Fremantle Fish Market

Maria in Ocean’s Trial was lucky enough to land a job in the Fremantle Fish Market in 1923 – the perfect place for a girl who knew fish and the ocean, but not much else.

Merry and Maria lived on Tuckfield Street, which is (and was) a real road in Fremantle, Western Australia. If you’re trying to place everything in Ocean’s Trial, I can make it easier for you with a contemporary map. This is dated 1919, four years before Maria arrived in Fremantle, but it’s the closest I’ve been able to find. If you find this version a bit small, you can click on the image to see the full sized map.

1919 Fremantle Map with Legend

Fishing in Fremantle

Now the fishing industry in Western Australia started soon after European colonists arrived. Fish were plentiful around the reefs and rocks at the mouth of Fremantle Harbour and the migrant fishermen were happy to exploit this natural resource.

While there were some English migrant fishermen, the industry was predominantly in the hands of migrants from Italy. They slept on their boats, worked hard and sold their fish at a good price – so it’s no wonder that when you look back at the names of Western Australian fishermen in the early 1900s, most of them are Italian.

Fremantle Fisherman in the early 1900sFremantle Fishermen in the early 1900s

The Boats

Fishing boats were sail and steam – often with a well in the middle, filled with seawater, so the catch could be kept alive for a bit longer so they’d still be fresh when the fishermen brought their catch ashore.

Fremantle Fishing Boats - Italian slwa_b2215645_1

Landing fish in Fremantle 1907

The Fish Market

South of Fremantle Harbour is the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour – it was in 1923 and still is the case today.
Fremantle Fish market and seawall

Fremantle Fish Market circa 1923

In 1923, though, the Fremantle Fish Market was in the buildings at the end of the jetty where the fish were landed. Sheltered by a sea wall, the fish market operated here until 1928, when it was moved to where Kailis now sells fish and chips to tourists (and researchers).

Fremantle Fish Markets 1935 low res

Today

Well, prices have increased considerably since Kailis opened its doors in 1928, but they still have a fish market where you can purchase fresh-caught fish on ice.
Present day price of fish at KailisKailis Fish Market in 1928

The fishing fleet still ties up here, but the ships are bigger than ever before.

Kailis Fishing Fleet in Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour

The fishermen who brought their catch ashore in baskets now only use baskets to catch rock lobsters – though, more often than not, they use modern batten pots instead.

Bronze statue at Fishermen's memorial, Fremantle Western AustraliaBronze statue of modern crayfisherman, Fremantle Western Australia

And between the modern restaurants selling seafood and even fish and chip ice cream, where the old jetty and fish market once stood is a memorial – to the fishermen of Fremantle.

Fremantle fishermen's memorial in Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle Western Australia

Yes, I did go to great lengths to research my Turbulence and Triumph series – but that’s the point of historical fiction and historical romance. Getting the details right so the story flows effortlessly.