The principal coal basin of New South Wales occupies about 16,500 square miles, and an additional area extends beneath the ocean. The coal seams outcrop about the margins of the basin at Newcastle in the north, Lithgow in the west, and Bulli in the south. The seams underlie Sydney at a depth of nearly 3000 feet.
In Queensland the coal measures extend for 500 miles north and south, and appear to have a much greater extent than the New South Wales field. The principal lignite deposit of Victoria occurs in a basin about 40 miles long and some 15 miles wide. The lignite deposit is 100 to 240 feet thick and is covered by only about 40 feet of gravel and clay.
SCARCITY OF PETROLEUM
Despite several decades of effort to locate commercial deposits of natural petroleum, Australia is still almost entirely dependent on imports. Drilling has been conducted particularly in the great Central Lowlands, as at Longreach and Roma in Queensland. Oil shale deposits occur in association with the coal measures of the Eastern Highlands, and their possible usefulness as an emergency source of petroleum products has been demonstrated.
A wide variety of fish characteristic of both temperate and tropical waters is available in Australia, but the quantity caught for market is small in comparison with the number caught in many other countries, in large part because of the abundance of meat available.
The principal commercial fishing areas include the coastal waters and associated river mouths, bays, and estuaries between Cairns, Queensland, and Ceduna, South Australia, and between Esperance and Geraldton, Western Australia. Onshore fisheries are commonly associated with tidal river mouths. The northwest and north coast between Shark Bay, Western Australia, and the Cape York Peninsula is also important for its tropical pearl-shell fishery.
Demersal fisheries are conducted principally on the southeastern continental shelf between Crowdy Head and Cape Everard, off the north and east coasts of Tasmania, and off the southwest corner of the continent. Pelagic fishing grounds, producing Spanish mackerel, occur between Cairns and Coffs' Harbor, with the industry centering at Townsville. Barracouta are taken in Bass Strait and off eastern Tasmania.' Tuna are known to occur at various points but are not significant commercially.
Oysters are found along the eastern Queensland coast, and they are extensively cultivated in shallow estuaries in New South Wales. Prawns (or shrimp) are found off the temperate portion of the east coast, and crayfish are common on the reefs along the southeast and southwest coasts. Whales occur in the cooler waters off the southern coastline and for some distance northward along both the east and west coasts. A whaling station is situated at Albany, Western Australia, in order to exploit the Indian Ocean area, and another is planned for Shark Bay, Western Australia, near the Tropic of Capricorn.
A wide variety of fishing boats and gear is employed, but increasing emphasis is being placed on modern trawlers and seine boats. About 12,000 men are normally employed in the fisheries.
Most of the Australian catch is marketed fresh in the large metropolitan market centers. Fishing activity tends, therefore, to be concentrated in those waters lying within easy reach of those markets whereas distant grounds are only lightly fished. The canning and curing of fish are not extensively developed.
The pearl shell fishery of the north coast was formerly conducted principally with Oriental labor, but during the Second World War the industry ceased almost entirely. Aborigines may assume a larger place in the conduct of that industry as it is gradually restored. The principal centers of activity have long been Broome, Darwin, and Thursday Island. Pearl shell is the commodity that supports the industry rather than pearls. The pearl-shell oysters are gathered by divers from the sea bottom at depths of 5 to 20 fathoms. Bêche-demer and tortoise shell are also accessory products of the north-coast fisheries. Practically all these commodities are exported. About 200 boats and 2000 men were employed during the years of maximum prewar development.