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Golden Snapper

Lutjanus johnii

  • Thor Saunders (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • Malcolm Keag (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Stephen Newman (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)
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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Queensland East Coast ECIFFF Undefined Catch,
Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria GOCDFFTF, GOCLF Sustainable Catch, standardised CPUE
Northern Territory Northern Territory CLF, DF, FTO, TRF Overfished Catch, biomass, egg production
Western Australia Western Australia NDSMF, PTMF, PFTIMF Sustainable Catch
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
FTO
Fishery Tour Operator (NT)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
NDSMF
Northern Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
PTMF, PFTIMF
Pilbara Trap Managed Fishery, Pilbara Fish Trawl (Interim) Managed Fishery (WA)
TRF
Timor Reef Fishery (NT)
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Stock Structure

Golden Snapper is a widespread Indo–Pacific species that is found from the Pilbara region of Western Australia and across northern Australia to the east coast of Queensland. The stock structure for this species has been investigated across the full extent of its Australian range1. The results indicated that many separate stocks may exist at the scale of tens of km1.

However, given the recent nature of these findings, here the assessment of stock is presented at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia and Northern Territory; and the management unit level—Gulf of Carpentaria and East coast (Queensland).

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Stock Status

Western Australia

Golden Snapper is not a commercial target species in the demersal fisheries of Western Australia, but is landed in small quantities as by-product (less than 0.5 tonnes [t] in 2015). Golden Snapper are landed by recreational and charter fishers, primarily in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, but only in small quantities (around 5 t per year)2. The low catches of Golden Snapper in Western Australia, occur in a limited area in comparison to the distribution of the species, indicating that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished, and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Golden Snapper in Western Australia is classified as a sustainable stock.

Northern Territory

The most recent assessment3 provided an update of the 2011 stock reduction analysis model4 and included data up until 2014. It estimated that biomass and egg production were 18 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, of the unfished level (1973), indicating this stock is recruitment overfished. Given the recent new information on the stock structure of this species, it is likely that the assessment incorporates several populations. The results are driven by the populations with the highest harvest rates so the status for the Northern Territory can be assumed to be representative of the highest level of exploitation that occurs on any population. The most heavily fished area is the waters around Darwin, where most of the fishing pressure occurs. In this area, abundance, catch and catch rate have substantially declined over the past 10 years3. The fisheries accessing these exploited stocks operate inshore, including the Coastal Line Fishery, Barramundi Fishery, Fishing Tour Operators and recreational fishers. There are populations of Golden Snapper in waters off Arnhem Land, the Gulf of Carpentaria and offshore of population centres in the Northern Territory that are unlikely to be overfished because they have been subject to low fishing pressure1.

Catch limits and area closures were implemented in 2015 to reduce harvest by an estimated 50 per cent, to allow for the biomass of Golden Snapper stocks to recover4. This level of fishing pressure is expected to allow the stock to recover from its recruitment overfished state; however, measurable improvements in biomass are yet to be detected.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Golden Snapper in the Northern Territory is classified as an overfished stock.

Gulf of Carpentaria

In the Gulf of Carpentaria management unit, Golden Snapper is mainly harvested by the commercial sector. There is no reliable estimate of recreational harvest. Harvest from the adjacent Northern Territory jurisdiction has been low in recent years.

Queensland commercial catches remained stable at 20–35 t over the decade to 2011, with most fish taken by the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (Queensland) (GOCDFFTF). Fish trawl effort in the Gulf of Carpentaria declined markedly from 2012–14 as a result of trawl effort being transferred to areas in the Northern Territory (outside the Gulf) for commercial reasons. In 2015, catch was low, at 5 t.

Standardised catch rates (calculated to 2009) in the trawl fishery showed declines after 2006, to around half the long-term average5. Observer surveys over the period 2004–06 also showed that most Golden Snapper caught in the GOCDFFTF were smaller than the size at maturity (unpublished data). However, the maximum sustainable yield for the species in the eastern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria was estimated at approximately 60 t6 and catch has never exceeded half this level. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

East Coast

Golden Snapper off the Queensland east coast is mainly harvested by the recreational sector, and no stock assessment has been undertaken to estimate current biomass in relation to unfished biomass in this management unit. Estimated recreational landed catch remained stable between 2000 (around 15 000 fish) and 2010 (around 14 000 fish), but then declined to around 6000 fish in 2013–147. According to the 2013–14 survey, two-thirds of recreationally-caught fish were released. Given that this species suffers substantial post-release mortality from barotrauma8, the total fishing mortality by this sector is likely to be higher.

The species is taken as minor by-product in the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland), predominantly by set mesh net. Annual commercial catches increased from less than 1 t per year from 2000–08, to a peak of 10 t in 2011. Catches from 2012 declined from this peak, and in 2015 the catch was around 7 t.

No indices of abundance have been estimated, and there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the East coast (Queensland) management unit is classified as an undefined stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Golden Snapper 30 years; 990 mm FL, 15 kg Northern Territory: Males 520 mm TL (7 years), Females 560 mm TL (8 years) Cape York: Males 620 mm FL (9 years), Females 640 mm (6 years) North Queenslanda: Males 590 mm (6 years), Females 690 mm (10 years) Western Australia: ~420 mm FL (4–6 years)

Golden Snapper biology8,9

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Golden Snapper

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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia Northern Territory Queensland
Commercial
Various
Line
Otter Trawl
Unspecified
Pots and Traps
Net
Recreational
Spearfishing
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Indigenous
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Spearfishing
Management methods
Method Western Australia Northern Territory Queensland
Commercial
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Spatial zoning
Total allowable catch
Total allowable effort
Vessel restrictions
Indigenous
Laws of general application
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Limited entry
Passenger restrictions
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Spatial zoning
Active vessels
Western Australia Northern Territory Queensland
8 in NDSMF 14 in BF, 24 in CLF, 8 in DF, 8 in TRF 28 in ECIFFF, 2 in GOCDFFTF, 1 in GOCLF
BF
Barramundi Fishery (NT)
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
NDSMF
Northern Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
TRF
Timor Reef Fishery (NT)
Catch
Western Australia Northern Territory Queensland
Commercial 189.00kg in NDSMF 3.60t in CLF, 18.90t in DF, 9.77t in FTO, 533.25kg in TRF 7.15t in ECIFFF, 5.40t in GOCDFFTF, 80.00kg in GOCLF
Indigenous Unknown Unknown Unknown
Recreational 3.08 t, 1.96 t 15 t in FTO, 72 t (2010) 0.8 t, 6 000 fish (in 2013–14)
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
FTO
Fishery Tour Operator (NT)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
NDSMF
Northern Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (WA)
TRF
Timor Reef Fishery (NT)

Indigenousbc Commercial (catch)d

 

a Queensland – Commercial (fishing methods) In Queensland, Golden Snapper is trawled in only one of the Queensland fisheries in which it is caught commercially - the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery.

b In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are able 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.

c Subject to the defence that applies under Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

d East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland) catch is reported by financial year.

e Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Boat-based recreational catch from 1 May 2013–30 April 2014.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Golden Snapper

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Golden Snapper is mainly targeted in all sectors by fishers using lines. Beyond the catch of targeted species and a small quantity of bycatch species, there is little evidence to suggest that this gear significantly impacts on benthic or pelagic ecological communities.
  • Commercial trawl gear used in the Northern Territory, and Queensland (Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery only), has the potential to impact on the benthic habitat. However, trawl nets in these waters have been designed to fish off the seabed, reducing interaction with benthic habitats10. Additionally, the trawl fleet is very small and only fishes around seven per cent of the available area10.
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Environmental effects on Golden Snapper

  • The impact of environmental factors on Golden Snapper stocks is largely unknown. However, the juvenile and larval phases of this species inhabit estuaries and coastal bays, making these phases of the life cycle vulnerable to changes in ocean current, strength and direction, rainfall, river flow, water temperature, salinity and pH8.
  • In relation to water temperature, Golden Snapper size and growth rates appear to vary with latitude, with fish further south showing larger body size and faster growth rates11. Despite these differences, the age at maturity of Golden Snapper may remain relatively constant across different latitudes11.
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References

  1. 1 Saunders, TM, Welch, D, Barton, D, Crook, D, Dudgeon, C, Hearnden, M, Maher, S, Ovenden, J, Taillebois, L and Taylor J 2016, Optimising the management of tropical coastal reef fish through the development of Indigenous capability. FRDC final report 2013/017.
  2. 2 Newman, SJ, Wakefield, C, Skepper, C, Boddington, D, Blay, N, Jones, R and Dobson, P. 2015, North Coast Demersal Fisheries Status Report. pp. 189-206. In: Fletcher, W.J. and Santoro, K. (eds.). Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2014/15: The State of the Fisheries. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Perth, Australia. 353p.
  3. 3 Northern Territory Government 2016, Fishery Status Reports 2014, Northern Territory Government Department of Resources, fishery report 115.
  4. 4 Grubert, MA, Saunders, TM, Martin, JM, Lee, HS and Walters, CJ 2013, Stock assessments of selected Northern Territory fishes, Fishery report 110, Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Darwin.
  5. 5 O’Neill, MF, Leigh, GM, Martin, JM, Newman, SJ, Chambers, M, Dichmont, CM and Buckworth, RC 2011, Sustaining productivity of tropical Red Snappers using new monitoring and reference points, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2009/037, Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane.
  6. 6 Leigh, GM and O'Neill, MF 2016, Gulf of Carpentaria Finfish Trawl Fishery: Maximum Sustainable Yield, Agi-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
  7. 7 Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-14, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  8. 8 Welch, DJ, Robins, J, Saunders, T, Courtney, T, Harry, A, Lawson, E, Moore, BR, Tobin, A, Turnbull, C, Vance, D and Williams, AJ 2014, Implications of climate change impacts on fisheries resources of northern Australia, part 2: Species profiles, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2010/565, James Cook University, Townsville.
  9. 9 Hay, T, Knuckey, I, Calogeras, C and Errity, C 2005, Population and biology of the Golden Snapper, Fishery report 21, Northern Territory Government, Darwin.
  10. 10 Mounsey, RP and Ramm, DC 1991, Evaluation of a new design of semi-demersal trawl, Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin.
  11. 11 Cappo, M, Marriott, RJ and Newman, SJ 2013, James’s rule and causes and consequences of a latitudinal cline in the demography of John’s Snapper (Lutjanus johnii) in coastal waters of Australia, Fishery Bulletin, 111(4): 309–324.

Archived reports

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