear technology, economics, exploratory and experimental fishing), leaving CSIRO to concentrate on scientific research in fisheries and the more formal publication of its results (in the Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research).

The newsletter was distributed free to all commercial fishermen holding a Commonwealth Fisheries Licence. Publication ceased in June 1995 after a Commonwealth decision that commercial publication of such a magazine was more appropriate.

The FRDC is pleased to continue the tradition of supplying the latest fisheries science with its FISH Magazine, available online at or it can be downloaded for Apple and Android as an app.


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Australian Fisheries Newsletter:
Australian Fisheries: