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Yelloweye Mullet

Aldrichetta forsteri

  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Corey Green (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria)
  • Kim Smith (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)
  • Timothy Emery (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia South Australia LCF, MSF Sustainable Catch, CPUE , age structure
Tasmania Tasmania SF Sustainable Catch, CPUE
Victoria Victoria CIF, GLF, PPBF Transitional-depleting Catch, CPUE
Western Australia Western Australia SCEMF, WCEMF Transitional-depleting Catch
CIF
Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
GLF
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
PPBF
Port Phillip Bay Fishery (VIC)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
SF
Scalefish Fishery (TAS)
WCEMF
West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
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Stock Structure

Yelloweye Mullet is widely distributed along the southern coast of Australia, from Murchison River in Western Australia to Hunter River in New South Wales, and around Tasmania1. Yelloweye Mullet typically occur in schools in nearshore marine waters from the intertidal zone to depths of at least 10 m, and are often abundant in estuaries and the lower reaches of rivers2,3.

The biological stock structure of Yelloweye Mullet in Australia is not well understood. It has been suggested that there are two biological stocks—Western and Eastern—based on morphological differences4,5. However, further studies are required to confidently define biological stock delineation for this species.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

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Stock Status

Western Australia

In Western Australia, commercial targeting of Yelloweye Mullet is mainly restricted to estuaries and embayments south of Perth. During the past decade (2006–15), 81 per cent of the total catch in Western Australia was taken by the West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WCEMF) and 14 per cent by the South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (SCEMF). The remainder was taken as minor catches in other fisheries. In 2015, a total commercial catch of 10 tonnes (t) was taken in Western Australia. Yelloweye Mullet are caught by recreational fishers, but total catch levels are unknown.

Annual catches in each of the two main commercial fisheries have followed a similar long-term trend. Catches peaked around 1980 and then gradually declined over the following two decades. A sharp drop in catch occurred in each fishery around 2000. Subsequent catches have remained low. Since 2000, the WCEMF catch has continued to decline reaching an historic low of 6 t in 2015, while the SCEMF catch has been stable at around 4 t per year. The long-term decline in catch may reflect reductions in fishing effort (due to licence buy-backs and low wholesale prices). However, the catch decline also appears to reflect a substantial decline in stock abundance. Anecdotal reports from commercial and recreational fishers suggest Yelloweye Mullet abundance in south-western Western Australia is low compared to historic levels. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is not likely to be recruitment overfished. For the period 1980–2015, the biomass declined, but the stock is not yet considered to be in a recruitment overfished state. The current level of fishing pressure is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Yelloweye Mullet in Western Australia is classified as a transitional–depleting stock.

Victoria

In Victoria, a total of 38.7 t of Yelloweye Mullet was caught in 2015 by commercial fishers operating in the Corner Inlet, Gippsland Lakes and Port Phillip Bay Fisheries. In the Gippsland Lakes Fishery, 60 per cent of Yelloweye Mullet were caught using mesh nets with the remainder taken using haul seine nets. For mesh nets, average catch rate has declined over the past 30 years, with the present and 5-year moving average catch rate below the long-term average6. Similar declines over the same period for other species were reportedly market driven, and it is unknown whether there has also been a decline in relative abundance7.

Yelloweye Mullet landed by the Corner Inlet Fishery (CIF) were mainly caught using haul seine nets, with a similar trend in declining catch rate also evident. Average catch rates in the early-1980s were around 13 kg per shot compared with catch rates of around 4 kg per shot in 2014–15. Catch rates for the CIF are presently below the long-term average8. For the Port Phillip Bay Fishery, the recent 10-year trend in catch rate is relatively constant, although catch has declined over the past 30 years9. Yelloweye Mullet are caught by recreational fishers, but recent catch quantities are unknown. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is not likely to be recruitment overfished. For the period 1986–2015, the biomass declined, but the stock is not yet considered to be in a recruitment overfished state. The current level of fishing pressure is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Yelloweye Mullet in Victoria is classified as a transitional–depleting stock.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, Yelloweye Mullet is caught mainly using beach seine nets, with annual commercial catches peaking at around 22 t in 1999–2000, before declining to less than 5 t over the past decade10. Targeted beach seine effort on this species has been stable at low levels since 2005–06, while nominal catch rates have remained relatively stable over time with a sharp increase in 2012–13, before declining again to average levels. Recreational fishers in Tasmania target Yelloweye Mullet using mesh nets and seine nets however, increased regulation of recreational netting over the past decade has resulted in a general reduction catch and effort, with around 1.7 t taken by netting in 2009–1011. State-wide recreational catch of Yelloweye Mullet was estimated at 7.1 t in 2012–13, which included all fishing methods12. Yelloweye Mullet are most abundant in estuarine habitats13, where netting is prohibited or restricted, thereby providing a high degree of protection for the species throughout most of its range in Tasmania. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished, and 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, Yelloweye Mullet in Tasmania is classified as a sustainable stock.

South Australia

The Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) has traditionally been the most important of the South Australian fisheries for Yelloweye Mullet, accounting for around 90 per cent of the State’s total commercial catch since 2007, with the remainder taken by the Marine Scalefish Fishery14. Catches by the recreational sector typically contribute less than 10 per cent of the total combined commercial and recreational catch of this species in South Australia15. Commercial landings of Yelloweye Mullet in South Australia peaked at 460 t in 1990 and then progressively declined to 148 t in 2004. This long-term decline likely reflected reductions in targeted effort due a combination of licence buy-backs and low wholesale prices rather than a declining biomass, because estimates of annual catch per unit effort (CPUE) were stable during this period. From 2008–13, CPUE in the LCF increased to historically high levels, with an average annual catch of around 220 t. In 2014, CPUE declined to its lowest level since 2004, before stabilising in 2015. The recent low catch rates, combined with a reduction in targeted effort for the species resulted in a decline in commercial catch to 121 t in 2015.

Interactions between Lakes and Coorong net fishers and Long-nosed Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) have increased in recent years, with reported levels of seal depredation on Yelloweye Mullet caught in mesh nets likely to have contributed to the low catches and catch rates in 2015. The catch decline may also reflect a recent decline in stock abundance. Nonetheless, the recent low levels of catch and CPUE were similar to those observed in the early-2000s, which preceded a substantial increase in catch in the late 2000s. Furthermore, age-structure analysis showed that there has been regular recruitment of young fish to the population since 201216. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished, and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished. 

On the basis of the evidence provide above, Yelloweye Mullet in South Australia is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Yelloweye Mullet 10 years; 440 mm  TL  2–3 years; 200–260 mm  TL

Yelloweye Mullet biology4,13,14,17

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Yelloweye Mullet

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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia Victoria Tasmania South Australia
Commercial
Various
Mesh Net
Haul Seine
Unspecified
Recreational
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Gillnet
Beach Seine
Indigenous
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Gillnet
Traditional apparatus
Management methods
Method Western Australia Victoria Tasmania South Australia
Commercial
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Vessel restrictions
Indigenous
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence (boat-based sector)
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Active vessels
Western Australia Victoria Tasmania South Australia
27 in SCEMF, 11 in WCEMF, 69 in WL (SC), 15 in WL (WC) 18 in CIF, 10 in GLF, 24 in PPBF 4 in SF 21 in LCF, 32 in MSF
CIF
Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
GLF
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
PPBF
Port Phillip Bay Fishery (VIC)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
SF
Scalefish Fishery (TAS)
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 Victoria Tasmania South Australia
Commercial 4.44t in SCEMF, 6.28t in WCEMF 11.82t in CIF, 15.31t in GLF, 11.67t in PPBF 105.05t in LCF, 16.14t in MSF
Indigenous Unknown Zero Unknown Unknown
Recreational Unknown Unknown 7.1 t (in 2012–13) 19 t (in 2013–14)
CIF
Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
GLF
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
LCF
Lakes and Coorong Fishey (SA)
MSF
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
PPBF
Port Phillip Bay Fishery (VIC)
SCEMF
South Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)
WCEMF
West Coast Estuarine Managed Fishery (WA)

Recreationala Indigenousb,c,d

a In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine.

b 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 Yelloweye Mullet.

c In Tasmania, aborigines engaged in aboriginal 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.

d 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Yelloweye Mullet

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Yelloweye Mullet are targeted by commercial fisheries using mainly mesh (gill) nets and hauling nets. These activities are considered to pose a low risk to the environment18,19.
  • Some bycatch may be expected from mesh (gill) nets used to target Yelloweye Mullet, including the capture of undersized individuals of some species20. However, these nets are highly selective in their ability to capture target species18.
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Environmental effects on Yelloweye Mullet

  • Estuaries provide important habitat for Yelloweye Mullet through its life history. The availability of habitat and trophic resources for Yelloweye Mullet in estuaries is largely dependent on seasonal freshwater inflows from inland catchment areas.
  • The impact of environmental factors on the spawning dynamics and recruitment of Yelloweye Mullet is unknown.
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References

  1. 1 Gomon, MF, Bray, DJ and Kuiter, RH (ed.s) 2008, Fishes of Australia’s southern coast, New Holland Publishers, Sydney.
  2. 2 Kailola, P, Williams, MJ, Stewart, PC, Reichlet, RE, McNee, A and Grieve, C 1993, Australian fisheries resources, Bureau of Resource Sciences and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  3. 3 Connolly, RM 1994, A comparison of fish assemblages from seagrass and unvegetated areas of a South Australian estuary, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 45: 1033–1044.
  4. 4 Thomson, JM 1957, Interpretation of the scales of the yellow-eye mullet, Aldrichetta forsteri (Cuvier and Valenciennes) (Mugilidae), Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 8: 14–28.
  5. 5 Pellizzari, M 2001, A preliminary investigation of the biology of Yelloweye Mullet in South Australian waters, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  6. 6 Conron, S, Giri, K, Hall, K and Hamer, P 2016, Gippsland Lakes Fisheries Assessment 2016, Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 14, Fisheries Victoria, Melbourne.
  7. 7 Kemp, J, Bruce, T, Conron, S, Bridge, N, MacDonald, M and Brown, L 2013, Gippsland Lakes (non‐bream) Fishery Assessment 2011, Fisheries Victoria Assessment Report Series 67, Fisheries Victoria, Melbourne.
  8. 8 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, Fisheries Victoria, Melbourne.
  9. 9 Hunt, TL, Kemp, J, et al., in prep., Port Phillip Bay Fisheries stock assessment 2010, Fisheries Victoria Assessment Report Series, Fisheries Victoria, Melbourne.
  10. 10 Emery, TJ, Lyle, J, Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery assessment 2014–15, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  11. 11 Lyle, JM and Tracey, SR 2012, Recreational gillnetting in Tasmania—an evaluation of fishing practices and catch and effort, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  12. 12 Lyle, JM, Stark, KE and Tracey, SR 2014, 2012–13 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  13. 13 Edgar, GD 2008. Australian marine life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. New Holland Publishers, Sydney.
  14. 14 Earl, J and Ferguson, GJ 2013, Yelloweye Mullet (Aldrichetta forsteri) stock assessment report 2011–12, Report to Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (Fisheries and Aquaculture), SARDI Publication F2007/001048-1, SARDI Research Report Series 737, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  15. 15 Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62, Victoria.
  16. 16 Ye, Q, Bucater, L and Short, D (in prep.), Fish response to flow in the Murray Estuary and Coorong during 2014–15 in comparison to years of different flow scenarios, Report to Department of Water and Natural Resources, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  17. 17 Gaughan, D, Ayvazian, S, Nowara, G and Craine, M 2006, The development of a rigorous sampling methodology for a long-term annual index of recruitment for finfish species from south-western Australia, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project 1999/153, Fisheries Research Report 154, Western Australia Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  18. 18 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, Queensland Department of Primary Industries.
  19. 19 Victorian Bays and Inlets Fisheries Association 2013, Environmental Management System, Victoria.
  20. 20 Gray, CA 2002, Management implications of discarding in an estuarine multi-species gill net fishery, Fisheries Research, 56: 177–192.

Archived reports

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