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Western King Prawn

Melicertus latisulcatus

  • Craig Noell (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Crystal Beckmann (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • 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
Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery ECOTF Sustainable Catch, effort, ecological risk assessment
ECOTF
East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (QLD)
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Stock Structure

Western King Prawn is distributed throughout the Indo–West Pacific1. No research has been conducted into Western King Prawn biological stock structure in Western Australia or Queensland, and status in those states is therefore reported at the management unit level. In South Australia, one study of the genetic structure of Western King Prawn found no differences between the three fisheries2; however, each fishery functions as an independent population at time scales relevant to management, with distinct adult and juvenile habitats and independent variations in recruitment and abundance. Each fishery in South Australia is therefore assessed and managed as a separate management unit.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery, North Coast Prawn Managed Fisheries, South West Trawl Managed Fishery (Western Australia); East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland); Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery and West Coast Prawn Fishery (South Australia).

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Stock Status

East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery

Long-term (1998–2016) nominal catch rates for Western King Prawns species range from 31.0–58.3 kg per day. At 51.2 kg per day, nominal catch rates for 2015 were at the higher end of this range; albeit marginally lower than 2014 (58.3 kg per day). In 2013, an ecological risk assessment (ERA) for the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland) found that Western King Prawns were at low risk of becoming recruitment overfished within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP)14. This is in part driven by the biology of the species, which exhibits protracted spawning behavior, and partly by low levels of susceptibility to trawling, given the extent of area closed to the fishery. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this management unit is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

Total catch of Western King Prawns in 2015 has increased since 2013 when catches were below historical averages. The GBRMP accounts for around 90 per cent of the total Western King Prawn catch and has experienced a 23 per cent decline in otter trawl effort since 2009 (the trawl ERA representative fishing year). Given this decline in effort, it is unlikely that the risk of this species being recruitment overfished has increased from the original ‘low risk’ evaluation. This is supported by research which has shown that around 40 per cent of the Western King Prawn biomass is afforded protection from trawl fishing through permanent closures within the GBRMP15.These closures remain in place and provisions governing the use of these areas have not been the subject of significant amendments since the last Status of Australian Fish Stocks assessment. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be overfished, and that current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause this stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Western King Prawn 2–3 years, maximum 4 years South Australia: males 46 mm CL, females 57 mm CL  Western Australia: males 45 mm CL, females 60 mm CL 6–7 months; 25 mm CL

Western King Prawn biology8,19,20

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Western King Prawn

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Tables

Fishing methods
Queensland
Commercial
Otter Trawl
Management methods
Method Queensland
Commercial
Effort limits
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Recreational
Bag limits
Possession limit
Active vessels
Queensland
102 in ECOTF
ECOTF
East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (QLD)
Catch
Queensland
Commercial 149.06t in ECOTF
Indigenous Zero
Recreational Zero
ECOTF
East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (QLD)

Indigenousa

a 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Western King Prawn

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • In 2011, the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery (South Australia) became the first prawn fishery in the South Pacific to become accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Accreditation by the MSC has been maintained since. The Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf prawn fisheries (Western Australia) were both accredited by MSC in October 2015.
  • Fishing for Western King Prawns in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia is considered to be of low risk to the trophic structures in the ecosystems in which the fisheries operate. Although harvest rates may be relatively high, Western King Prawn have very high natural mortality rates and make up only a small proportion of the total biomass on the trawl grounds. Predators of prawns need to be opportunistic because of the natural variations in prawn populations. Consequently, given the small areas and short periods now fished, it is considered unlikely that the commercial take of prawns impacts significantly on other trophic levels4,8,12. An assessment of trawl-related risk to trophic structures was not explicitly assessed for the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland) (ECOTF), but in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). It found that there is no more than an intermediate risk of overfishing species assemblages exposed to trawling14.
  • Although trawling can impact on habitats, these effects are managed in the Western King Prawn fisheries in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. In Western Australia, extensive permanent and temporary closures result in the fleet operating in only seven per cent of the Shark Bay fishery region and 17 per cent of inner Shark Bay, generally less than 30 per cent of the Exmouth Gulf, and less than three per cent of the north coast region. Fishing operations are restricted to areas of sand and mud, where trawling has minimal long-term physical impact4,8,12,21,22. In Queensland, the GBRMP occupies 63 per cent of the ECOTF23, 34 per cent of which is open to trawling24, 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 trawling25. In South Australia, trawl effort has decreased by more than 60 per cent from its historical peaks in all fisheries. Since the inception of the South Australian fisheries, permanent closures have included all waters less than 10 m to ensure protection of seagrass habitats16.
  • Although the incidental capture of by-product and bycatch species by trawling can lead to a range of indirect ecosystem effects26, studies in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia found no significant difference in biodiversity or overall distribution patterns of seabed biota between trawled and non-trawled areas15,21,22,27. The spatial contraction and/or temporal reduction in effort in all three jurisdictions are likely to have mitigated somewhat the ecosystem impacts of trawling.
  • The use of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in prawn trawling can significantly reduce bycatch—by more than 50 per cent by weight in some fisheries28,29. All prawn trawlers operating in Western Australia must use BRDs, including turtle excluder devices (TEDs), secondary fish exclusion devices and hoppers to increase survival of returned fish. The introduction of TEDs in the Western Australian prawn trawl fisheries in 2003 reduced turtle bycatch by at least 95 per cent30. In the ECOTF, the use of BRDs became mandatory in 1999, and the introduction of TEDs in 2001 largely eliminated capture of most large bycatch species, including turtles, sharks and rays31. More recently, commitment to continuous improvement in bycatch mitigation has facilitated increased use of best practice TEDs and BRDs in the ECOTF. Reduced impact of trawling and a general absence of high risk of overfishing bycatch species have been acknowledged in recent ecological risk assessments of the fishery14. In South Australia, all vessels use crab bags, and 49 of the 52 vessels use hopper systems to ensure rapid return of bycatch to the water. The Spencer Gulf, Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery and the Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery MSC certifications include the assessment of broad environmental impacts and are important evidence for low risk of trawling impacts. In the Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery (South Australia), all 10 vessels use T90-mesh codends with rigid grids that substantially reduce bycatch volumes32.
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Environmental effects on Western King Prawn

  • Major extreme weather events associated with the recent protracted La Niña episode33 are thought to have influenced recent recruitment patterns and depressed catches of a number of oceanic fishery species in Queensland, including Western King Prawn in 2011. Management of Western King Prawn and other species in the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland) management unit will benefit from knowledge gained from current research into the interrelationships among physical oceanographic features (for example, sea surface temperature anomalies), catch rates, biological parameters, and the spatial distribution of Saucer Scallop, a co-occurring species in Queensland and Western Australian trawl fisheries.
  • Water temperature has been shown to effect the recruitment of Western King Prawns in Western Australia, with elevated water temperatures in Exmouth Gulf since 2011 contributing to lower than average recruitment levels11.
  • In South Australia, there is some evidence to suggest that strong El Niño conditions result in unfavorable upwelling in critical spawning grounds, which may result in recruitment failure, particularly in the West Coast Prawn Fishery (South Australia) management unit34.
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References

  1. 1 Grey, DL, Dall, W and Baker, A 1983, A Guide to the Australian Penaeid Prawns, Northern Territory Department of Primary Production, Darwin.
  2. 2 Carrick, NA 2003, Spencer Gulf Prawn (Melicertus latisulcatus) Fishery, Fishery Assessment Report to Primary Industries and Regions South Australia Fisheries, South Australian Research and Development Institute publication RD03/0079-2, SARDI Research Report Series 161, SARDI, Adelaide.
  3. 3 Wise, BS, ST John, J and Lenanton, R 2007, Spatial scales of exploitation among populations of demersal scalefish: Implications for management. Part 1: Stock status of the key indicator species for the demersal scalefish fishery in the West Coast Bioregion. Report to the FRDC on Project No. 2003/052. Fisheries Research Report No. 163. Department of Fisheries, WA, 130 pp.
  4. 4 Fletcher, WJ (ed.) 2016, State of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Report 2016/15, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  5. 5 Penn, JW 1984, The behaviour and catchability of some commercially exploited penaeids and their relationship to stock and recruitment, in: Gulland, JA and Rothschild, BJ (eds.), Penaeid shrimps – their biology and management, Fishing News Books Ltd, Farnham, pp. 173-186.
  6. 6 Penn, JW and Caputi, N 1986, Spawning stock-recruitment relationships and environmental influences on the brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus) fishery in Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37: 491-505.
  7. 7 Caputi, N, Penn, JW, Joll, LM and Chubb, CF 1998, Stock-recruitment-environment relationships for invertebrate species of Western Australia. Can. Spec. Publ. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 125: 247-255.
  8. 8 Kangas, MI, Sporer, EC, Hesp, SA, Travaille, KL, Brand-Gardner, SJ, Cavalli, P and Harry, AV 2015, Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, Western Australian Marine Stewardship Council Report Series 2: 294 pp.
  9. 9 Caputi , N, de Lestang, S, Hart, A, Kangas, M, Johnston, D, and Penn, J 2014, Catch predictions in stock assessment and management of invertebrate fisheries using pre-recruit abundance—case studies from Western Australia, Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture, 22:1, 36-54.
  10. 10 DoF 2014, Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery Harvest Strategy 2014 – 2019. Fisheries Management Paper No. 267. Department of Fisheries, WA.
  11. 11 Caputi, N, Feng, M, Pearce, A, Benthuysen, J, Denham, A, Hetzel, Y, Matear, R, Jackson, G, Molony, B, Joll, L and Chandrapavan, A 2014, Management implications of climate change effect on fisheries in Western Australia: Part 1, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2010/535, Fisheries Research Report, Western Australian Department of Fisheries.
  12. 12 Kangas, MI, Sporer, EC, Hesp, SA, Travaille, KL, Moore, N, Cavalli, P and Fisher, EA 2015, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery, Western Australian Marine Stewardship Council Report Series 1: 273 pp. http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/wamsc_reports/wamsc_report_no_1.pdf
  13. 13 DoF. 2014, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery Harvest Strategy 2014 – 2019. Fisheries Management Paper No. 265. Department of Fisheries.
  14. 14 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.
  15. 15 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, Oczkowicz, 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.
  16. 16 PIRSA 2014, Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, South Australian Fisheries Management Series, no. 67, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, Adelaide.
  17. 17 Beckmann, CL, Noell, CJ and Hooper, GE 2015, Status of the Gulf St Vincent Prawn Penaeus (Melicertus) latisulcatus Fishery in 2014/15. Fishery Status Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2007/00174-4. SARDI Research Report Series No. 870. 25pp.
  18. 18 Beckmann, CL and Hooper, GE 2016, Status of the West Coast Prawn Penaeus (Melicertus) latisulcatus Fishery in 2015. Fishery Status Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2007/000772-8. SARDI Research Report Series No. 906. 33pp.
  19. 19 Penn, JW 1980, Spawning and fecundity of the western king prawn, Penaeus latisulcatus, Kishinouye, in Western Australian waters, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 31: 21-35.
  20. 20 Noell, CJ and Hooper, 2015, Spencer Gulf Prawn Penaeus (Melicertus) latisulcatus Fishery 2013/14, Fishery Assessment Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2007/000770-8. SARDI Research Report Series No. 843. 68pp.
  21. 21 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.
  22. 22 Kangas, M, and Morrison, S 2013, Trawl impacts and biodiversity management in Shark Bay, Western Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 64: 1135–1155.
  23. 23 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, www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/4080/Huber-2003.pdf.
  24. 24 Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2014, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop 2014, 5–6 June 2014, Brisbane, Queensland DAFF, Brisbane.
  25. 25 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.
  26. 26 Dayton, PK, Thrush, SF, Agardy, MT and Hofman, RJ 1995, Environmental effects of fishing, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 5: 205–232.
  27. 27 Currie, DR, Dixon, CD, Roberts, SD, Hooper, GE, Sorokin, SJ and Ward, TM 2009, Fishery-independent by-catch survey to inform risk assessment of the Spencer Gulf Prawn Trawl Fishery, report to Primary Industries and Regions (Fisheries), South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  28. 28 Brewer, D, Rawlinson, N, Eayrs, S and Burridge, C, 1998, An assessment of bycatch reduction devices in a tropical Australian prawn trawl fishery, Fisheries Research, 36:195–215. http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/36904754/BRD_paper_1998.pdf
  29. 29 Kennelly, SJ and Broadhurst, MK 2014, Mitigating the bycatch of giant cuttlefish Sepia apama and blue swimmer crabs Portunus armatus in an Australian penaeid-trawl fishery, Endangered Species Research, 26:161–166.
  30. 30 Kangas, MI and Thomson, A 2004, Implementation and assessment of bycatch reduction devices in the Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf trawl fisheries, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2000/189, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth. .
  31. 31 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, .
  32. 32 Dixon, C, Raptis, J, Gorman, D, Roberts, S, Hooper, G, Bicknell, N, Sorokin, S, Newman, R, Noell, C, Benediktsson, T, Saint, J and Hill, W 2013, A collaborative approach to novel by-catch research for rapid development, extension and adoption into a commercial trawl fishery, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2009/069, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences) publication F2012/000250-1, SARDI research report series 643, SARDI, Adelaide.
  33. 33 Bureau of Meteorology 2012, Record-breaking La Nĩna events. An analysis of the La Nĩna life cycle and the impacts and significance of the 2010–11 and 2011–12 La Nĩna events in Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne.
  34. 34 Carrick, N 2008, Determining the impact of environmental variability on the sustainability, fishery dynamics and economic performance of the West Coast Prawn Fishery, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2005/082, FRDC and Fisheries and Environmental Consulting Services, Canberra.

Archived reports

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