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Saddletail Snapper

Lutjanus malabaricus

  • Julie Martin (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • Corey Wakefield (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)
  • 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 Queensland CRFFF Undefined Catch
Queensland Northern Australia GOCDFFTF, GOCLF Sustainable Catch, CPUE, SRA
CRFFF
Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
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Stock Structure

Saddletail Snapper is a widespread Indo-Pacific species found from Shark Bay in Western Australia, across northern Australia to the east coast of Queensland1. Genetic studies indicate that the species is comprised of three biological stocks: the North Coast Bioregion biological stock, the Northern Australian biological stock (including the Timor Sea, Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria) and the East coast of Queensland biological stock2,3.

Here, assessments of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—North Coast Bioregion (Western Australia), Northern Australia (Northern Territory and Queensland) and East coast Queensland.

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Stock Status

Northern Australia

This cross-jurisdictional biological stock has components in the Northern Territory and Queensland. Each jurisdiction assesses that part of the biological stock that occurs in its waters. Status presented here for the entire biological stock has been established using evidence from both jurisdictions.

For the Northern Territory component of this biological stock (where most of the commercial catch is taken), Saddletail Snapper was assessed in 2013 using a stochastic stock reduction analysis (SRA) model6. Egg production in 2013 was estimated to be around 80 per cent of that prior to the start of the fishery. This part of the stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished.

The Northern Territory manages the commercial harvest of Saddletail Snapper and Crimson Snapper together as ‘red snappers’ with a combined total allowable commercial catch of 3800 t. Saddletail Snapper has averaged 78 per cent of the annual red snapper catch over the past 10 years, with the 2015 commercial catch of this species being 1756 t. Trawl effort and catch per unit effort have both increased since 2012. The 2013 assessment indicated that the current harvest rate of Saddletail Snapper is well below that required to achieve maximum sustainable yield (MSY). This level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause this part of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

For the Queensland part of the biological stock, commercial catch in 2015 was 67 t, constituting four per cent of the total 2015 Saddletail Snapper catch from the biological stock. This contrasts with catches of 150–250 t per year during the period 2006–11 and catches of 0–23 t during the period 2012–14. The MSY for this part of the stock is approximately 150 t7 and the average catch from 2006–15 was slightly below this level. This part of the stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished.

The catch (67 t) in the Queensland part of the biological stock in 2015 was well below the MSY however, the current quota does not constrain catch below the MSY. This level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause this part of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Northern Australian biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

East Coast Queensland

Saddletail Snapper is taken in both the commercial and recreational sectors, probably in similar numbers.

Recreational harvest estimates group Saddletail Snapper and Crimson Snapper together because these two species are often not separately identified. The recreational harvest of these species was estimated at approximately 73 000 fish in 2013–148, similar to the estimates in 2000 and 20129. The relative proportions of the two species in this figure are not known.

Since 2004, commercial harvest has declined from an average of 150 t per year to around 50 t per year. This decrease coincided with expansion of no-take marine reserves within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the introduction of a quota management system for coral reef finfish species. Both management interventions are likely to have influenced commercial harvest. Commercial harvest is not effectively constrained as this species is managed as part of the ‘other species’ quota category, which comprises many other coral reef finfish species. There is a cap on the total catch for the group, but no individual cap on any one species within the group. Although recreational fishing effort is not capped, the present level of combined fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

Current information on population composition is unavailable and no stock assessment has been completed. 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 biological stock is classified as an undefined stock.

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Biology

Saddletail Snapper biology10–13

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Saddletail Snapper Northern Australia: 33 years; 680 mm SL East coast north Queensland; 830 mm FL Northern Australia: 9 years; Males 270–280 mm SL, Females 350–370 mm SL East coast north Queensland: Females 566–586 mm FL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Saddletail Snapper

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Tables

Fishing methods
Queensland
Commercial
Line
Otter Trawl
Indigenous
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Queensland
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Total allowable catch
Vessel restrictions
Recreational
Passenger restrictions
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Active vessels
Queensland
119 in CRFFF, 0 in DWFFF, 2 in GOCDFFTF, 1 in GOCLF
CRFFF
Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
DWFFF
Deep Water Fin Fish fishery (QLD)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
Catch
Queensland
Commercial 63.49t in CRFFF, 66.91t in GOCDFFTF, 56.00kg in GOCLF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 14 t, 73 000 fish (in 2013-14)
CRFFF
Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
GOCDFFTF
Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
GOCLF
Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)

a Queensland For Queensland, the reporting period for the Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland) and Deep Water Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland) is financial year (2014–15).
b Queensland – Commercial (fishing methods) In Queensland, Saddletail 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
c Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) Under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are entitled 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.
d Indigenous (management methods) 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.
e Western Australia – Commercial (catch) For Pilbara Fish Trawl Interim Managed Fishery (Western Australia) and Pilbara Trap Managed Fishery (Western Australia), catch is unavailable as there were fewer than three vessels in the fishery.
f Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Boat-based recreational catch from 1 May 2013–30 April 2014.
g Northern Territory – Recreational (catch) Saddletail Snapper and Crimson Snapper catch were combined during the Northern Territory 2010 recreational fishing survey14 and the Queensland 2013–14 recreational fishing survey8.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Saddletail Snapper

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • The impacts on the benthic habitat of fishing activity for Saddletail Snapper are limited to those of the trawl fisheries, which is restricted to around seven per cent of the north-west shelf of Western Australia4 and parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland.
  • There are few bycatch issues associated with trap and line-based fishing. Bycatch of dolphins and turtles can occur in the fish trawls, but this has decreased significantly since the introduction of turtle excluder devices introduced in Western Australia in 2005 and the Northern Territory in 2006. Given the area of distribution and estimated population size of these protected species, the impact of the fish trawl fishery on the stocks of these protected species is likely to be minimal15,16. Gear and fishing modification continue to reduce this level of interaction4,16,17.
  • The Northern Territory fisheries that target Saddletail Snapper have received full Export Exemption accreditation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Western Australian and Queensland east coast fisheries that target Saddletail Snapper have received Approved Wildlife Trade Operation Exemptions accreditation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (except for the Pilbara Trap Managed Fishery [Western Australia], which does not export fish). These assessments, subject to adherence to any accompanying conditions and recommendations, demonstrate that these fisheries are managed in a manner that does not lead to overfishing, and that fishing operations have a minimal impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem.
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Environmental effects on Saddletail Snapper

  • Climate change and variability have the potential to impact fish stocks in a range of ways, including influencing their geographic distribution (for example, latitudinal shifts in distribution). However, it is unclear how climate change may affect risks to the sustainability of this species. Slow growing and long lived species such as Saddletail Snapper are less likely to be affected by short duration environmental changes (of one or a few years), with adult stocks comprising fish recruited over many years.
  • Changes in ocean chemistry such as ocean acidification have the potential to impact on the replenishment rates of fish populations by affecting larval survival18, and also individual growth rates and spawning output19.
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References

  1. 1 Newman, SJ 2002, Growth rate, age determination, natural mortality and production potential of the scarlet sea perch, Lutjanus malabaricus Schneider 1801, off the Pilbara coast of north-western Australia, Fisheries Research, 58: 215–225.
  2. 2 Elliot, NG 1996, Allozyme and mitochondrial DNA analysis of the tropical saddle-tail sea perch, Lutjanus malabaricus (Schneider), from Australian Waters, Marine and Freshwater Research, 47: 869–876.
  3. 3 Salini, J, Ovenden, J, Street, R, Pendrey, R, Haryantis and Ngurah 2006, Genetic population structure of red snappers (Lutjanus malabaricus Bloch and Schneider, 1801 and Lutjanus erythropterus Bloch, 1790) in central and eastern Indonesia and northern Australia, Journal of Fish Biology, 68(suppl. B): 217–234.
  4. 4 Fletcher, WJ and Santoro, K (eds.) 2015, 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.
  5. 5 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.) 2015. 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.
  6. 6 Martin, JM 2013, Stock assessment of Saddletail Snapper (Lutjanus malabaricus) in the Northern Territory Demersal and Timor Reef Fisheries, Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin, unpublished report.
  7. 7 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.
  8. 8 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.
  9. 9 Taylor, S, Webley, J and McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane.
  10. 10 Fry, G and Milton, DA 2009, Age, growth and mortality estimates for populations of red snappers Lutjanus erythropterus and L. malabaricus from northern Australia and eastern Indonesia, Fisheries Science, 75: 1219–1229.
  11. 11 Fry, G, Milton, DA, Van Der Velde, T, Stobutzki, I, Andamari, R, Badrudin and Sumiono, B 2009, Reproductive dynamics and nursery habitat preferences of two commercially important Indo–Pacific red snappers Lutjanus erythropterus and L. malabaricus, Fisheries Science, 75: 145–158.
  12. 12 McPherson, GR and Squire, L 1992, Age and growth of three dominant Lutjanus species of the Great Barrier Reef Inter-Reef Fishery, Asian Fisheries Science, 5, 25–36.
  13. 13 McPherson, GR, Squire, L and O'Brien, J 1992, Reproduction of three dominant Lutjanus species of the Great Barrier Reef Inter-Reef Fishery, Asian Fisheries Science, 5, 15-24.
  14. 14 West, LD, Lyle, J M, Matthews, S R, Stark, KE and Steffe, A S 2012, Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Northern Territory, 2009-10. Northern Territory Government, Australia. Fishery Report No. 109.
  15. 15 Wakefield, CS, Santana-Garcon, J, Dorman, SR, Blight, S, Denham, A, Wakeford, J, Molony, BW and Newman, SJ 2016, Performance of bycatch reduction devices varies for chondrichthyan, reptile, and cetacean mitigation in demersal fish trawls: assimilating subsurface interactions and unaccounted mortality, ICES Journal of Marine Science in press
  16. 16 Molony, BW, Wakefield, CB, Newman, SJ, O’Donoghue, S, Joll, L and Syers, C 2015, The need for a broad perspective concerning fisheries interactions and bycatch of marine mammals, pp.65-78, In: Kruse, GH, An, HC, DiCosimo, J, Eischens, CA, Gislason, GS, McBride, DN, Rose, CS and Siddon, CE (eds.). Fisheries Bycatch: Global Issues and Creative Solutions. Alaska Sea Grant, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
  17. 17 Northern Territory Government 2016, Status of Key Northern Territory Fish Stocks Report 2014. Northern Territory Government. Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries. Fishery Report No. 115.
  18. 18 Hughes, T 2010, Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility milestone report for program 2.5i.3, Fishery Report 111 , Department of Resources report to the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra.
  19. 19 Johnson, JE and Welch, DJ 2010, Marine fisheries management in a changing climate: a review of vulnerability and future options, Reviews in Fisheries Science, 18(1): 106–124.

Archived reports

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