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Mulloway

Argyrosomus japonicus

  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • David Fairclough (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)
  • Jonathan Staunton-Smith (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Julian Hughes (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
New South Wales New South Wales EGF, OHF, OTF, OTLF Overfished Catch, CPUE, length and age composition, mortality rates
Queensland Queensland ECIFFF Undefined Catch
South Australia South Australia LCF, MSF Sustainable Catch, CPUE, age structure
Western Australia Western Australia GDSMF, JASDGDLMF, SBBSMNMF, SBPMF, SCEMF, WCDGDLIMF, WCDSIMF, WL (SC) Sustainable Catch, CPUE
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
GDSMF
Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
JASDGDLMF
Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (Zone 1 & Zone 2) (WA)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
OTLF
Ocean Trap and Line (NSW)
SBBSMNMF
Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery (WA)
SBPMF
Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDGDLIMF
West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDSIMF
West Coast Demersal Scalefish (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)
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Stock Structure

Mulloway are widely distributed in estuaries and near-shore coastal waters (less than 200 m) of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, including subtropical and temperate waters of Australia1. The species occurs along the entire southern seaboard of mainland Australia, from North West Cape in Western Australia to Burnett River in Queensland2,3.

Attempts to understand the biological stock structure of Mulloway in Australia have yielded differing results. It has been suggested that a single panmictic population occurs in Australia3, but this is not supported by studies that suggest sub-structuring between populations in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia4,5. Biological stock delineation for Mulloway in Australia remains uncertain.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

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Stock Status

Western Australia

Commercial catches of Mulloway in Western Australia have declined from around 60 tonnes (t) in 2002 to less than 30 t in 2015. This reduction is associated with a reduction in fishing effort by the main demersal species fisheries that land Mulloway. This is due to management changes during the 2000s to reduce effort and thus retained catches of all demersal species in those fisheries (and of the recreational sector) to sustainable levels6, which have been achieved. Recreational and charter catches of Mulloway have remained low6,7.

At the bioregion and smaller scale management area level, catch rates in the key fisheries that land Mulloway (the West Coast Demersal Scalefish (Interim) Managed Fishery and Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery) are highly variable, reflecting the low level of targeting of this species. However, at the overall Western Australian stock level, catch rates have been stable since 1999 at approximately 1–3 kg per day and increased to almost 5 kg per day in both 2014 and 2015. The recent increase in catch rate is thought to be primarily due to overall reductions in effort in the demersal fisheries that primarily target snapper. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished, and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Mulloway in Western Australia is classified as a sustainable stock.

Queensland

Mulloway are predominantly taken by recreational anglers in Queensland, who harvested an estimated 72 t (16 000 fish) in 2013–148. The species is a minor component of the commercial East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery, with around 9 t taken by this fishery in 2015, and a 5-year annual average catch of 10 t. The legal size limit for Mulloway in Queensland was raised from 450–750 mm total length in 2009, which likely reduced fishing-related mortality, especially for juveniles. However, there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Mulloway in Queensland is classified as an undefined stock.

New South Wales

Commercial landings of Mulloway in New South Wales steadily declined from almost 400 t in the mid-1970s to a historic low of 37 t in 2008–09, and commercial landings have been less than 100 t per year since the mid-1990s. In 2015, the total State-wide commercial catch was 74 t. The recreational catch for Mulloway was estimated to be 351 t in 2000–019 and has declined to 103 t in 2013–1410. Nominal commercial catch rates for Mulloway have declined during the past 20 years in ocean and estuarine fisheries (unpublished data, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries). The average lengths of Mulloway landed by the commercial fishery have declined since the mid-1990s, but have been stable since the mid-2000s11–13. The composition of fish in commercial landings since the early-2000s is indicative of a heavily fished stock (around 80 per cent of catch is less than 700 mm, the approximate size at maturity for female Mulloway in New South Wales)11–13. Fishing mortality is estimated to be several times greater than natural mortality13. The current spawning potential ratio for Mulloway is estimated to be between 16 and 25 per cent13, which is below the threshold reference point of 25 per cent. This indicates that there may be a high risk of recruitment failure14,15. The above evidence indicates that the stock is likely to be recruitment overfished.

In 2013, a recovery program for Mulloway was introduced in New South Wales to arrest the decline in commercial and recreational Mulloway fisheries. Management changes to the recreational fishery included an increase in legal minimum size from 450–700 mm and a 60 per cent reduction in the daily bag limit. Management changes to the commercial fishery included the above increase in legal minimum size (with bycatch limits for the estuarine mesh net fishery) and a 500 kg trip limit for the beach-hauling net sector. This level of fishing pressure is expected to allow the stock to recover from its recruitment overfished state; however measurable improvements in biomass are yet to be detected.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Mulloway in New South Wales is classified as an overfished stock.

South Australia

In South Australia, Mulloway supports commercial and recreational fisheries. The total state-wide commercial catch of 78 t in 2015 was the second highest since 2002, and higher than the most recent estimate of total state-wide recreational catch of 60 t in 2013–1416. The Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) has traditionally been the most important of the South Australian commercial fisheries for Mulloway, accounting for 95 per cent of the state’s total commercial catch since 2009, with the remaining catch taken by the Marine Scalefish Fishery. From 2003–11, annual catches by the LCF were relatively low (21–45 t), reflecting low levels of targeted effort and low catch per unit effort (CPUE). Since that period, catch increased to 115 t in 2013 and was 77 t in 2015, while CPUE has been at historically high levels17.

Interactions between Lakes and Coorong fishers and Long-nosed Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) have increased in recent years, with seal depredation on Mulloway caught in mesh nets likely to have resulted in reduced catches and catch rates for this species. Nonetheless, the presence of several strong age classes in the spawning biomass18, regular recruitment of juveniles to the fishable biomass in recent years19, and high annual catches and catch rates over the past 4 years indicate that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished, and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provide above, Mulloway in South Australia is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Mulloway 42 years; 2000 mm TL  2–6 years; 510–1070 mm TL

Mulloway biology2,20,21

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Mulloway

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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia Queensland New South Wales South Australia
Commercial
Various
Line
Gillnet
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Coastal, Estuary and River Set Nets
Mesh Net
Haul Seine
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Spearfishing
Gillnet
Indigenous
Traditional apparatus
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Spearfishing
Gillnet
Management methods
Method Western Australia Queensland New South Wales South Australia
Commercial
Bycatch limits
Catch limits
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Vessel restrictions
Indigenous
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Section 31 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Active vessels
Western Australia Queensland New South Wales South Australia
16 in GDSMF, 21 in JASDGDLMF, 7 in SBBSMNMF, 18 in SBPMF, 27 in SCEMF, 5 in WCDGDLIMF, 37 in WCDSCMF, 69 in WL (SC) 55 in ECIFFF 234 in EGF, 12 in OHF, 40 in OTF, 66 in OTLF 23 in LCF, 19 in MSF
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
GDSMF
Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
JASDGDLMF
Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (Zone 1 & Zone 2) (WA)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
OTLF
Ocean Trap and Line (NSW)
SBBSMNMF
Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery (WA)
SBPMF
Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDGDLIMF
West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDSCMF
West Coast Deep Sea Crustacean Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)
Catch
Western Australia Queensland New South Wales South Australia
Commercial 8.11t in GDSMF, 2.76t in JASDGDLMF, 314.00kg in SBBSMNMF, 3.02t in SBPMF, 380.00kg in SCEMF, 3.42t in WCDGDLIMF, 8.98t in WCDSIMF, 52.00kg in WL (SC) 8.82t in ECIFFF 61.76t in EGF, 717.60kg in OHF, 870.86kg in OTF, 11.08t in OTLF 76.90t in LCF, 1.31t in MSF
Indigenous Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Recreational 8 t (in 2013–14) 72 t (in 2013–14) 103 t (in 2013–14) 60 t (in 2013–14)
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
GDSMF
Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
JASDGDLMF
Joint Authority Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery (Zone 1 & Zone 2) (WA)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
OTLF
Ocean Trap and Line (NSW)
SBBSMNMF
Shark Bay Beach Seine and Mesh Net Managed Fishery (WA)
SBPMF
Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDGDLIMF
West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
WCDSIMF
West Coast Demersal Scalefish (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)

a New South Wales – Commercial (management methods) Fishers using mesh nets in the New South Wales commercial Estuary General Fishery are permitted a bycatch allowance of 10 Mulloway between 450 and 700 mm per day. Fishers using haul nets in the New South Wales commercial Ocean Hauling Fishery are permitted a bycatch allowance of 500 kg of Mulloway per day.

b Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.

c New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Interim Access Arrangement - allows an Aboriginal fisher in New South Wales to take in excess of a recreational bag limit in certain circumstances, for example, if they are doing so to provide fish to other community members who cannot harvest themselves.

d  Western Australia – Indigenous In Western Australia, subject to the defence that applies under Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Mulloway

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Mulloway are targeted by commercial fisheries using mainly mesh gillnets and hauling nets. These activities are considered to pose a low risk to the environment22.
  • Some bycatch and discard mortality may be expected from mesh gillnets used to target Mulloway, including the capture of small individuals of some species23,24. However, these nets are highly selective in their ability to capture target species22.
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Environmental effects on Mulloway

  • Estuaries are important nursery areas for Mulloway20. The availability of suitable habitat and trophic resources for Mulloway in estuaries is largely dependent on the magnitude, frequency and timing of freshwater inflows, which can affect recruitment and the availability of Mulloway to estuarine-based fisheries18,19.
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References

  1. 1 Griffiths, MH and Heemstra, PC 1995, A contribution to the taxonomy of the marine fish genus Argyrosomus (Perciformes: Sciaenidae) with descriptions of two new species from southern Africa, Ichthyological Bulletin of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology, 65: 1–40.
  2. 2 Farmer, BM 2008, Comparisons of the biological and genetic characteristics of the mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus (Sciaenidae) in different regions of Western Australia, PhD thesis, Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Murdoch University, Perth.
  3. 3 Archangi, B 2008, Levels and patterns of genetic diversity in wild and cultured populations of mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) using mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites, PhD thesis, School of Natural Resource Sciences, Queensland University of Technology.
  4. 4 Barnes, TC, Junge, C, Myers, SA, Taylor, MD, Rogers, PJ, Ferguson, GJ, Lieschke, JA, Donnellan, SC and Gillanders, BM 2015, Population structure in a wide-ranging coastal teleost (Argyrosomus japonicus, Sciaenidae) reflects marine biogeography across southern Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 67: 1103–1113.
  5. 5 Ferguson, GJ, Ward, TM and Gillanders, BM 2011, Otolith shape and elemental composition: complimentary tools for stock discrimination of mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) in southern Australia, Fisheries Research, 110: 75–83.
  6. 6 Fletcher, WJ and Santoro, K (ed.s) 2015, Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2014/15: The state of the fisheries, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Perth.
  7. 7 Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM and Wise, BS 2015, State-wide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2013–14, Fisheries research report 268, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Perth.
  8. 8 Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  9. 9 Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and Indigenous fishing survey, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Fisheries Action Program Project FRDC, project 1999/158, New South Wales Fisheries final report series 48, NSW Fisheries, Cronulla.
  10. 10 West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013–14, Fisheries final report series 149, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.
  11. 11 Silberschneider, V, Gray, CA and Stewart, J 2009, Age, growth, maturity and the overfishing of the iconic sciaenid, Argyrosomus japonicus, in south-eastern Australia, Fisheries Research, 95(2–3): 220–229.
  12. 12 Silberschneider, V and Gray CA 2005, Arresting the decline of the commercial and recreational fisheries for Mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus), Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2001/027, final report series 82, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla.
  13. 13 Stewart, JA, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J (ed.s) 2015, Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman.
  14. 14 Goodyear, CP 1993, Spawning stock biomass per recruit in fisheries management: foundation and current use, in SJ Smith, JJ Hunt and D Rivard (ed.s), Risk evaluation and biological reference points for fisheries management, Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 120, NRC Research Press, pp 67–81.
  15. 15 Mace, PM and Sissenwine, MP 1993, How much spawning per recruit is enough?, in SJ Smith, JJ Hunt and D Rivard (ed.s), Risk evaluation and biological reference points for fisheries management, Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 120, NRC Research Press, pp 101–118.
  16. 16 Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62, Victoria.
  17. 17 Earl, J 2016, Fishery statistics for the South Australian Lakes and Coorong Fishery 2014/15, report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, publication F2009/000669-7, SARDI research report series 917, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  18. 18 Earl, J and Ward, TM 2014, Mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) stock assessment report 2013–14, report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, publication F2007/000898-3, SARDI research report series 814, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  19. 19 Ye, Q, Bucater, L and Short, D (in prep.), Fish response to flow in the Murray Estuary and Coorong during 2014–15 in comparison with years of different flow scenarios, Report to Department of Water and Natural Resources, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  20. 20 Ferguson, GJ, Ward, TM, Ivey, A and Barnes, T 2013, Life history of Argyrosomus japonicus, a large sciaenid at the southern part of its global distribution: implications for fisheries management, Fisheries Research, 151: 148–157.
  21. 21 Silberschneider, V and Gray, CA 2008, Synopsis of biological, fisheries and aquaculture-related information on mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus (Pisces: Sciaenidae), with particular reference to Australia, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 24(1): 7–17.
  22. 22 Halliday, IA, Ley, JA, Tobin, A, Garrett, R, Gribble, NA and Mayer, DG 2001, The effects of net fishing: addressing biodiversity and bycatch issues in Queensland inshore waters, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 97/206, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
  23. 23 Gray, CA 2002, Management implications of discarding in an estuarine multi-species gill net fishery, Fisheries Research, 56: 177–192.
  24. 24 Gray, CA, Johnson, DD, Broadhurst, MK and Young, DJ 2005, Seasonal, spatial and gear-related influences on relationships between retained and discarded catches in a multi-species gillnet fishery, Fisheries Research, 75: 56–72.

Archived reports

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