Pomatomus saltatrix

  • Lenore Litherland (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • James Andrews (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria)
  • John Stewart (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Paul Lewis (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Queensland Eastern Australia ECIFFF Sustainable Biomass, catch, effort, fishery-dependent length and age frequency, estimates of total mortality rate
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
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Stock Structure

Genetic evidence indicates that there are two biological stocks of Tailor in Australia, one along the east coast and a second along the west coast1. The Eastern Australian biological stock is distributed from Bundaberg in southern Queensland along the entire New South Wales coast and into eastern Bass Strait in Victoria2. The Western Australian biological stock is distributed along the western coastline of Australia from Exmouth to Esperance3,4. Within each stock, multiple spawning groups may exist that spawn at different times and locations2,5,6. However, several characteristics, such as the dispersal of pelagic eggs and larvae with prevailing currents, the movement of juveniles into sheltered nearshore or estuarine habitats in northern and southern areas of the species range, and the seasonal migration behaviour of adults, suggest that a genetically homogenous population occurs on each coast2,3,5–7.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Western Australia and Eastern Australia.

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

Tailor is commonly fished throughout its distribution along the east coast of Australia. Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria each assess that part of the biological stock that occurs in their waters. The status presented here for the entire biological stock has been established using evidence from all three jurisdictions.

Tailor has a long history as a key fishery species for Indigenous, commercial and recreational fishers on the east coast. Since the 1970s, the Eastern Australian biological stock of Tailor has predominantly been targeted by the recreational fishery10. A recent assessment (2013)10,11 indicated that the total recreational and commercial harvest of Tailor from Queensland and New South Wales peaked in the mid-1970s and again in the mid-1990s. These peaks coincided with periods of high recruitment of fish into the fishery, conceivably when favourable environmental factors allowed larger numbers of young Tailor to thrive10. Between 2001 and 2008, recruitment was considered to be below average10. When assessed in 2008, the combined Queensland and New South Wales component of the stock was above 50 per cent of unfished biomass, and the total harvest was below the estimated maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of 1326 t10,11. For perspective, in 2015, the combined harvest of tailor in Queensland and New South Wales remains below the MSY identified in 200812–14.

In Queensland, fishery-dependent monitoring shows relatively consistent length structures between 2001 and 2015 and indicates a range of ages, including older fish (4–7 year olds), are present in the harvest12. These are positive indicators of a stable population with continuing recruitment. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of the Queensland part of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

In Queensland, management measures progressively introduced since 2002 have lowered fishing pressure, as indicated in the trends shown in harvest and effort for both recreational and commercial fisheries12. Commercial harvest reached historically low levels in 2013, and in 2015 remain low, relative to historic highs12. Commercial harvest effort (number of days fished and number of active licenses) remain low relative to the 10-year average12. Recreational harvest estimates in 2014 are low, relative to historic highs12,13 and there has been a reduction in the participation rate by recreational fishers in the south of the state where Tailor are most commonly caught13. The MLS (350 mm TL) is set above the size at maturity12,15, which reduces fishing pressure on the spawning stock and ensures that mature fish can spawn at least once before becoming available to the fishery. A seasonal closure also provides some protection of fish during the spawning period. Fishery-dependent age-frequency information shows evidence of continuing recruitment, with 2–5 year olds dominating the harvest12. Estimates of the total mortality rate from 2007–15 are high, but are considered to be within an acceptable range for this species12. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the Queensland component of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

In New South Wales, the length composition in commercial landings has remained consistent, typically ranging between 30 and 450 mm fork length16. Nominal commercial catch rates (kg per day of line fishing) have increased steadily since the late-1990s16. This above evidence indicates that the biomass of the New South Wales part of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

In New South Wales, the MLS (300 mm TL) corresponds to the size at maturity. The recreational fishery is subject to the minimum legal length and a possession limit of 20 fish per person. Fishing pressure is considered adequately controlled in the commercial fishery through restrictive daily trip limits of 100 kg per day (ocean haul nets) or 50 kg per day (other netting methods). As a result, commercial landings have been reasonably stable since the early-2000s. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the New South Wales component of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

In Victoria, most of the commercial catch of Tailor since 2007 has come from the Gippsland Lakes17. Tailor is a transient species that moves between the ocean and the lakes system in that location, such that catches and catch rates are influenced by availability of fish (and consequent high variability between years). The most recent assessment (2016)18 for Tailor in the Gippsland Lakes used the 5-year moving average commercial mesh net catch rate (kg per km per hour) as an indicator. These catch rates have increased since historical lows (0.2 kg per km per hour) in the mid-1990s to a peak of 2.5 kg per km per hour in 2012–13. Since 2012–13, the 5-year moving average catch rate has generally declined, but remains above the annual long-term average (based on a 32-year time series of data). The catch rates for this species are variable between years but show no evidence of a sustained decline. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of the Victorian part of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

In Victoria, the MLS (230 mm TL) is below the size at maturity. The recreational fishery is subject to the minimum legal length and a bag/possession limit of 20 fish per person. Although there is no recent estimate of the recreational harvest of Tailor in Victoria, historically it was much less than in Queensland and New South Wales8,12,14. Commercial catch in 2015 of 30.9 t was above the 10-year average (28.7 t) and the number of commercial operators is less now than it was 10 years ago. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the Victorian component of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

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

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Tailor biology4,6,7,15

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Tailor 11–13 years; 1200 mm TL  Eastern Australian biological stock:1–2 years; males 290 mm TL; females 310 mm TL Western Australian biological stock: 1–2 years; L50% 320 mm TL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Tailor

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Fishing methods
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Traditional apparatus
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Queensland
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Seasonal or spatial closures
Size limit
Total allowable catch
Gear restrictions
Bag limits
Seasonal or spatial closures
Size limit
Active vessels
106 in ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
Commercial 55.44t in ECIFFF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 75 t (2013–14)
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)

a Queensland – Indigenous 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.
b 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 Tailor.
c 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.
d New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) 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 themselves.
e New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) Aboriginal cultural fishing authority - the authority that 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
f Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Boat-based recreational catch in Western Australia from 1 May 2013–30 April 201419
g New South Wales – Indigenous (catch) Tailor is a culturally significant species for Indigenous groups along the eastern seaboard. However, state-wide estimates of harvest are unknown. In northern New South Wales, Tailor is a dominant component of the Indigenous catch 20.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Tailor - note confidential catch not shown

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Commercial coastal-, river- and estuary-set gillnets have minimal impact on the environment and are quite selective in their harvest21. In general, gill, seine and haul net methods used by commercial fishers in nearshore and estuarine waters are deployed in a targeted manner and result in minimal bycatch relative to the harvest of the target species. Mesh size regulations help to ensure that target species caught by these methods are within an appropriate size range. Fishers using tunnel nets in Queensland operate under the industry code of best practice to minimise their environmental impacts22. Gillnets are not used in ocean waters in New South Wales.
  • Commercial gillnets can occasionally interact with threatened, endangered and protected species. In most jurisdictions, commercial fishers are required to report all interactions with protected species.
  • Discarded fishing tackle from recreational fishers poses a risk to seabirds and marine life, which can become entangled in or injured by discarded gear23. Programs to safely dispose of unwanted fishing tackle are in place in Western Australia south-east Queensland and New South Wales 23.
  • Line-based fishing methods in near-shore and estuarine waters can result in the capture and release of a significant number of non-target species and undersized fish13,14. The rates of survival for released Tailor are high under some scenarios24,25. However, rates of survival for line-caught fish captured and released in surf breaks under current management arrangements are unquantified.
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Environmental effects on Tailor

  • Nearshore habitats are occupied by young Tailor, therefore Tailor populations may be vulnerable to any degradation in the quality of these habitats. Degradation may be from human causes (for example, pollution and habitat destruction) or natural causes (for example, floods), and has the potential to alter recruitment success of cohorts12.
  • Changes in coastal currents and water temperatures associated with climate change have the potential to alter fish behaviours (for example, spawning activity and migration) and to affect the dispersal of eggs and larvae, which may influence the subsequent recruitment of Tailor into fisheries3,26,27.
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  1. 1 Nurthen, RK, Cameron, R, and Briscoe, DA 1992, Population genetics of tailor, Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus) (Pisces: Pomatomidae), in Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research 43, 1481-6.
  2. 2 Miskiewicz, AG, Bruce, BD, and Dixon, P 1996, Distribution of tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) larvae along the Coast of New South Wales, Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 47, 331-6.
  3. 3 Lenanton, RC, Ayvazian, SG, Pearce, AF, Strckis, RA, and Young, GC 1996, Tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) off Western Australia: where does it spawn and how are the larvae distributed?, Marine and Freshwater Research, 47, 337-346.
  4. 4 Smith, K, Lewis, P, Brown, J, Dowling, C, Howard, A, R., L, and Molony, B 2013, Status of nearshore finfish stocks in south-western Western Australia Part 2: Tailor, Fisheries Research Report No. 247, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Perth.
  5. 5 Ward, TM, Staunton-Smith, J, Hoyle, S, and Halliday, IA 2003, Spawning patterns of four species of predominantly temperate pelagic fishes in the sub-tropical waters of southern Queensland Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, 56, 1125-1140.
  6. 6 Young, GC, Wise, BC, and Ayvazian, SG 1999, A tagging study on tailor, (Pomatomus saltatrix) in Western Australian waters: their movement, exploitation, growth and mortality, Marine and Freshwater Research, 50, 633-42.
  7. 7 Juanes, F, Hare, JA, and Miskiewicz, AG 1996, Comparing early life history strategies of Pomatomus saltatrix: a global approach Marine and Freshwater Research 47, 365-79.
  8. 8 Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey, FRDC Project No. 99/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  9. 9 Fletcher, W 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, Perth, Western Australia.
  10. 10 Leigh, G and O’Neil, MF Unpublished data 2014, Stock assessment of the QLD- NSW Tailor Fishery, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane, Australia.
  11. 11 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2013, Stock status of Queensland’s fisheries resources 2012, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane, Australia.
  12. 12 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2016, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop 2016, 14-15 June 2016, Brisbane, Australia, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  13. 13 Webley,Webley,Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-14. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
  14. 14 West, L.D, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14. Fisheries Final Report Series.
  15. 15 Bade, TM 1977, The biology of tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) from the east coast of Australia, University of Queensland, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
  16. 16 Stewart, J, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J 2015, Status of Fisheries Resources in NSW 2013-14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman: 391pp.
  17. 17 Department of Primary Industries 2012, Fisheries Victoria Commercial Fish Production Information Bulletin 2012, Fisheries Victoria, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia.
  18. 18 Conron S, Giri K, Hall K and Hamer P 2016 Gippsland Lakes Fisheries Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 14.
  19. 19 Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM, and Wise, BS,2015, State-wide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2013/14, Fisheries Research Report 268, Department of Fisheries, Western Australian, Perth.
  20. 20 Schnierer, S 2011, Aboriginal fisheries in New South Wales: determining catch, cultural significance of species and traditional fishing knowledge needs, FRDC PROJECT NO. 2009/038, Canberra.
  21. 21 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 (FRDC Project no. 97/206), Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
  22. 22 Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association 2012. Moreton Bay tunnel net fishery code of best practice, .
  23. 23 Campbell, M 2013, Tactical Research Fund: Reducing the impact of discarded recreational fishing tackle on coastal seabirds. FRDC Project No 2011/057, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane.
  24. 24 Ayvazian, SG, Wise, BS, and Young, GC 2002, Short-term hooking mortality of tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) in Western Australia and the impact on yield per recruit, Fisheries Research, 58, 241-248.
  25. 25 Broadhurst, MK, Butcher, PA, and Cullis, BR 2012, Catch-and-release angling mortality of south-eastern Australian Pomatomus saltatrix, African Journal of Marine Science, 34, 289-295.
  26. 26 Hobday, AJ, Poloczanska, ES, and Matear, RJ (eds.), 2008, Implications of climate change for Australian fisheries and aquaculture: a preliminary assessment, report to the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Canberra.
  27. 27 Pearce, A, Lenanton, 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 No. 222, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.

Archived reports

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