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Sand Whiting

Sillago ciliata

  • Jason McGilvray (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Karina Hall (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
New South Wales New South Wales EGF, OHF, OTF Sustainable Commercial catch and CPUE, length and age, mortality rate
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
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Stock Structure

Sand Whiting occur along the east coast of Australia and are most abundant in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Tagging studies have shown movement of adult fish between estuaries, but information on biological stock boundaries remains incomplete. The unknown nature of biological stock composition means no formal assessment of the entire biological stock has been completed. Separate assessments of Sand Whiting have been conducted in Queensland and New South Wales1–4.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Queensland and New South Wales.

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Stock Status

New South Wales

The median commercial catch rates (nominal) of Sand Whiting in New South Wales have fluctuated over the past 5 years. Catch rates declined in 2013, when historically low landings (79 t) and nominal effort were reported across all sectors8. In 2014–15, catch rates returned to previous levels, with an increase in landings (104 t and 87 t, respectively) while effort levels remained steady. Although commercial catches over the past 3 years were well below the long-term average of 145 t, this decrease corresponded with a similar decline in nominal effort. Estimates of recreational harvest also decreased from 230–460 t in 2000–01 to just 69 t in 2013–14, and while there was a concurrent drop in effort, the combined whiting catch rate decreased by 50 per cent between the two surveys. The length compositions of the commercial landings for this species have been relatively stable since the late-1960s. Local populations that have been studied are predominantly comprised of fish that are between 2 and 5 years of age3,8. Although there were some conflicting signals from the recreational sector that will be further monitored, there was enough uncertainty in the 2000–01 recreational estimates (because Sand Whiting catches were estimated from mixed whiting totals) to consider that the weight of the above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

Nominal effort levels (in number of fisher days) over the past 3 years have remained fairly steady, but are well below historical levels. In 2015, 12 182 days were reported for the Estuary General Fishery, 386 days for the Ocean Haul Fishery and 190 days for the Ocean Trawl Fishery–Prawn Sector8.The minimum legal length for both commercial and recreational fishers (270 mm TL), and spatial closures in New South Wales reduce fishing pressure on the spawning stock. Recent estimates of mortality, from catch curves, indicate that the rate of fishing mortality is less than that of natural mortality3. The above evidence indicates 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, Sand Whiting in New South Wales is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Sand Whiting 12 years; 510 mm TL Males 170–240 mm FL Females: 19–240 mm FL

Sand Whiting biology3,9–11

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Sand Whiting

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Tables

Fishing methods
New South Wales
Commercial
Gillnet
Unspecified - Seine
Otter Trawl
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Commercial
Fishing gear and method restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Indigenous
Bag limits
Fishing gear and method restrictions
Section 31 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority
Size limit
Spatial closures
Recreational
Bag limits
Fishing gear and method restrictions
In possession limits
Licence
Size limit
Spatial closures
Active vessels
New South Wales
255 in EGF, 27 in OHF, 24 in OTF
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
Catch
New South Wales
Commercial 76.21t in EGF, 8.43t in OHF, 1.91t in OTF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 69 t (2013–14)
EGF
Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
OHF
Ocean Hauling (NSW)
OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)

Indigenousa,b,c

a 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 bag limits and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations can be obtained through permits.

b 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 for themselves.

c Aboriginal cultural fishing authority—the authority to which 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Sand Whiting

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • In Queensland, coastal river and estuary set gillnets have been shown to have minimal impact on the environment and are quite selective in their harvest13. Bycatch is generally low when compared with the harvest of the target species13. Fishers using tunnel nets operate under industry-developed code of best practice guidelines14. Marine turtles are released with minimal difficulty, and undersized or unwanted catch is returned to the water alive.
  • In New South Wales, it has been shown that seining in estuaries can incur large amounts of bycatch of undersized organisms and unwanted species, but the use of appropriately sized mesh can reduce mortalities of these species15–18. Studies conducted in New South Wales indicate that mesh nets used in estuaries can incur substantial bycatches, including the capture of undersized individuals of key species19–21.
  • Seabirds and other marine life often become entangled in discarded recreational fishing tackle22. In south-east Queensland, a Fishing Line Recovery Bin program was instigated in 2012, in order to minimise the occurrence of discarded tackle at popular shore-based fishing locations.
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Environmental effects on Sand Whiting

  • Shallow marine habitats are important for juvenile Sand Whiting, particularly during recruitment periods8,23,24. Physical impacts on coastal marine vegetation, sub-surface topography and water quality would likely be detrimental to the Sand Whiting stock.
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References

  1. 1 Hoyle, S, Brown, I, Dichmont, C, Sellin, M, Cosgrove, M and McLennan, M 2000, Integrated fish stock assessment and monitoring program, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 94/161, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
  2. 2 O’Neill, MF 2000, Fishery assessment of the Burnett River, Maroochy River and Pumistone Passage, Project Report QO99012, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
  3. 3 Ochwada-Doyle, FA, Stocks, J, Barnes, L and Gray, CA 2014, Reproduction, growth and mortality of the exploited sillaginid, Sillago ciliata Cuvier, 1829, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 30: 870–880, doi: 10.1111/jai.21478.
  4. 4 Gray, CA, Pease, BC, Stringfellow, SL, Raines, LP, Rankin, BK and Walford, TR 2000, Sampling estuarine fish species for stock assessment, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 94/042, New South Wales Fisheries Research Institute, Cronulla.
  5. 5 Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry 2016, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop 2016, 13–14 June 2016, Brisbane, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  6. 6 Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
  7. 7 Butcher, PA, Broadhurst, MK and Brand, CP 2006, Mortality of sand whiting (Sillago ciliata) released by recreational anglers in an Australian estuary, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 63: 567–571.
  8. 8 Hall, KC 2015, Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), In: J Stewart, A Hegarty, C Young, AM Fowler and J Craig (eds), Status of fisheries resources in NSW 201314, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, 263–267.
  9. 9 Burchmore, JJ 1988, Biology of four species of Whiting (Pices : Sillaginidae) in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Marine and Freshwater Research, 39: 709–27.
  10. 10 McKay, RJ 1992, Sillaginid fishes of the world, vol. 14, FAO synopsis no. 125, Food and Agriculture Organisation.
  11. 11 Stocks, J, Stewart, J and Gray, CA 2011, Using otolith increment widths to infer spatial, temporal and gender variation in the growth of sand whiting Sillago ciliata, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 18: 121–131.
  12. 12 West, L.D, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2016, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14, Fisheries Final Report Series No. 150.
  13. 13 Halliday, IA, Ley, JA, Tobin, A, Garrett, R, Gribble, NA and Mayer, DG 2001, The effects of net fishing: addressing biodiversity and bycatch issues in Queensland inshore waters, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 97/206, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
  14. 14 Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association 2012, Moreton Bay tunnel net fishery code of best practice.
  15. 15 Gray, C, Larsen, R and Kennelly, S 2000, Use of transparent netting to improve size selectivity and reduce bycatch in fish seine nets, Fisheries Research, 45: 155–166.
  16. 16 Kennelly, SJ and Gray, CA 2000, Reducing the mortality of discarded undersize sand whiting Sillago ciliata in an estuarine seine fishery, Marine and Freshwater Research, 51: 749–53.
  17. 17 Gray, CA and Kennelly, SJ 2003, Catch characteristics of the commercial beach-seine fisheries in two Australian barrier estuaries, Fisheries Research, 63: 405–422.
  18. 18 Gray, CA and Kennelly, SJ 2001, Development of discard-reducing gears and practices in the estuarine prawn and fish haul fisheries of NSW, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 1997/207, New South Wales Fisheries, Cronulla.
  19. 19 Gray, CA, Broadhurst, MK, Johnson, DD and Young, DJ 2002, Management implications of discarding in an estuarine multi-species gill net fishery, Fisheries Research, 56: 177–192.
  20. 20 Gray, CA, Johnson, DD, Young, J and Broadhurst, MK 2004, Discards from the commercial gillnet fishery for dusky flathead, Platycephalus fuscus, in New South Wales, Australia: spatial variability and initial effects of change in minimum legal length of target species, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 11: 323–333.
  21. 21 Gray, CA, Johnson, DD, Broadhurst, MK and Young, DJ 2005, Seasonal, spatial and gear-related influences on relationships between retained and discarded catches in a multi-species gillnet fishery, Fisheries Research, 75: 56–72.
  22. 22 Campbell, M 2013, Tactical Research Fund: Reducing the impact of discarded recreational fishing tackle on coastal seabirds, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2011/057, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane.
  23. 23 Morton, RM 1985, The reproductive biology of Summer Whiting, Sillago ciliata, in Northern Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australian Zoologist, 21: 491–502.
  24. 24 West, RJ and King, RT 1996, Marine, brackish and freshwater fish communities in the vegetated and bare shallows of an Australian Coastal River, Estuaries, 19: 31–41.

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