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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
Northern Territory Northern Territory CLF, DF, FTO, TRF Overfished Catch, biomass, egg production
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
FTO
Fishery Tour Operator (NT)
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

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.

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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
Northern Territory
Commercial
Line
Otter Trawl
Unspecified
Pots and Traps
Recreational
Spearfishing
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Indigenous
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Northern Territory
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Vessel restrictions
Recreational
Gear restrictions
Licence
Limited entry
Passenger restrictions
Possession limit
Spatial closures
Active vessels
Northern Territory
14 in BF, 24 in CLF, 8 in DF, 8 in TRF
BF
Barramundi Fishery (NT)
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
TRF
Timor Reef Fishery (NT)
Catch
Northern Territory
Commercial 3.60t in CLF, 18.90t in DF, 9.77t in FTO, 533.25kg in TRF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 15 t in FTO, 72 t (2010)
CLF
Coastal Line Fishery (NT)
DF
Demersal Fishery (NT)
FTO
Fishery Tour Operator (NT)
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.

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