Black Bream (2018)
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The estuary-based Black Bream is sustainable in WA, NSW and TAS. In VIC, western and eastern estuary stocks are sustainable, Gippsland Lake stocks are depleting. In SA, marine stocks are sustainable but the Lakes and Coorong Fishery is depleted.
Stock Status Overview
|Victoria||The Gippsland Lakes||GLF||Depleting||Catch, CPUE, size composition|
|Victoria||Victoria Eastern Estuaries||CIF||Sustainable||CPUE, size composition|
|Victoria||Victoria Western Estuaries||PPBWPF||Sustainable||CPUE, size composition|
- Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
- Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
- Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay Fishery (VIC)
Black Bream have a wide distribution in the estuaries of southern Australia from central New South Wales to central west coast Western Australia, including Tasmania [Kailola et al. 1993]. Various studies conclude that Black Bream are an estuarine-dependent species, completing much of their life-cycle within a single estuary [Chaplin et al. 1997, Conron et al. 2016, Earl et al. 2016]. Genetic studies of Black Bream in Victoria and Western Australia have indicated that, while there has been gene flow between adjacent estuaries, there is evidence of isolation by distance between populations [Burridge and Versace 2007, Burridge et al. 2004, Chaplin et al. 1997, Farrington et al. 2000].
The distribution of Black Bream in eastern Australia overlaps with the closely related Yellowfin Bream, A. australis, which occur from Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria to northern Queensland. Where both Black Bream and Yellowfin Bream occur in the same area, hybridization is considerable [Farrington et al. 2000, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2012, Roberts et al. 2009, 2010, 2011].
Results of tagging studies conducted in the Swan River [Norriss et al. 2002], Gippsland Lakes [Butcher and Ling 1962, Hindell et al. 2008] and the Coorong estuary [Hall 1984] indicated limited or no evidence of coastal migration or emigration between estuaries. This indicates that estuarine Black Bream populations should be managed as distinct biological stocks. However, for most fisheries management agencies this is not practical.
Furthermore, Black Bream growth, size- and age-at-maturity and recruitment are strongly influenced by environmental conditions, particularly fresh water influx into estuaries [Cottingham 2008, Norriss et al. 2002]. It is therefore likely that over local scales at least, annual recruitment strength is dependent on environmental conditions, with substantial inter-annual variation in recruitment affecting individual stock demographics and biomasses.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Western Australia West Coast Estuaries, Western Australia South Coast Estuaries (Western Australia); Southern New South Wales (New South Wales); Victoria Western Estuaries, The Gippsland Lakes, Victoria Eastern Estuaries (Victoria); Tasmania Scalefish Fishery (Tasmania); Lakes and Coorong Fishery and South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery (South Australia).
The Gippsland Lakes
The Gippsland Lakes are a series of temperate coastal lagoons in eastern Victoria that are connected to the sea by a single permanent narrow entrance at Lakes Entrance. Three main river systems, the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo, discharge into the Gippsland Lakes system, which is almost 70 km long and is the largest navigable network of inland waterways in Australia. The Gippsland Lakes commercial net fishery is restricted to the Lakes area and fishing is not permitted in the rivers or within 400 m from any part of the mouth of any river flowing into the Gippsland Lakes, which limits access of the fishery to Black Bream. Size limits and limited entry are also used to manage effort by the commercial sector, with size limits and bag limits applied to the recreational sector.
The majority of the commercial Black Bream harvest from the Gippsland Lakes is by mesh nets. Because the fishery includes multiple-target species and fishing activities that are spatially restricted there is some uncertainty in the reliability of mesh net catch rate data as an indicator of relative abundance for Black Bream.
Shore- and boat-based recreational anglers frequent the Gippsland Lakes and the estuarine reaches of the inflowing rivers where they target Black Bream. Recreational fishery catch rates and size composition monitoring programs for Black Bream have been in place for the last 20 years, but these do not provide estimates of total recreational catch.
Periodic assessments of the status of Black Bream and the fisheries they support are conducted. These assessments compile relevant data from commercial fishery catch and effort reporting, recreational fishery and angler fishing diary monitoring programs, fishery independent surveys and other data, such as age and length/weight composition to support a review of indicators of stock or fishery status [Conron et al. 2016, Kemp et al. 2013, VFA 2017].
The commercial catch of Black Bream in 2017 was 15.4 t, having declined from a catch of 36.6 t in 2016. An assessment in 2017 found that catch rates for the commercial mesh-net fishery had decreased since the most recent peak around 2010–12, and in 2015 were below the long term average (1978–2015) [VFA 2017]. Since 2015, mesh net catch rates have declined further, consistent with a continued decline in the abundance of legal-sized Black Bream in the accessible Lake component of the population [VFA unpublished data]. In 2017, mesh net catch rates had dropped to lower levels than the previously low levels recorded in the early 1990s and 2000s [VFA unpublished data].
Recent recreational catch rates have varied around the long term average reference level but are currently lower (currently about one fish per five angler hours) than the levels recorded in 1996–2000, causing concern for many fishers [VFA unpublished data]. Independent trawl surveys of pre-recruit (0+ age fish) abundance suggest there have only been two moderately abundant year-classes in the past 10 years [VFA unpublished data]. While these year classes will support the fishery over the coming years, they are unlikely to be large enough to result in a significant increase in stock biomass without the occurrence of highly abundant year classes. Length-composition indicators for the recreational and commercial fisheries and from the 'Bream Classic Fishing Competition' have been relatively stable [VFA 2017] and in recent years show that a consistent component of larger fish (> 350 mm) have remained in the stock [VFA unpublished data].
The above evidence indicates that the stock is unlikely to be depleted, and that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired in the short term. However, the continuing decline in mesh net catch rates, continuing low recreational catch rates and lack of evidence of recent strong recruitment events means a short-term recovery of the fishery remains unlikely.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Gippsland Lakes management unit is classified as a depleting stock.
Victoria Eastern Estuaries
The main indicators used for the assessment of the western estuaries management unit stocks are nominal catch per unit effort (catch rates) and length composition of catches taken by the recreational sector. Information on recruitment is also obtained from size composition data of undersize fish measured by anglers participating in an ongoing angler fishing diary program [Conron and Oliveiro 2016].
The most recent stock assessments were in 2016 and 2017 [Ingram et al. 2016b, VFA 2017], in which the status of Black Bream stocks was evaluated using CPUE and size composition from fishers participating in the angler fishing diary program for the Lake Tyers, Snowy River, Sydenham Inlet and Mallacoota Inlet estuaries.
In 2016, Black Bream stocks were assessed to be sustainable in the Lake Tyers, Snowy River, and Mallacoota Inlet estuaries [Ingram et al. 2016b]. With the exception of Sydenham Inlet, stock biomass, as indicated by catch rates, was generally stable or increasing, and there was a wide range of size classes present in all estuaries, including larger adults, indicative of spawning success and recruitment. In Sydenham Inlet there was insufficient data to assess the status of the stock [Ingram et al. 2016]. In 2017 Black Bream stocks were assessed as being sustainable in Lake Tyers based on updated catch rate and size composition data [VFA 2017]. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired and 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 Victoria Eastern Estuaries management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Victoria Western Estuaries
Black Bream predominantly occur in the estuarine reaches of rivers in western Victoria and Port Phillip Bay. The main indicators used for assessment of the western estuaries management unit are nominal catch per unit effort (CPUE) of harvests by the recreational and commercial sectors. Information on recruitment and fishing pressure is also obtained from size composition data measured by anglers participating in an ongoing angler fishing diary program [Conron and Oliveiro 2016], but these data do not provide estimates of total recreational catch. Commercial fishery catch data is also available for the Port Phillip Bay fishery.
The most recent stock assessments were in 2016 and 2017 [Hamer and Giri 2016, Ingram et al. 2016a, VFA 2017]. Here, the status of Black Bream stocks was evaluated using recreational catch rates and size composition from fishers participating in the angler fishing diary program for the Glenelg River, Hopkins River and Curdies River estuaries, and the commercial haul seine fishery catch rate data for Port Phillip Bay.
In 2016, Black Bream stocks were assessed to be sustainable in the Curdies, Glenelg and Hopkins rivers [Ingram et al. 2016a]. Stock abundance, as indicated by catch rates, was generally stable or increasing and there was a wide range of size classes present in all estuaries, indicative of regularly successful spawning and recruitment [Ingram et al. 2016a]. In 2017, Black Bream stocks were assessed as sustainable in the Glenelg River based on updated catch rates and size-composition data [VFA 2017].
Catch rates of Black Bream by commercial seine net in Port Phillip Bay were low up until the 2000s, which may reflect low targeting during the 1980s and 90s. Since 1999–2000, catch rates have shown an increasing trend reaching a historical peak in 2010–11 [Hamer and Giri 2016]. Since 2010–11, catch rates have been variable but have remained well above the long-term average. The increase in catch rate during the 2000’s may reflect increased targeting due to increased market/demand and value, but may also reflect increased abundance within the bay [Hamer and Giri 2016]. In recent years commercial catches from Port Phillip Bay increased to a peak of 15.2 t in 2014 and have since declined to 4.3 t in 2017. Commercial netting is being phased out in Port Phillip Bay and since 2016, 34 of the 43 licences have been bought out by the Victorian Government.
The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired, and 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 Victoria Western Estuaries management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Black Bream biology [Cheshire et al. 2013, Kuiter 1993, Morison et al. 1998, Sarre and Potter 2000, Walker and Neira 2001]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Black Bream||37 years, 600 mm TL||180–340 TL mm|
Distribution of reported commercial catch of Black Bream
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Customary fishing permits|
|1 in CIF, 1 in EP, 10 in GLF, 5 in PPBWPF|
- Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
- Eel Permit (VIC)
- Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
- Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay Fishery (VIC)
|Commercial||15.37t in GLF, 4.31t in PPBWPF|
|Indigenous||Unknown (No catch under permit)|
- Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
- Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay Fishery (VIC)
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) The 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 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.
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.
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. The species is subject to a minimum size limit of 250 mm. A bag limit of five individuals and a possession limit of ten individuals is in place for recreational fishers fishing in marine waters.
Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous persons engaged in aboriginal 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, Indigenous persons must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a UIC to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC.
Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) In Western Australia a recreational fishing licence is only required for fishing from a boat
Commercial catch of Black Bream - note confidential catch not shown
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