Banana Prawn

Penaeus indicus, Penaeus merguiensis

  • James Larcombe (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Ian Jacobsen (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Mervi Kangas (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery NPF Sustainable Catch, CPUE, trigger limits
Northern Prawn Fishery (CTH)
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Stock Structure

In Australia the standard fish name Banana Prawn is a group name which refers to Penaeus merguiensis and Penaeus indicus1. Here, only Penaeus merguiensis is considered, and referred to as Banana Prawn. The biological stock structure of Banana Prawn is uncertain. There is some evidence that there may be separate biological stocks of Banana Prawn in the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth); however, the boundaries of the biological stocks are unknown2. Stocks in Western Australia and Queensland are widely separated, but it is not known whether these are completely independent stocks3.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth), Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (Western Australia), Nickol Bay and Onslow Prawn Managed Fisheries (Western Australia), Kimberley Prawn Managed Fishery (Western Australia) and East coast (Queensland).

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Stock Status

Northern Prawn Fishery

Recruitment of Banana Prawns in the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) (NPF) is highly variable and thought to be largely determined by seasonal environmental conditions, particularly rainfall4. As a result, a reliable stock–recruitment relationship has not been established and no formal stock assessment has been conducted for this stock and status determination is based on a weight-of-evidence approach.

The harvest strategy for Banana Prawns in the NPF is designed to facilitate the capture of larger prawns, while allowing for sufficient escapement to ensure adequate remaining spawning biomass, thereby preventing growth and recruitment overfishing and providing higher returns by minimising the capture of small prawns. This is achieved by controlling the timing of the fishing season (which impacts prawn size) and the length of the season, the end of which is determined using catch-rate thresholds5. The harvest strategy is designed to perform effectively under conditions of substantial variation in biomass, which are largely environmentally-driven. Although fishing mortality is thought to have been high for Banana Prawns in some years6, the species has shown resilience to fishing pressure, with strong subsequent recruitment following historical high levels of catch.

In 2015, total reported commercial landings were 3901 tonnes (t), slightly below the average catch of the preceding 10 years (2006–15) of 4475 t. These catch levels indicate that that the biomass available in 2015 was close to the 10-year average. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished7.

The harvest strategy for Banana Prawns causes the closure of the season when catch rates fall below a trigger level that is associated with permitting sufficient prawns to escape to ensure an adequate spawning biomass for subsequent recruitment (based on an analysis of historical data5). Harvesting of Banana Prawns has been undertaken in accordance with this harvest strategy for almost a decade. During this period, Banana Prawn annual recruitment (as evidenced by catches) has been maintained and continued a pattern of high natural variability from year-to-year.

Effort expended on Banana Prawns in the NPF in 2015 was 2249 vessel days with a fleet of some 50 vessels. This is below the average for the most recent decade (2815 days, with a fleet of some 50 vessels) and substantially below effort in previous decades which were well in excess of 4000 days and with a substantially larger fleet.

The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished7.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Banana Prawn biology2,3,12

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Banana Prawn 1–2 years; >240 mm TL  ~6 months; 120–150 mm CL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Banana Prawn

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Fishing methods
Otter Trawl
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Vessel restrictions
Active vessels
53 in NPF
Northern Prawn Fishery (CTH)
Commercial 3.90Kt in NPF
Northern Prawn Fishery (CTH)

a 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.
b 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.
c Queensland – Indigenous In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers 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 can be obtained through permits.
d New South Wales – Indigenous 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Banana Prawn - note confidential catch not shown

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • The impact of trawling on habitats is managed in all jurisdictions. In Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) occupies 63 per cent of the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (ECOTF)12, 34 per cent of which is open to trawling13, but effort is highly aggregated, occurring within only a small fraction of the open area. South of the GBRMP, the fishery operates in only 10 per cent of the area open to trawling14. In Western Australia, extensive permanent and temporary closures result in the fleet operating in less than 30 per cent of the Exmouth Gulf, and less than 3 per cent of the north coast region12. Fishing operations are restricted to areas of sand and mud, where trawling has minimal long-term physical impact15–19. The Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) (NPF) also uses a system of closures (spatial and seasonal) to manage the fishery, as well as other input controls (for example, limited entry, gear restrictions). A total of 2.1 per cent of the total managed area of the fishery is subject to permanent closures, and 8.3 per cent is subject to seasonal closures19.
  • Although the incidental capture of byproduct and bycatch species by trawling can lead to a range of ecosystem effects20, studies in Queensland and Western Australia found no significant difference in biodiversity or overall distribution patterns of seabed biota between trawled and non-trawled areas18,21. An assessment of trawl-related risk in the GBRMP found that the ECOTF posed no more than an intermediate risk of overfishing species assemblages exposed to trawling8. Spatial contraction and/or temporal reduction in effort in these jurisdictions (see above) are likely to have mitigated the ecosystem impacts of trawling. Similarly, in the NPF, the ecological risk management report identifies priority species at high risk. However, no target or protected species have been assessed as high risk because of the fishery22.
  • The use of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in trawling can significantly reduce bycatch—by more than 50 per cent by weight in some fisheries23. In the ECOTF, the use of BRDs became mandatory in 1999, and the introduction of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in 2001 largely eliminated capture of most large bycatch species, including turtles, sharks and rays24. BRDs and TEDs became mandatory in the NPF in 2001. Use of TEDs in the NPF reduced turtle bycatch from 5700 individuals per year (pre-2001) to approximately 30 per year (post-2001)12. The introduction of TEDs in the Western Australian trawl fisheries in 2003 reduced turtle bycatch by more than 95 per cent25. BRDs and TEDs have been mandatory in the Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (Western Australia) since 2003 and in all northern Western Australian prawn fisheries since 2005. All prawn trawlers operating in Western Australia must use TEDs and BRDs, including secondary fish exclusion devices and hoppers to increase survival of returned fish. Commitment to continuous improvement in bycatch mitigation has facilitated increased use of best-practice TEDs and BRDs in the ECOTF since 2008. Recent ecological risk assessments of the fishery have acknowledged the reduced impact of trawling and a general absence of high risk of overfishing bycatch species8,13.
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Environmental effects on Banana Prawn

  • The abundance of prawns can be highly variable. It is influenced by environmental factors, including water temperatures, cyclones and broad-scale oceanographic features4.
  • River flow as a result of rainfall is highly correlated with offshore commercial catches of Banana Prawns3,4. In the south-eastern Gulf of Carpentaria, it has been suggested that increased river flow has different effects on different stages of the Banana Prawn life cycle: high flows can increase emigration of juveniles from estuaries; increased flows can prevent immigration, settlement and survival of post-larvae; and rainfall run-off may increase overall productivity, through the contribution of increased nutrient input to increased growth and survival rates3.
  • The 2013 catch was the second-highest on record in the East coast (Queensland) management unit, almost all (98 per cent) of which was taken south of Mackay8. Clustering of high catches among neighbouring regional sub-stocks is believed to be in response to major flooding of central and southern Queensland streams, following record rainfall associated with Tropical Cyclone Oswald in January 201325.
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  1. 1 Ma, KY, Chan, T-Y and Chu, KH 2011, Refuting the six-genus classification of Penaeus s.l. (Dendrobranchiata, Penaeidae): a combined analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Zoologica Scripta, 40: 498–508.
  2. 2 Yearsley, GK, Last, PR and Ward, RD 1999, Australian seafood handbook: domestic species, CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart.
  3. 3 Tanimoto, M, Courtney, AJ, O’Neil, MF and Leigh, GM 2006, Stock assessment of the Queensland (Australia) east coast banana prawn (Penaeus merguiensis), Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  4. 4 Venables, WN, Hutton, T, Lawrence, E, Rothlisberg, P, Buckworth, R, Hartcher, M and Kenyon, R 2011, Prediction of common banana prawn potential catch in Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  5. 5 Dichmont, CM, Jarrett, A, Hill, F and Brown, M 2014, Harvest strategy for the Northern Prawn Fishery under input control, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  6. 6 Zhou, S, Dichmont, CM, Burridge, CY, Venables, WV, Toscas, PJ and Vance, D 2007, Is catchability density-dependent for schooling prawns?, Fisheries Research, 85: 23–36.
  7. 7 Larcombe, J  and Bath, A 2016, Northern Prawn Fishery, 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.
  8. 8 Fletcher, WJ and Santoro, K (eds) (in prep.), State of the fisheries and aquatic resources report 2014/15, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  9. 9 Pears, RJ, Morison, AK, Jebreen, EJ, Dunning, MC, Pitcher, CR, Courtney, AJ, Houlden, B and Jacobsen, IP 2012, Ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: technical report, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.
  10. 10 Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in prep., An ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Trawl Fishery in Southern Queensland including the River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery, Queensland DAFF, Brisbane.
  11. 11 O’Neill, MF and Leigh, GM 2007, Fishing power increases continue in Queensland’s East Coast Trawl Fishery, Australia, Fisheries Research, 85: 84–92.
  12. 12 Huber, D 2003, Audit of the management of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville,
  13. 13 Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2014, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop 2014, 5–6 June 2014, Brisbane, Queensland DAFF, Brisbane.
  14. 14 Coles, R, Grech, A, Dew, K, Zeller, B and McKenzie, L 2008, A preliminary report on the adequacy of protection provided to species and benthic habitats in the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery by the current system of closures, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  15. 15 Kangas, M, McCrea, J, Fletcher, W, Sporer, E and Weir, V 2006, Shark Bay Prawn Fishery, ESD report series 3, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, North Beach.
  16. 16 Kangas, M, McCrea, J, Fletcher, W, Sporer, E and Weir, V 2006, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Fishery, ESD report series 1, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, North Beach.
  17. 17 Kangas, M, Morrison, S, Unsworth, P, Lai, E, Wright, I and Thomson, A 2007, Development of biodiversity and habitat monitoring systems for key trawl fisheries in Western Australia, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2002/038, Fisheries research report 160, Fisheries Western Australia, North Beach.
  18. 18 Kangas, M and Morrison, S 2013, Trawl impacts and biodiversity management in Shark Bay, Western Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 64: 1135–1155.
  19. 19 Dayton, PK, Thrush, SF, Agardy, MT and Hofman, RJ 1995, Environmental effects of fishing, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 5: 205–232.
  20. 20 Pitcher, CR, Doherty, P, Arnold, P, Hooper, J, Gribble, N, Bartlett, C, Browne, M, Campbell, N, Cannard, T, Cappo, M, Carini, G, Chalmers, S, Cheers, S, Chetwynd, D, Colefax, A, Coles, R, Cook, S, Davie, P, De’ath, G, Devereux, D, Done, B, Donovan, T, Ehrke, B, Ellis, N, Ericson, G, Fellegara, I, Forcey, K, Furey, M, Gledhill, D, Good, N, Gordon, S, Haywood, M, Jacobsen, I, Johnson, J, Jones, M, Kinninmoth, S, Kistle, S, Last, P, Leite, A, Marks, S, McLeod, I, Ozkowicz, S, Rose, C, Seabright, D, Sheils, J, Sherlock, M, Skelton, P, Smith, D, Smith, G, Speare, P, Stowar, M, Strickland, C, Sutcliffe, P, Van der Geest, C, Venables, W, Walsh, C, Wassenberg, T, Welna, A and Yearsley, G 2007, Seabed biodiversity on the continental shelf of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, Queensland Museum, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and CRC Reef Research Centre, task final report, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.
  21. 21 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2012, Ecological risk management: report for the Northern Prawn Fishery Tiger and Banana Prawn sub-fisheries, report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  22. 22 Raudzens, E 2007, At sea testing of the popeye fishbox bycatch reduction device onboard the FV Adelaide Pearl for approval in Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  23. 23 Roy, D and Jebreen, E 2011, Extension of Fisheries Research and Development Corporation funded research results on improved bycatch reduction devices to the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2008/101, FRDC, Canberra.
  24. 24 Griffiths, S, Kenyon, R, Bulman, C, Dowdney, J, Williams, A, Sporcic, M and Fuller, M 2007, Ecological risk assessment for the effects of fishing: report for the Northern Prawn Fishery, report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  25. 25 Bureau of Meteorology 2013, Special Climate Statement 44: extreme rainfall and flooding in coastal Queensland and New South Wales, 5 February 2013, BOM, Melbourne.

Archived reports

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