Some fish skin IS quite thick and tough, but I was amazed to read that there is actually a successful business producing goods crafted out of fish leather – Mermaid Leather, in Esperance WA.
Back in 1989 two professional fishermen, R.W. Bubb and Andrew MacDermott, could see a use for the fish skins wasted as a by-blow of the fish processing industry. At that time tanning fish skins was unheard of.
A Sustainable Approach
Tackling the research and development with an environmentally friendly philosophy and sustainable outlook – the overall business direction – four years later the fishermen came up with a strong, attractive and smooth to touch leather product that could be used in a variety of ways.
In 1994 Mermaid Leather bought industrial tanning drums and a plating machine for finishing work and became fully commercial. The new equipment increased the tanning potential to thousands of fish skins in a single year.
Fish Leather Products
Inspired by the Esperance ‘Golden Outback’ region the Mermaid Leather designers now combine fish and kangaroo leather to create a ‘modern yet classic style’ exclusive handcrafted products for both Australian and overseas customers.
At the Mermaid studio today visitors can enjoy a multimedia presentation about tanning both wild caught and farmed Barramundi, Snapper, Groper and Shark. (Larger groups need to book in advance for a personalised tour of the factory for a minimal fee.)
Products include: quality handbags, wallets, jewellery boxes and leather accessories made under contract by Australian designers.
There is also a range of ‘affordable’ fish leather gifts and souvenirs in the studio workshop.