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Black Bream (2018)

Acanthopagrus butcheri

  • Simon Conron (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Bradley Moore (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Matt Broadhurst (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Rodney Duffy (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

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Summary

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.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia Lakes and Coorong Fishery LCF Depleted Catch, targeted effort, size composition, age composition
South Australia South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery MSF Sustainable Catch, effort, CPUE
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

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).

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Stock Status

Lakes and Coorong Fishery

The multispecies and multi-gear Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) has traditionally been the most important of South Australia’s commercial fisheries for Black Bream, consistently accounting for around 85 per cent of the state’s total commercial catch of the species since the 1980s. The Lakes and Coorong Black Bream stock encompasses the populations in the Coorong estuary and Lower Lakes at the end of the Murray River [Earl et al. 2016]. Black Bream is one of several premium species caught by the LCF that attracts a high price per unit weight for fishers [EconSearch 2017].

The most recent assessment of Black Bream in the LCF was completed in 2016 and used data to the end of June 2015 [Earl et al. 2016]. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch and total targeted effort from commercial gillnet fishers, and fishery age structures. Total catch in the LCF peaked at around 70 t in 1980 and remained above 40 t.yr-1 until 1985. Catch abruptly declined in the late 1980s and averaged 4.2 t.yr-1 from 1990 to 2016. The total catch of 1.6 t in 2017 was among the lowest on record. The low catches since the 1980s have been associated with low targeted effort. Given the high wholesale value of Black Bream, the low levels of targeted effort and catch since the 1980s likely reflects low fishable biomass. The state-wide recreational catch was estimated at approximately 4.5 t in 2013–14 [Giri and Hall 2015], although the proportion of the catch taken from the Coorong estuary is not known.

Annual fishery age structures from 2007–08 to 2015–16 comprised fish between four and 17 years, although fish older than 10 years were rare [Earl et al. 2016, SARDI unpublished data] despite the potential for this species to reach 32 years of age [Ye et al. 2017]. Within any year, relatively few age classes contributed most to the catch, reflecting the relative strength of these year classes. This variation in year class strength relates to inter-annual variation in recruitment. Larger year classes appear to be linked to freshwater releases to the Coorong estuary in 1997–98, 2003–04, 2006–07, 2009–10 and 2012–13, confirming that environmental conditions associated with freshwater inflow are important for successful reproduction of Black Bream in the Coorong estuary. The recruitment of these good year classes to the fishable biomass since the mid-1990s indicates that environmental conditions in the Coorong estuary supported successful spawning in those years.

Despite this recruitment, fishery production has remained low compared to historical levels. Recruitment levels over the past 25 years have not been strong enough to support recovery of the stock following the decline in the 1980s. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is likely to be depleted, that recruitment is likely to be impaired, and that current fishing mortality levels are expected to prevent the stock recovering from a recruitment impaired state.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Lakes and Coorong Fishery management unit is classified as a depleted stock.

South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery

Black Bream is considered a tertiary species within South Australia's commercial multispecies, multi-gear and multi-sectoral Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF). The MSF Black Bream stock encompasses the populations in marine waters of South Australia, outside the Coorong Estuary and Lower Lakes [Earl et al. 2016].

The most recent assessment of Black Bream in the MSF was completed in 2018 [Steer et al. 2018] and used data to the end of December 2017. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch, total effort and nominal CPUE from commercial fishers. Total annual catch in the MSF was historically low (0.1–1.5 t.yr-1) from 1984 to 2006, as a result of low targeted effort. Between 2013 and 2017, catches increased slightly to 0.7–2.9 t.yr-1 and estimates of CPUE were > 80 per cent higher than the long-term average catch rate for the sector. The most recent estimate of total state-wide recreational catch of Black Bream in South Australia was 4.5 t in 2013–14 [Giri and Hall 2015]. 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 provide above, the South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Black Bream biology [Cheshire et al. 2013, Kuiter 1993, Morison et al. 1998, Sarre and Potter 2000, Walker and Neira 2001]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Black Bream 37 years, 600 mm TL 180–340 TL mm
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Black Bream

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Tables

Fishing methods
South Australia
Commercial
Hook and Line
Pole and Line
Gillnet
Lift nets
Indigenous
Gillnet
Traditional apparatus
Handline
Recreational
Gillnet
Handline
Management methods
Method South Australia
Commercial
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Indigenous
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Active vessels
South Australia
14 in LCF, 4 in MSF
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
Catch
South Australia
Commercial 1.61t in LCF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 4.5 t (in 2013–14)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)

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

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Black Bream - note confidential catch not shown

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References

  1. Burridge, CP and Versace, VL 2007, Population genetic structuring in Acanthopagrus butcheri (Pisces: Sparidae): does low gene flow among estuaries apply to both sexes? Marine Biotechnology 9, 33–44.
  2. Burridge, CP, Hurt, AC, Farrington, LW, Coutin, PC and Austin, CM 2004, Stepping stone gene flow in an estuarine dwelling sparid from south‐east Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 64, 805–819.
  3. Butcher, AD and Ling, JK 1962, Bream tagging experiments in East Gipsland during April and May 1944. Victorian Naturalist 78, 256–264.
  4. Chaplin, JA, Baudains, GA, Gill, HS, Mccullock, R and Potter, IC1997, Are assemblages of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) in different estuaries genetically distinct? International Journal of Salt Lake Research, 6(4):303–321.
  5. Cheshire, KJM, Ye, Q, Fredberg, LJ and Earl, J 2013, Aspects of reproductive biology of five key species in the Murray Mouth and Coorong. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2009/000014-3 SARDI Research Report Series No 699. 65pp.
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