What would the proper development of our deep-sea fisheries mean ? In the first place, it would lead to a more widely diffused use of fish as an article of diet, within the easy reach of all classes, being thus of incalculable value from a health point of view. Next, it would ensure employment to many hundreds, and eventually to many thousands, both directly and indirectly, and as a natural consequence this would bring about the creation of a sturdy and desirable maritime element in our population. And lastly, it would yield a more than satisfactory return on the outlay invested.
At the present time only the veriest few of our metropolitan population are able to afford the luxury of fish, and people in the country towns hardly see it at all. So, too, we are casting about for this plan and for that plan to lessen a growing difficulty in the Australian metropolitan centres. There are village settlements (which certainly deserve to be successful), and other proposals made to relieve a surplus population, but yet no one has suggested the sea as a means of remedying this congestion. And not only would the fisheries confer upon its followers a healthy calling, but they would raise a vigorous stock of which Australia might well be proud. In addition to all this, a proper development of our deep-sea fisheries would assuredly open up a new avenue for investment. Is it not amazing that men will risk all they have in mines which are not even real, and which exist only on paper ? And besides this, in the most genuine mine that was ever worked there is at least a costly outlay for production, for crushing, or for smelting, before the metal sees the light of day; but in the sea the catch is ready for the market, and only requires the bringing to land.
This matter, therefore, must be taken up earnestly, and there must be a determination to succeed. In the first place, and before all else in the deep-sea fisheries, I maintain that a proper and systematic search for trawling grounds is absolutely essential. Till this is done we cannot for a moment pretend that we have endeavoured to foster them in any way. All the elaboration of your proposed Fisheries Acts, and all the details connected with the working of what may be called shore fishing, sink into nothingness when compared with the results which would follow the working of our deep-sea fisheries. I have already used the argument before, and do so again, and it is this : that if you were to take away from the old country her deep-sea fisheries, she would be practically without any fish supply.
Apparently it is imagined, too, that unless trawling grounds be discovered in the vicinity of Sydney or Melbourne, all efforts will be useless. But it will only be necessary to refer to the deep-sea fisheries elsewhere to at once set this objection aside. Some of the great trawling grounds in the North Sea are at such a distance from port that it would be quite impossible for any vessel to bring its own catch to market for disposal, for the fish would be utterly spoiled before it could be done. But the larger trawling boats go on cruises extending over weeks, and are constantly visited on the grounds by what are called "carriers," i.e. steamers, who run their freights directly into market. The same thing is practised by the Dutch vessels, who fish in the neighbourhood of the Shetland Islands for weeks together. In the same way carrier vessels attend upon their fishing fleets, and carry off the take immediately to Holland. Being in possession of these facts, therefore, we must not be induced to believe that deep-sea fishing is not possible, simply because suitable grounds for trawling, etc.,'may not be actually within coo-ee of the Australian metropolitan centres.