Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Wilyah Miah an archaeological study of the history of the Shark Bay pearling industry 1850–1930

Author/s McGann, S.

Year of publication 2004

Report Number: No.33

This report deals with the pearling insustry that operated in Shark Bay from 1850-1930. Pearling in Western Australia was an important part of the European colonisation of the North West. Although it was never considered a permanent part of the state's economy, pearling, with its immediate retums, allowed pastoralists to establish stations and contributed to the foundation of several towns. Some of these towns evolved into centres for agriculture and tourism and some developed their port facilities. Others did not outlive the availability of and market for pearlshell. Uniquely, Shark Bay not only survived the demise of the industry, but developed into the state's commercial fishing centre. The pearling boats were simply refitted to become fishing boats and the Bay life continued. Shark Bay must be considered separately from the rest of the Western Australian Pearlshell Fisheries. The species of shell is different, the technology used to harvest the shell was different and the history of the Bay is, perhaps consequentially, different to that of the rest of the state. For this reason the study has concentrated on what is believed to be the unique nature of the archaeological record in this industry.