Penaeus indicus & Penaeus merguiensis

  • James Larcombe (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Lisa Walton (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Mervi Kangas (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

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Banana prawns are found across northern Australia, from WA to QLD. They are sustainable across all jurisdictions. Harvests are highly dependent on seasonal conditions, which influence prawn populations from year to year.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery NPF Sustainable Catch, CPUE, trigger limits
Northern Prawn Fishery (CTH)
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Stock Structure

In Australia the standard fish name Banana Prawn is a group name which refers to Fenneropenaeus merguiensis and Fenneropenaeus indicus [Ferfante and Kensley 1997]. Both species have also been placed in the genus Penaeus with taxonomy still unsettled [Ma et al. 2011]. Here, only Fenneropenaeus merguiensis is considered, and referred to as Banana Prawn. The biological stock structure of Banana Prawn is uncertain. There is some evidence that there may be separate biological stocks of Banana Prawn within the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth); however, the boundaries of the biological stocks are unknown [Yearsley et al. 1999]. Stocks in Western Australia and Queensland are widely separated, but it is not known whether these are completely independent stocks [Tanimoto et al. 2006].

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth); Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery, Nickol Bay and Onslow Prawn Managed Fisheries, Kimberley Prawn Managed Fishery (Western Australia); and East Coast (Queensland).

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Stock Status

Northern Prawn Fishery

Recruitment of Banana Prawns in the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) (NPF) is highly variable and thought to be largely determined by seasonal environmental conditions, particularly rainfall [Venables et al. 2011]. As a result, a reliable stock–recruitment relationship has not been established and no formal stock assessment has been conducted for this stock. Status determination is therefore on a weight-of-evidence approach.

The harvest strategy for Banana Prawns in the NPF is designed to facilitate the capture of larger prawns, while allowing for sufficient escapement to ensure adequate remaining spawning biomass, thereby preventing growth and recruitment overfishing and providing higher returns by minimising the capture of small prawns. This is achieved by controlling the timing of the fishing season (which impacts prawn size) and the length of the season, the end of which is determined using catch-rate thresholds [Dichmont et al. 2014]. The harvest strategy is designed to perform effectively under conditions of substantial variation in biomass, which are largely environmentally-driven. Although fishing mortality is thought to have been high for Banana Prawns in some years [Zhou et al. 2007], the species has shown resilience to fishing pressure, with strong subsequent recruitment following historical high levels of catch.

In 2017, total reported commercial landings were 4 662 tonnes (t), close to the average catch of the preceding 10 years (2008–17). These catch levels indicate that that the biomass available in 2017 was close to the 10 year average. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired [Larcombe et al. 2018].

The harvest strategy for Banana Prawns causes the closure of the season when catch rates fall below a trigger level that is associated with permitting sufficient prawns to escape to ensure an adequate spawning biomass for subsequent recruitment (based on an analysis of historical data [Dichmont et al. 2014]). Harvesting of Banana Prawns has been undertaken in accordance with this harvest strategy for almost a decade. During this period, Banana Prawn annual recruitment (as evidenced by catches) has been maintained and continued a pattern of high natural variability from year-to-year.

Effort expended on Banana Prawns in the Northern Prawn Fishery in 2017 was 2 304 vessel days with a fleet of some 50 vessels. This is below the average for the most recent decade (with a fleet of some 50 vessels) and substantially below effort in previous decades which were well in excess of 4 000 days and with a substantially larger fleet.

The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired [Larcombe et al. 2018].

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Banana Prawn biology [Huber 2003, Tanimoto et al. 2006, Yearsley et al. 1999]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
BANANA PRAWNS 1–2 years; > 240 mm TL  ~6 months; 120–150 mm CL 
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of BANANA PRAWNS
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Fishing methods
Otter Trawl
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Vessel restrictions
Commercial 4.66Kt in NPF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown
Northern Prawn Fishery (CTH)

Commonwealth – Recreational and Indigenous 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. 

Commonwealth – Recreational The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.

Commonwealth – Indigenous The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

Queensland – Indigenous 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 can be obtained through permits.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of BANANA PRAWNS - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Dichmont, CM, Jarrett, A, Hill, F and Brown, M 2014, Harvest strategy for the Northern Prawn Fishery under input control, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  2. Gaughan, DJ and Santoro, K (eds) 2018, State of the fisheries and aquatic resources report 2016/17, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
  3. Huber, D 2003, Audit of the management of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville,
  4. Jacobsen, I, Zeller, B, Dunning, M, Garland, A, Courtney, T, Jebreen, E 2018, An ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Trawl Fishery in Southern Queensland including the River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  5. Larcombe, J, Marton, N and Curtotti, R 2018, Northern Prawn Fishery, in H Patterson, J Larcombe, S Nicol and R Curtotti (eds), Fishery status reports 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.
  6. Ma, KY, Chan, T-Y and Chu, KH 2011, Refuting the six-genus classification of Penaeus s.l. (Dendrobranchiata, Penaeidae): a combined analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Zoologica Scripta, 40: 498–508.
  7. O’Neill, MF and Leigh, GM 2007, Fishing power increases continue in Queensland’s East Coast Trawl Fishery, Australia, Fisheries Research, 85: 84–92.
  8. Pears, RJ, Morison, AK, Jebreen, EJ, Dunning, MC, Pitcher, CR, Courtney, AJ, Houlden, B and Jacobsen, IP 2012, Ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: technical report, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.
  9. Perez Farfante, I and Kensley, BF 1997, Penaeids and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World: Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera. Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, 233 p.
  10. Tanimoto, M, Courtney, AJ, O’Neil, MF and Leigh, GM 2006, Stock assessment of the Queensland (Australia) east coast banana prawn (Penaeus merguiensis), Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  11. Venables, WN, Hutton, T, Lawrence, E, Rothlisberg, P, Buckworth, R, Hartcher, M and Kenyon, R 2011, Prediction of common banana prawn potential catch in Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  12. Yearsley, GK, Last, PR and Ward, RD 1999, Australian seafood handbook: domestic species, CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart.
  13. Zhou, S, Dichmont, CM, Burridge, CY, Venables, WV, Toscas, PJ and Vance, D 2007, Is catchability density-dependent for schooling prawns, Fisheries Research, 85: 23–36.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.