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Southern Garfish

Hyporhamphus melanochir

  • Mike Steer (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Corey Green (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Kim Smith (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Western Australia South Coast (Western Australia) SCEMF, WL (SC) Undefined Trends in catch and effort
Western Australia West Coast (Western Australia) CSFNMF, WL (WC), WCEMF Overfished Fishing mortality, age composition, trends in catch and effort
CSFNMF, WL (WC)
Cockburn Sound Crab Managed Fishery, Open access in the West Coast (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCEMF
West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)
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Stock Structure

Southern Garfish has a wide distribution in Australia, extending from Lancelin in Western Australia, along the southern coast of mainland Australia and up the east coast to Eden in southern New South Wales, as well as the surrounding waters of Tasmania1.

 

There has been no research into the stock structure of Western Australian populations of Southern Garfish. However, given the limited dispersal typically displayed by Southern Garfish, and the large spatial separation between the west and south coasts of Western Australia, it is likely that the west and south coast support separate biological stocks of this species2,3. The majority of West coast landings are from Cockburn Sound, and the majority of South coast landings are from Wilson Inlet. Southern Garfish spawn within Wilson Inlet, maintaining a self-sustaining population within this estuary, which is usually separated from the ocean by a sand bar, and the two main fisheries almost certainly target separate stocks.

 

In Victoria, there has been no research into the stock structure for populations of Southern Garfish. In Tasmania, differences in size and age composition between the north coast and the east coast indicate that there may be multiple biological stocks; however, no firm evidence exists at present, and current stock assessments assume a single state-wide biological stock4.

 

A multidisciplinary otolith-based study (otolith chemistry and morphometrics) identified at least five biological stocks in South Australia: West Coast, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and Southern Gulf St. Vincent2. Given the level of spatial separation of Southern Garfish observed within the gulfs, it was assumed that Southern Garfish from the south-east also comprised a separate biological stock.

 

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—West coast and South coast (Western Australia); Scalefish Fishery (Tasmania); West Coast, Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Gulf St. Vincent, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and South East (South Australia); and at the jurisdictional level—Victoria.

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Stock Status

West Coast (Western Australia)

Cockburn Sound is the main fishery for Southern Garfish in the West Coast Bioregion. About 80 per cent of commercial landings and an estimated 50 per cent of recreational landings of this species in the WCB are taken in Cockburn Sound. The current assessment of the Cockburn Sound stock is based on commercial and recreational catch rate trends, age structure from historic (1998–99) and recent (2010–11) years, fishing mortality and spawning potential ratio.

 

Catch rates in Cockburn Sound have followed a declining trend since the late-1990s, which accelerated after 2011 following an unprecedented oceanic heatwave event along the west coast6,7. The current catch is less than 10 per cent of 1990s level. The stock appears to have suffered poor recruitment during the heatwave. Catch rates were at historically low levels in 2015. The age structure is heavily truncated and older fish are absent from the population 8. The modal age of Southern Garfish declined, from 2 years in 1998–99 to 1 year in 2010–11 and the proportion of fish aged greater than 2 years fell from 30 per cent to less than five per cent over the period. The spawning potential ratio suggested that the spawning stock was around 20 per cent of the unfished level in 2010–11. The assessment indicates that the Cockburn Sound stock has been declining since the late-1990s, mainly due to overexploitation. The stock level is currently extremely low and this depleted state of the stock made it vulnerable to collapse after poor recruitment during the 2011 heatwave event. The above evidence indicates that the stock is likely to be recruitment overfished. A management strategy is currently being developed to help this stock recover.

Total mortality (Z) was estimated to be 0.90 per year in 1998–99 and 1.57 per year in 2010–11, indicating a substantial increase in fishing pressure in Cockburn Sound, and a 50 per cent decline in survivorship. The rate of fishing mortality (F) in 2010–11 was estimated to be about twice the rate of rate of natural mortality (M). This level of fishing pressure is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the West coast (Western Australia) biological stock is classified as an overfished stock.

South Coast (Western Australia)

In the past 5 years (2011–15), 76 per cent of South coast commercial landings of Southern Garfish were from Wilson Inlet. The current assessment of the Wilson Inlet stock is based on commercial catch and catch rate trends.

 

Since 2003, the annual catch in Wilson Inlet was relatively stable, and the catch rate has increased slightly, suggesting that the biomass has remained stable and that this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished. However, the catch rate may not be a reliable index of abundance due to the multispecies nature of this fishery, which prevents targeted effort from being quantified. There is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South coast (Western Australia) biological stock is classified as an undefined stock.

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Biology

Southern Garfish biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Southern Garfish South Australia: 10 years, 380 mm TL  Tasmania: 9.5 years; 460 mm TL Western Australia: 12 years; 430 mm TL Western Australia: 12 months; 230 mm TL South Australia: 18 months; 190 mm TL Victoria: 19 months; 210 mm TL Tasmania: 22 months; 200 mm TL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Southern Garfish

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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia
Commercial
Various
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Indigenous
Bag limits
Recreational
Bag limits
Licence
Active vessels
Western Australia
1 in CSFNMF, 27 in SCEMF, 11 in WCEMF, 69 in WL (SC), 15 in WL (WC)
CSFNMF
Cockburn Sound (Fish Net) Managed Fishery (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCEMF
West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)
WL (WC)
Open Access in the West Coast (WA)
Catch
Western Australia
Commercial 2.37t in CSFNMF, WL (WC), 4.96t in SCEMF, 5.00kg in WCEMF, 2.27t in WL (SC)
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational <1 t (boat-based only)
CSFNMF, WL (WC)
Cockburn Sound Crab Managed Fishery, Open access in the West Coast (WA)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCEMF
West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WL (SC)
Open Access in the South Coast (WA)

a Victoria – Indigenous In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing are also applied to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Recognised Traditional Owners (groups that hold native title or have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 [Vic]) are exempt (subject to conditions) from the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, and can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise customary fishing (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). The Indigenous category in Table 3 refers to customary fishing undertaken by recognised Traditional Owners. In 2015, there were no applications for customary fishing permits to access Southern Garfish.
b Victoria – 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 Victorian recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.
c South Australia – Commercial (catch) Data for the Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) and the Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) have been combined because of confidentiality requirements.
d Tasmania – Recreational (management methods) In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine.e Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous people engaged in fishing activities in marine waters are exempt from holding recreational fishing licences, but must comply with all other fisheries rules as if they were licensed. Additionally, recreational bag and possession limits also apply. If using pots, rings, set lines or gillnets, aborigines must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a Unique Identifying Code (UIC) to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC .

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Southern Garfish

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • There is no indication that the hauling nets used to target Southern Garfish adversely interrupt the normal ecological processes of fish and invertebrates that occupy shallow seagrass habitats12.
  • These nets are typically lightweight, and consist of a ‘pocket’ end and lateral ‘wings’. The wings, which generally have a smaller mesh size than the pocket, are specifically designed to herd fish inhabiting surface waters into the pocket of the net, rather than enmesh them throughout the entire water column. Fish that accumulate within the pocket are manually brailed out with a handheld net, and are released or retained at the discretion of the fisher. The design and performance of these hauling nets ensures that post-release mortality of incidental bycatch is reduced, as non-targeted species can be released alive and in relatively good condition13.
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Environmental effects on Southern Garfish

  • The impact of environmental factors on Southern Garfish stocks is unknown.
  • Southern Garfish are strongly associated with seagrass habitat at all life history stages. Degradation/loss of seagrass habitat is likely to negatively impact on local Southern Garfish stocks.
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References

  1. 1 Gomon, M, Bray, D and Kuiter, R 2008, Fishes of Australia’s southern coast, New Holland Publishers, Australia.
  2. 2 Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ and Gillanders, BM 2009, Spatial management of Garfish in South Australia – stock structure and adult movement, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2007/029, Canberra.
  3. 3 Ye, Q, Jones, GK, McGlennon, D, Ayvazian, S and Coutin, P 2002, Fisheries Biology and Habitat Ecology of Southern Sea Garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Southern Australian Waters, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 1997/133, Canberra.
  4. 4 Emery, TJ, Lyle, J and Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian scalefish fishery assessment 2014/15, The Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Tasmania.
  5. 5 Steer, MA, McGarvey, R, Carroll, J, Burch, Jackson, WB, Lloyd, MT, Feenstra, JE 2016, Southern Garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) Fishery, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), SARDI publication F2007/000720-4, SARDI Research Report Series 891, Adelaide.
  6. 6 Pearce, A, Lenenton, R, Jackson, G, Moore, J, Feng, M and Gaughan, D 2011, The “Marine Heat Wave” off Western Australia during the Summer of 2010/11, Fisheries Research Report 222, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  7. 7 Fletcher WJ and Santoro K. 2015, Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2014/15: State of the Fisheries. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Perth.
  8. 8 Smith K, Dowling C., Mountford S., Hesp A., Howard A. and Brown J. in press, Status of nearshore finfish stocks in south-western Western Australia. Part 4: Southern garfish. Research Report No. 271. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  9. 9 Conron S, Green C., Hamer, P., Giri K., and Hall K 2016, Corner Inlet- Nooramunga Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 11.
  10. 10  Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey, Fisheries Research Development Corporation project 99/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  11. 11 Lyle JM, Stark KE, Tracey SR 2014, 2012–13 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  12. 12 Otway, NM and McBeth, WG 1999, Physical effects of hauling on seagrass beds, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 95/149 and 96/286, Canberra.
  13. 13 Fowler, AJ, Lloyd, M and Schmarr, D 2009, South A preliminary consideration of by-catch in the Marine Scalefish fishery of South Australia, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), SARDI publication F2009/000097-1, SARDI Research Report Series 365, Adelaide.

Archived reports

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