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Southern Garfish (2018)

Hyporhamphus melanochir

  • Mike Steer (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Corey Green (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Kim Smith (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

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Summary

Southern Garfish has a wide distribution around Australia. There are ten stocks across WA, SA, TAS and VIC. Five are sustainable, two depleting, two depleted and one recovering.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia Northern Gulf St. Vincent MSF Depleted Catch, effort, CPUE, harvest fraction, biomass, egg production
South Australia Northern Spencer Gulf MSF Recovering Catch, effort, CPUE, harvest fraction, biomass, egg production
South Australia South-East SZRLF, MSF Sustainable Catch, effort, CPUE trends
South Australia Southern Gulf St. Vincent SZRLF, MSF Sustainable Catch, effort, CPUE trends
South Australia Southern Spencer Gulf NZRLF, MSF Sustainable Catch, effort, CPUE
South Australia South Australia West Coast MSF Sustainable Catch, effort, CPUE trends
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
NZRLF
Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
SZRLF
Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

Southern Garfish has a wide distribution in Australia, extending from Lancelin in Western Australia, along the southern coast of mainland Australia and up the east coast to Eden in southern New South Wales, as well as the surrounding waters of Tasmania [Gomon et al. 2008].

There has been no research into the stock structure of Western Australian populations of Southern Garfish. However, given the limited dispersal typically displayed by Southern Garfish, and the large spatial separation between the west and south coasts of Western Australia, it is highly likely that the west and south coast support separate biological stocks of this species [Steer et al. 2009, Ye et al. 2002].

In Victoria, there has been no research into the stock structure for populations of Southern Garfish and they are assumed to constitute a single jurisdictional stock.

In Tasmania, differences in size and age composition between the north coast and the east coast indicate that there may be multiple biological stocks; however, no firm evidence exists at present, and current stock assessments assume a single state-wide biological stock [Moore et al. 2018].

A multidisciplinary otolith-based study (otolith chemistry and morphometrics) identified at least five biological stocks in South Australia: West Coast, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and Southern Gulf St. Vincent [Steer et al. 2009]. Given the level of spatial separation of Southern Garfish observed between the gulfs, it was assumed that Southern Garfish from the south east also comprised a separate biological stock.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Western Australia West Coast and Western Australia South Coast; South Australia West Coast (Western Australia); Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Gulf St. Vincent, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and South East (South Australia); Tasmania; and at the jurisdictional level—Victoria.

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Stock Status

Northern Gulf St. Vincent

Southern Garfish are a primary species in South Australia's commercial multispecies, multi-gear and multi-sectoral Marine Scalefish Fishery. The most recent fishery assessment of Southern Garfish stock status was completed in 2018 and integrated catch and effort data from the commercial sector to the end of December 2017; state-wide estimates of recreational catch data; and population demographic information (sex, age, and length composition) [Steer et al. 2018].

The annual total commercial catch of Southern Garfish in Northern Gulf St. Vincent declined from a peak of 221 t in 2000 to the lowest level on record in 2016 (56.8 t) before increasing to 67.7 t in 2017. Total hauling net effort declined to its lowest level in 2017, where fishers expended 1 768 days catching Southern Garfish, representing a 29.8 per cent decline since 2011. Targeted nominal catch rates within the hauling net sector, have increased by 41 per cent since 2015 to 48.7 kg per fisher-day in 2017, returning to relatively moderate levels, but considerably less that the peak catch rate of 110 kg per fisher-day in 2000. The recent trend in hauling net effort was a result of management arrangements that were implemented to reduce fishing activity during the peak winter season [Steer et al. 2018].

The primary measure for biomass is modelled estimates of fishable biomass and egg production [Steer et al. 2018]. The annual fishable biomass and egg production for Northern Gulf St. Vincent have remained relatively stable since 2014 at approximately 200 t and 11 per cent of unfished levels, respectively. Recruitment levels declined to 1.9 million recruits in 2015, which was 14.6 per cent lower than the long-term average. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is likely to be depleted and that recruitment is likely to be impaired.

The primary measure for fishing mortality is modelled estimates of harvest fraction [Steer et al. 2018]. High exploitation rates have been evident for the Northern Gulf St. Vincent stock and these peaked at 91 per cent in 2002. Since then, the annual harvest fraction has declined by approximately 3 per cent per year, dropping to a record low of 38.6 per cent in 2016. The above evidence indicates that current fishing mortality has been reduced by management to a level that should allow the stock to recover from its recruitment impaired state; however, measurable improvements are yet to be detected.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Northern Gulf St. Vincent biological stock is classified as a depleted stock.

Northern Spencer Gulf

Historically, Northern Spencer Gulf has been the most productive region for Southern Garfish in South Australia and, in 2017, contributed to 55 per cent of the state-wide catch. Annual catch in this region has been relatively stable over the past three years averaging approximately 85 t, but these catches were the lowest on record, having declined from a peak of 271 t in 1990. Annual total hauling net effort declined to its lowest level in 2013, when fishers expended 2,226 days catching Southern Garfish. Effort then increased to 2 716 fisher-days in 2015 and has since remained above 2 400 fisher-days. Targeted catch rates in the dominant hauling net sector had declined from a peak of 130 kg.fisherday-1 in 2012 to 68 kg.fisherday-1 in 2016, but have increased to 83 kg.fisherday-1 in 2017, to 64 per cent of the historical maximum.

The primary measure for biomass is modelled estimates of fishable biomass [Steer et al. 2018]. Fishable biomass has increased since 2003, at a rate of approximately 4 t.year-1 (1.5 per cent), most likely in response to substantially declining exploitation rates. There was little change in fishable biomass from 2014 until 2016, remaining at approximately 280 t.year-1. Annual egg production has increased since 2005, reaching 11 per cent of unfished levels over the last decade. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is likely to be depleted and that recruitment is likely to be impaired. However, for the period since 2003, increased catch rates and the harvestable biomass indicator indicate a recovering stock.

The primary measure for fishing mortality is modelled estimates of harvest fraction [Steer et al. 2018]. Over the past 15 years the annual estimates of harvest fraction have declined at a rate of approximately 2 per cent per year to substantially lower values in 2016 (49.3 per cent) and 2017 (54.8 per cent). In addition, the continual increases in the minimum hauling net mesh size from 30 mm to 32mm in 2012, to 34 mm in 2015, and to 35 mm in 2017 were specifically implemented to promote the recovery of the resource by reducing the mortality of small Southern Garfish. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality should allow the stock to recover from its recruitment impaired state.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Northern Spencer Gulf biological stock is classified as a recovering stock.

South Australia West Coast

Southern Garfish are a primary species in South Australia's commercial multispecies, multi-gear and multi-sectoral Marine Scalefish Fishery. The most recent assessment of Southern Garfish was completed in 2018 and used data to the end of December 2017 [Steer et al. 2018].

The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are catch, effort and catch rate. A small amount of Southern Garfish is landed by the commercial sector on the West Coast. Since 2005, total catch has been < 10 t.yr-1, which is < 2 per cent of the state-wide total annual catch. The implementation of commercial netting restrictions in this region has contributed to the continuous reduction in hauling net effort since the late 1950s [Steer et al. 2018]. Targeted catch rates by approximately 11 dab net fishers have remained high (> 42 kg.fisherday.yr-1) since 2015, reflecting a relatively high abundance of Southern Garfish in the region. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South Australia West Coast biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

South-East

The primary measure for biomass and fishing mortality is catch and catch rates. Few Southern Garfish are landed by the commercial sector in the South East. During the 2000s, total catch has generally been < 1.0 t.yr-1, rarely exceeding 0.3 per cent of the annual state-wide catch of Southern Garfish. Contemporary catch rates have exceeded 20 kg.fisherday-1 and were similar to those attained during the late 1980s. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South East biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

Southern Gulf St. Vincent

The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are catch, effort and catch rate. The history of this regional fishery is characterised by relatively low levels of fishing activity and commercial catch. Prior to 1993, the commercial catch of Southern Garfish from southern Gulf St. Vincent was equally shared between the hauling net and dab net sectors. Since then, the hauling net sector has declined, with a steady reduction in fishing effort. In 2006, dab nets became the dominant gear type. Hauling nets were removed from this region by implementation of a voluntary net buy-back scheme and spatial netting closures in 2005. Prior to this management restructure, the commercial catch of Southern Garfish from this region rarely exceeded 10 per cent of the state-wide harvest, which was reduced to < 5 per cent by these measures. Since 2005, total catch from this region has generally been < 13 t.yr-1. Over the last three years targeted dab net effort has declined to the lowest levels on record; while associated catch rates have remained relatively strong, indicating that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Southern Gulf St. Vincent biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

Southern Spencer Gulf

The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are catch, effort and catch rate. Large areas of Southern Spencer Gulf have been closed to commercial hauling net fishing since 2005, and as a result the relative contribution of this region to the state-wide catch has decreased from approximately 10 per cent up to 2005 to 3 per cent over the past nine years. The hauling net sector historically accounted for approximately 30 per cent of the total catch of this stock, which peaked at 71.2 t in 1998. However, it has been considerably eroded through spatial restrictions imposed in 2005 to become almost exclusively fished by the dab net sector. Total catch of Southern Garfish in this region has not exceeded 15 t since 2009. Targeted dab net effort remained relatively stable at approximately 120 fisher-days from 2011 to 2014, before increasing above 210 fisher-days in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Targeted dab net CPUE peaked at 55.6 kg.fisherday-1 in 2010, dropping to 38.5 kg.fisherday-1 in 2012 before returning to 52.4 kg.fisherday-1 in 2016. In 2017, targeted dab net CPUE was 35.6 kg.fisherday-1, representing a 32 per cent reduction over the last year. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Southern Spencer Gulf biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Southern Garfish biology [Smith et al. 2017, Ye et al. 2002]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Southern Garfish South Australia: 10 years, 380 mm TL Tasmania: 9.5 years, 460 mm TL. Western Australia: 12 years, 430 mm TL Western Australia: 12 months, 230 mm TL South Australia: 18 months, 190 mm TL Victoria: 19 months, 210 mm TL Tasmania: 22 months, 200 mm TL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Southern Garfish
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Tables

Fishing methods
South Australia
Commercial
Dab Net
Unspecified
Seine Nets
Indigenous
Hook and Line
Dab Net
Recreational
Hook and Line
Dab Net
Management methods
Method South Australia
Commercial
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Indigenous
Bag limits
Size limit
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Active vessels
South Australia
87 in MSF, 1 in NZRLF, 2 in SZRLF
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
NZRLF
Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
SZRLF
Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
Catch
South Australia
Commercial 164.84t in MSF, 9.86t in MSF, NZRLF, 7.14t in MSF, SZRLF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 79 t (2013/14 survey) [Giri and Hall 2015]
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
NZRLF
Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
SZRLF
Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)

Victoria – Indigenous (management methods) In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise fishing for specific Indigenous cultural ceremonies or events (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). There were no Indigenous permits granted in 2017 and hence no Indigenous catch recorded.

South Australia – Commercial (catch) Data for the Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) and the Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) have been combined because of confidentiality requirements.

Tasmania – Recreational (management methods) In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine. e Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous people engaged in fishing activities in marine waters are exempt from holding recreational fishing licences, but must comply with all other fisheries rules as if they were licensed. Additionally, recreational bag and possession limits also apply. If using pots, rings, set lines or gillnets, aborigines must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a Unique Identifying Code (UIC) to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC

Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Current shore-based recreational catch and effort in Western Australia is unknown. State-wide surveys of boat-based fishing are conducted regularly, most recently in 2015/16 [Ryan et al. 2017].

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Southern Garfish - note confidential catch not shown

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References

  1.  Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey, Fisheries Research Development Corporation project 99/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  2. Conron S, Green C, Hamer, P, Giri K, and Hall K 2016, Corner Inlet- Nooramunga Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 11.
  3. Giri K and Hall K, 2015 South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  4. Gomon, M, Bray, D and Kuiter, R 2008, Fishes of Australia’s southern coast, New Holland Publishers, Australia.
  5. Martell, S and Froese, R 2013, A simple method for estimating MSY from catch and resilience. Fish and Fisheries, 14: 504–514.
  6. Moore, BM, Lyle, J and Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian Scalefish Fshery Assessment 2016/17, The Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Tasmania.
  7. Pearce, A, Lenenton, R, Jackson, G, Moore, J, Feng, M and Gaughan, D 2011, The “Marine Heat Wave” off Western Australia during the Summer of 2010/11, Fisheries Research Report 222, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  8. Review of key Victorian fish stocks—2017 Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1
  9. Ryan KL, Hall NG, Lai EK, Smallwood CB, Taylor SM and Wise BS 2017. Statewide survey of boatbased recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16. Fisheries Research Report No. 287, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 205pp.
  10. Smith K, Dowling C, Mountford S, Hesp A, Howard A and Brown J. 2017, Status of southern garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. Research Report No. 271. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.Smith K, Holtz M, Bunbury E, O'Malley J and Yerman M. 2018, West Coast Nearshore and Estuarine Finfish Resource Status Report 2017. In: Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2016/17: State of the Fisheries. eds. Gaughan DJ and Santoro K. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. pp 50–56.
  11. Smith K, Holtz M, Bunbury E, O'Malley J and Yerman M 2018, West Coast Nearshore and Estuarine Finfish Resource Status Report 2017. In: Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2016/17: State of the Fisheries. eds. Gaughan DJ and Santoro K. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. pp 50–56.
  12. Steer MA, Fowler AJ, McGarvey R, Feenstra J, Westlake EL, Matthews D, Drew M, Rogers PJ and Earl J 2018, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2016. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 974. Pp 250. 
  13. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ and Gillanders, BM 2009, Spatial management of Garfish in South Australia – stock structure and adult movement, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2007/029, Canberra.
  14. Ye, Q, Jones, GK, McGlennon, D, Ayvazian, S and Coutin, P 2002, Fisheries Biology and Habitat Ecology of Southern Sea Garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Southern Australian Waters, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 1997/133, Canberra.Conron S, Green C, Hamer, P, Giri K and Hall K 2016, Corner Inlet- Nooramunga Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 11.

Archived reports

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