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Eastern School Whiting

Sillago flindersi

  • James Andrews (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Karina Hall (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Luke Maloney (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Timothy Emery (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Tasmania South-Eastern Australia SF Sustainable Spawning biomass, fishing mortality, catch rates
SF
Scalefish Fishery (TAS)
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Stock Structure

Eastern School Whiting is endemic to south-eastern Australia and occurs from southern Queensland to western Victoria. It is considered to be a single biological stock for assessment purposes1.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—South-eastern Australia.

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Stock Status

South-Eastern Australia

The last full stock assessment of Eastern School Whiting was conducted in 2009, using commercial catch estimates for the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. This estimated spawning biomass at the beginning of 2010 to be 50 per cent of the unfished level2. This assessment was updated in 2011 with new catch, discard, age and length data3,4. The estimated levels of depletion in the updated assessment were similar to those in the 2009 assessment. Standardised catch rate data to 20145 and size composition data from observers and port sampling6 did not indicate any substantial decline in spawning biomass. The stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished.

 

A long-term recommended biological catch (RBC) of 1660 tonnes (t) was recommended for Eastern School Whiting from 2013–14 onwards7. Total Australian commercial catch of Eastern School Whiting in 2015 was 1308.5 t (Commonwealth—765.5 t; New South Wales—536 t; Victoria—7 t; Tasmania—confidential). Although the most recent stock assessment is dated, which is of concern for a short-lived species such as School Whiting, recent catches have remained below the long-term RBC. This level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished8.

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

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Biology

Eastern School Whiting biology2,9–11

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Eastern School Whiting 7 years; 32 cm Standard Length 2 years; 14–18 cm FL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Eastern School Whiting

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Tables

Fishing methods
Tasmania
Commercial
Various
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Gillnet
Management methods
Method Tasmania
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Indigenous
Bag limits
Recreational
Bag limits
Catch
Tasmania
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 2.1 t (2012-13)

a Commonwealth Commonwealth data are for the 2014–15 fishing season (1 May 2014–30 April 2015).
b New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania State data are for the 2015 calendar year. Reported landings from northern New South Wales waters are adjusted to account for estimated species misreporting with Stout Whiting, Sillago robusta14.
c 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.
d 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.
e Victoria – Indigenous (management methods) In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing are also applied to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Recognised Traditional Owners (groups that hold native title or have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 [Vic]) are exempt (subject to conditions) from the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, and can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise customary fishing (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). The Indigenous category in Table 3 refers to customary fishing undertaken by recognised Traditional Owners. In 2015, there were no applications for customary fishing permits to access Eastern School Whiting.
f New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) 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.
g New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) Aboriginal cultural fishing authority - the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority.
h 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.
i Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous people 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, 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Eastern School Whiting

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • There is bycatch caught in the fish trawl sector. In 2006, mandatory requirements for otter trawls to use 90 mm square-mesh codend panels were introduced in an effort to reduce the catch of small species and juvenile fish15.
  • The New South Wales Ocean Trawl Fishery mandates that otter trawl nets must be fitted with a bycatch reduction device of an approved design to reduce the bycatch of small prawns and juvenile fish. Mesh size and other gear restrictions are regulated to increase the target species selectivity of otter trawl and Danish seine nets and codends.
  • Interactions also occur with animals protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including marine mammals (dolphins, seals and sea lions), seabirds, some shark species, and seahorses and pipefish (syngnathids). These interactions are reported quarterly by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA)16 and on-board observer programs are used to validate the reporting in commercial logbooks.
  • In 2007, the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association released an industry code of practice that aims to minimise interactions with fur seals, as well as addressing the environmental impacts of the fishery more generally17. Operators have developed other mitigation protocols that have further reduced seal mortalities, including: using breakaway ties that keep the net closed until it is below depths that seals regularly inhabit; adopting techniques to close the trawl opening during recovery to minimise opportunities for seals to enter the net; switching off gantry lights that are not required during night trawling to avoid attracting bait species and seals; and dumping offal only when the boat is not engaged in deploying or hauling gear16.
  • The AFMA mandated individual vessel seabird management plans18. The seabird action plans are used in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (Commonwealth Trawl Sector) (SESSF [CTS]) to mitigate the impacts of trawling on seabirds. From 1 May 2017, all vessels in the SESSF (CTS) and Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector) (SESSF [GABTS]) fisheries must use one of the following mitigation devices: sprayers; bird bafflers; or pinkies with zero discharge of fish waste19.
  • The effects of trawl fishing on the marine environment are assessed through an environmental risk assessment (ERA) and risk management framework and mitigated through spatial closures, and the implementation of bycatch and discard workplans20,21 in the SESSF (CTS) and SESSF (GABTS) fisheries.
  • Danish seine and otter trawl gears interact with soft muddy or flat sandy substrates. However, an ecological risk assessment identified no high-risk habitats on the inner shelf (water less than 100 m), where Eastern School Whiting is targeted22,23.
  • Spiny Pipehorse can be taken as incidental bycatch in dredges, trawls, seines and crayfish pots24. An ERA into the effects of fishing from the Danish seine sub-fishery of the SESSF (CTS) indicated that the Spiny Pipehorse was at low risk because the fishery overlaps with only a small portion of the range of this species22. An ERA into the effects of fishing from the otter trawl sub-fishery of the SESSF (CTS) considers the Spiny Pipehorse to be high risk because of high exposure to fishing (high proportion of range within the fishery, live in habitats that are likely to encounter the gear, and are the right size to be selected by the fishery)23.
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Environmental effects on Eastern School Whiting

  • Because Eastern School Whiting is a relatively short-lived species that reaches maturity after only 2 years, it is likely that year-to-year variations in environmental conditions will have a greater effect on this fishery than on a fishery for long-lived species. This is because stocks with a greater number of year classes are generally more resilient to variable recruitment than stocks with few year classes3.
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References

  1. 1 Morison, AK, Knuckey IA, Simpfendorfer, CA and Buckworth RC 2013, South East Scalefish and Shark Fishery: draft 2012 stock assessment summaries for species assessed by GABRAG, ShelfRAG and Slope/DeepRAG, report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  2. 2 Day, J 2010, School Whiting (Sillago flindersi) stock assessment based on data up to 2008, in GN Tuck (ed.), Stock assessment for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery 2009, part 1, Australian Fisheries Management Authority and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart.
  3. 3 Day, J 2011, School Whiting (Sillago flindersi): exploration of fixed projected catches and a retrospective look at variability in recruitment estimates, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart.
  4. 4 Day, J 2012, School whiting (Sillago flindersi): further exploration of fixed projected catches, potential indicators and alternative harvest strategy analyses, in GN Tuck (ed.), Stock assessment for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery 2012, part 1, Australian Fisheries Management Authority and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart.
  5. 5 Sporcic, M 2015, Catch rate standardizations for selected SESSF species (data to 2014), CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart.
  6. 6 Thomson, R, Sporcic, M, Klaer, N, Fuller, M, Krucic-Golub, K and Upston, J 2015a, Data summary for the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery: logbook, landings and observer data to 2014, draft report prepared by CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship for AFMA, Canberra.
  7. 7 ShelfRAG 2014, “Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery Resource Assessment Group (ShelfRAG) minutes, 23-24 September 2014, Tasmania’, ShelfRAG, AFMA, Canberra
  8. 8 Georgeson, L, Nicol, S, Moore, A and Green, R 2016, Commonwealth Trawl and Scalefish Hook sectors, in H Patterson, R Noriega, L Georgeson, I Stobutzki and R Curtotti (eds), Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.
  9. 9 Dixon, PI, Crozier, RH, Black, M and Church, A 1987, Stock identification and discrimination of commercially important whitings in Australian waters using genetic criteria, final report, Fishing Industry Research Trust Account project 87/117, Centre for Marine Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney.
  10. 10 Kailola, PJ, Williams, MJ, Stuart, PC, Reichelt, RE, McNee, A and Grieve, C 1993, Australian fisheries resources, Bureau of Resource Sciences and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  11. 11 Shelf Resource Assessment Group 2011, 2010 stock assessment summaries for species assessed by ShelfRAG, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  12. 12 West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Doyle FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14, Fisheries Final Report Series.
  13. 13 Lyle, JM, Stark, KE, and Tracey, SR 2014, 2012–13 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  14. 14 Hall, KC 2015, Eastern School Whiting (Sillago flindersi), In: Stewart, J, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J (eds), Status of Fisheries Resources in NSW 201314, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, pp 113–116.
  15. 15 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2005, SESSF direction no. 05: gear requirements for the Commonwealth Trawl Sector, AFMA, Canberra.
  16. 16 Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Protected species interaction reports, AFMA, Canberra.
  17. 17 South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association 2007, Industry code of practice to minimise interactions with seals, SETFIA, Shearwater, Tasmania.
  18. 18 Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Seabirds, AFMA, Canberra.
  19. 19 AFMA 2016, AFMA moves to strengthen seabird safety, AFMA media release 15 July 2016, July 2016.
  20. 20 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2014, Commonwealth Trawl Sector (Otter Board Trawl and Danish Seine) bycatch and discarding workplan 2014 - 2016, AFMA, Canberra.
  21. 21 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2014, Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector bycatch and discarding workplan 2014 – 2016, AFMA, Canberra
  22. 22 Wayte, S, Bulman, C, Dowdney, J, Sporcic, M, Williams, A, Fuller, M and Smith, A 2007a, Ecological risk assessment for the effects of fishing: report for the Danish seine sub-fishery of the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, final report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority R04/1072, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  23. 23 Wayte, S, Dowdney, J, Williams, A, Bulman, C, Sporcic, M, Fuller, M and Smith, A 2007b, Ecological risk assessment for the effects of fishing: report for the otter trawl sub-fishery of the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, final report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority R04/1072, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  24. 24 Museums Victoria, Fishes of Australia: Spiny Pipehorse, Solegnathus spinosissimus, found at

Archived reports

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