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Snapper is widely distributed in Australia and managed as twleve stocks. Seven are sustainable, one is recovering, three are depleted and one is undefined.
Stock Status Overview
|Queensland||Queensland||ECIFFF, RRFFF||Depleted||Estimated biomass, standardised catch rates, length and age composition, fishing mortality rate, catch, effort, CPUE|
- East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
- Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
Snapper has a wide distribution in Australia, from the Gascoyne region on the west coast of Western Australia, around the south of the continent, and up to northern Queensland around Hinchinbrook Island [Kailola et al. 1993]. Within this broad distribution, the biological stock structure is complex.
Recent genetic studies of Snapper using microsatellite markers have led to a refined understanding of stock structure for the east Australian coast that have indicated greater complexity than previously thought. Snapper from Queensland to central New South Wales show little genetic differentiation and are considered to represent a single genetic stock [Morgan et al. in press], consistent with earlier studies using allozymes [Sumpton et al. 2008]. This stock is referred to as the East Coast Stock, with the Queensland and New South Wales components managed and assessed at the jurisdictional level. However, migratory dynamics between Queensland and New South Wales are not well understood and some studies have suggested limited long-range movements, with many fish showing extended periods of local residency [Harasti et al. 2015, Sumpton et al. 2003]. The majority of commercial landings in New South Wales are thought to consist of fish that recruit from local estuaries [Gillanders 2002]. In addition to the limited mixing within the stock, key biological traits of Snapper (such as the size and age at maturity) vary with latitude [Stewart et al. 2010]. It is therefore appropriate to manage and report on stock status of the East Coast biological stock of Snapper at the jurisdictional level – as Queensland and New South Wales jurisdictional stocks.
It is now considered that Snapper from eastern Victoria are genetically differentiated from those to the north of Eden on the southern coast of New South Wales [Morgan et al. unpublished]. As such, Snapper from Wilsons Promontory to southern New South Wales are considered to be a separate biological stock that is now referred to as the Eastern Victorian stock. Although there is low genetic variation between the eastern and western sides of Wilsons Promontory [Meggs and Austin 2003, Morgan et al. unpublished], separation between these populations has been supported by tagging and otolith chemistry studies [Coutin et al. 2003, Hamer et al. 2011]. Snapper to the west of Wilsons Promontory, including the important fisheries of Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, constitute the Western Victorian biological stock. This extends westward from Wilsons Promontory to near the mouth of the Murray River in south eastern South Australia [Donnellan and McGlennon 1996, Fowler et al. 2017, Hamer et al. 2011, Sanders 1974].
The South Australian fishery was originally divided into six management units, due to uncertainty about movement among different regional populations [Fowler et al. 2013]. However, a recent study evaluated the stock structure and adult movement among regional populations within South Australia, and also with western Victoria [Fowler 2016, Fowler et al. 2017], based on inter-regional comparisons of otolith chemistry and increment widths, as well as population characteristics. The study differentiated three stocks. The Western Victorian stock which extends westward into south-eastern South Australia depends on recruitment into, and subsequent emigration from, Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. As such, this is a cross-jurisdictional stock, although the components from the two states are still managed independently. The two other stocks are wholly located within South Australia. The Spencer Gulf/West Coast stock depends on recruitment into Northern Spencer Gulf from where some fish emigrate to replenish the populations of Southern Spencer Gulf and the west coast of Eyre Peninsula. The third stock is the Gulf St. Vincent stock, which relies on recruitment into Northern Gulf St. Vincent, and subsequent emigration to Southern Gulf St. Vincent and Investigator Strait [Fowler et al. 2016].
In Western Australia, Snapper is currently divided into six management units. At the smaller geographic scale inside Shark Bay, genetically-related but biologically separate stocks have been identified in the Eastern Gulf, Denham Sound and Freycinet Estuary based on otolith chemistry and tagging [Bastow et al. 2002, Edmonds et al. 1999, Gardner et al. 2017, Johnson et al. 1986, Moran et al. 2003, Norriss et al. 2012]. At the wider scale, Snapper in oceanic waters off the Western Australian coast that comprise the three remaining management units, i.e. Shark Bay oceanic, West Coast and South Coast, show low levels of genetic differentiation (microsatellites) over hundreds of kilometers consistent with a semi-continuous genetic stock where gene flow is primarily limited by geographic distance [Gardner and Chaplin 2011, Gardner et al. 2017]. Otolith chemistry has indicated residency of adult Snapper in the Gascoyne, West and South Coast bioregions, but with recruitment likely coming from multiple nursery areas [Fairclough et al. 2013, Wakefield et al. 2011]. Tagging studies support these findings with the majority of adults tagged at the key spawning locations in the Gascoyne and West Coast bioregions recaptured within 100 km, as well as location philopatry of adults that aggregate to spawn in embayments on the west coast [Crisafulli et al. in press, Moran et al. 2003, Wakefield et al. 2011].
Here, assessment of stock status for Snapper is presented at the biological stock level—Shark Bay inshore Eastern Gulf, Shark Bay inshore Denham Sound, Shark Bay inshore Freycinet Estuary (Western Australia); Eastern Victoria (Victoria), Western Victoria (Victoria and South Australia), Gulf St Vincent, Spencer Gulf/West Coast (South Australia); the management unit level—South Coast, Shark Bay Oceanic and West Coast (Western Australia); and the jurisdictional level–Queensland and New South Wales.
The most recent integrated stock assessment for East Coast Snapper [Wortmann et al. 2018] that included data from 1880 to 2016 from the entire biological stock (Queensland and New South Wales) produced a range of relative biomass estimates that varied between 10 per cent and 45 per cent of unfished levels. The annual age-structured model partitioned the fishery into four sectors: New South Wales trap; New South Wales commercial line and charter; Queensland commercial line and charter, and, New South Wales and Queensland recreational. Model outputs for all line-fishing sectors estimated biomass to be below 20 per cent. In contrast, model scenarios using standardized New South Wales trap catch rates ranged between 20 per cent and 45 per cent of unfished levels, with the majority of estimates being above 30 per cent.
Queensland harvests (all fishing sectors combined) approximately one third of the east coast Snapper stock shared with New South Wales. The majority of the harvest from the Queensland part of the biological stock is taken by line fishing. Standardised commercial catch rates have been declining since 2006 [QDAF 2018]. Fishery-dependent biological monitoring to 2017 shows truncated commercial and recreational age frequencies with declining proportions of large mature fish in the catch. Based on the relevant model scenarios for Queensland using line catch rates, the stock assessment estimated the spawning biomass of the stock in 2016 at between 10 per cent and 23 per cent of the virgin level. The stock is therefore considered to be recruitment impaired.
Commercial harvest (97 per cent line caught) of Snapper in 2017 was 56 t; a level approximately 15 t (22 per cent) lower than 2016 and 34 per cent lower than the previous 10 year average [QDAF 2018]. The number of active line commercial fishing licences and line fishing effort days have continued to decrease over the last decade, indicating a reduction in commercial fishing pressure. Estimated total harvest across the whole stock from the stock assessment shows high fishing pressure in the 1950s to 1990s (above levels to sustain BMSY). Modelling suggests that maintaining total harvest at current levels will not rebuild stocks in Queensland, given the likely depleted state of the stock and low estimated spawning ratios.
The estimated recreational harvest decreased by 34 per cent from 2010–11 (around 84 000 fish) to 2013–14 (around 56 000 fish) [Taylor et al. 2012, Webley et al. 2015]. Recreational fishing is subject to a possession limit of four fish per person (only one over 700 mm). Fishing pressure is further regulated by a minimum legal size which allows a proportion of mature fish to spawn before becoming available to the fishery. Despite the variety of mechanisms aimed at reducing fishing mortality of Snapper in Queensland, the current level of fishing mortality is expected to prevent the stock recovering from its recruitment impaired state.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Snapper in Queensland is classified as a depleted stock.
Snapper biology [Fowler et al. 2016, Jackson et al. 2010, Stewart et al. 2010, Wakefield et al. 2015, Wakefield et al. 2016]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Snapper||30–40 years, 1300 mm TL||2–7 years, 220–560 mm TL|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Commercial||1.56t in ECIFFF, 54.35t in RRFFF|
|Recreational||85 t (2013–14)|
- East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
- Rocky Reef Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
Western Australia - Recreational (Catch) Ryan et al. 2017.
Western Australia – Recreational (Management Methods) In Western Australia, total recreational catch limits (that is, maximum catch limits) have been applied to stocks of Snapper in inner Shark Bay and the west coast, to aid recovery of stocks.
Queensland – Indigenous (Management Methods) Under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are entitled 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.
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Interim Access Arrangement—allows an Indigenous 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 for themselves; (b) The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority; and (c) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.
New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) West et al. 2015.
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 – Recreational (Catch) Giri and Hall 2015.
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- Meggs, LB and Austin CM 2003, Low allozyme variation in Snapper, Pagrus auratus, in Victoria, Australia, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 10: 155–162.
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