Yellowfin Bream

Acanthopagrus australis

  • Jason McGilvray (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)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Queensland Eastern Australia ECIFFF Sustainable Commercial catch and CPUE , length and age, mortality rate
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
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Stock Structure

The stock structure of Yellowfin Bream has been examined through tagging studies and genetic investigations. Two tagging studies, one in New South Wales1 and one in Queensland2, have suggested the possibility of separate populations, based on a lack of significant movements between estuaries. However, a genetic investigation has shown that this species forms a single east coast population, with a general northward dispersal of adults and a southward dispersal of larvae3.

Towards the southern end of their distribution (southern New South Wales to East Gippsland), Yellowfin Bream are known to hybridise with Black Bream (Acanthopagrus butcherii), especially in areas where the two species are sympatric4–6.

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

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

This cross-jurisdictional stock has components in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Each jurisdiction assesses the part of the biological stock that occurs in its waters. The status presented here for the entire biological stock has been established using evidence from all three jurisdictions.

In the Queensland part of the Eastern Australian stock, the commercial catch and nominal catch rate of Yellowfin Bream are improving after a change to the minimum legal size (MLS), from 230–250 mm, and the increase in areas protected from fishing in the Moreton Bay Marine Park in 2009 (107 tonnes [t] at 28 kg per day in 2010; 172 t at 48 kg per day in 2015 in the net fishery)7. Length structures from fishery-dependent monitoring of Yellowfin Bream from 2007 onwards also reflect this rebuilding catch trend. The fishery-dependent age structures indicate a stable population with variable and continued recruitment7. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of the Queensland part of the stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

The Queensland government has removed 36 per cent of Yellowfin Bream targeted effort in the net fishery since 2007, through buy-backs and structural adjustment packages. Nominal effort in the Queensland commercial fishery in 2015 was higher than in the previous 2 years, but still well below 2009 levels (3623 days fished in 2015; mean of 3233 days fished in 2012–13; 4466 days fished in 2009)7. The number of recreational anglers in the south of the state, where Yellowfin Bream are most abundant, decreased between 2001 and 2010, and then again between 2010 and 2014. Together with the increased MLS and introduction of an in-possession limit in 2009, it is unlikely targeted fishing effort by recreational anglers has increased over the short-term7. The current MLS (250 mm total length [TL]) for Yellowfin Bream in Queensland applies to both commercial and recreational fishers and allows a proportion of mature fish to spawn for one, or even several years before becoming available to the fishery2. Total mortality estimates for Yellowfin Bream in Queensland decreased between 2007 and 2010 and have remained steady since7. Estimates indicate that fishing mortality has been lower than natural mortally for the years 2007–15. Yellowfin Bream have a moderate rate of survival (lower for gut-hooked fish) when released by recreational anglers, thus reducing impacts on this part of the stock8–11. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the Queensland part of the stock to become recruitment overfished.

The commercial catch from New South Wales accounts for about two-thirds of the total catch of the Eastern Australian Yellowfin Bream stock. Reported commercial landings of Yellowfin Bream in this state also include Black Bream and the hybrids formed by the two species. The median nominal commercial catch rates of Yellowfin Bream in New South Wales have been relatively stable during the past decade. Nominal catch rates in the estuary mesh net fishery have increased slightly during this period, whereas catch rates by fish trapping show no overall trend12. The length composition of the landings for this species has also been relatively stable since the 1950s13. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of the New South Wales part of the stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished.

In New South Wales, effort in 2015 (number of fisher days where Yellowfin Bream were reported) in the Estuary General Fishery (13 440 days, summed across methods), the Ocean Haul Fishery (198 days) and the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (776 days, summed across methods) in 2015 was among the lowest reported, especially for the two former fisheries12. Historically low effort levels contributed to the 2015 landings of Yellowfin Bream in New South Wales of approximately 260 t, or 30 per cent less than the 20-year annual average of 382 t12. Recent size compositions in commercial landings suggest no large changes in the stock. The minimum legal commercial and recreational length in New South Wales (250 mm TL; approximately 225 mm fork length) provides opportunity for Yellowfin Bream to spawn before recruiting to the fishery. The most recent age-based assessment for 2010 indicated that natural and fishing mortality were approximately equal14. Yellowfin Bream are predominantly landed by the recreational sector in NSW, with the most recent estimate being approximately 330 t retained during 2013–1415, 52 per cent less than the previous harvest estimate of 684 t in 2000–01. There have been no major changes to the sizes of bream retained by recreational fishers in New South Wales13. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the New South Wales part of the biological stock to become recruitment overfished.

The catch from the Victorian component of this stock is reported as negligible due to low catches by this jurisdiction. Victorian catch averaged a little over 5 kg per year between 2004 and 2014, with no reported catch in 2015. When compared to New South Wales and Queensland, the commercial catch of Yellowfin Bream from the Victorian part of the Eastern Australian stock is very low (less than one per cent of total catch). There is no commercial fishing in Mallacoota and catches from the Gippsland Lakes are very small (less than 1.5 t since 2010). The proportion of the Eastern Australian Yellowfin Bream stock that inhabits Victorian waters is very small, and unlikely to significantly influence the stock dynamics of the Eastern Australian stock16.


The total annual catch of Yellowfin Bream by recreational fishers in Victoria has not been estimated. Recreational fishing effort is managed under regulations for bream (all species) using a MLS (280 mm) and a bag/possession limit (maximum of 10 fish). Fish must be landed whole or in carcass. Less than 10 commercial fishers landed Yellowfin Bream in Victoria in 2015. In addition, this species is not targeted and the total number of days fished by commercial fishers in the Gippsland Lakes has been steady since 2006–07 (around 1500 days)17. The above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the Victorian part 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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Yellowfin Bream biology2,14

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Yellowfin Bream ~20 years; ~400 mm FL  Males: 190 mm FL Females: 200–210 mm FL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Yellowfin Bream   

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Fishing methods
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Queensland
Fishing gear and method restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Fishing gear and method restrictions
In possession limits
Size limit
Spatial closures
Active vessels
199 in ECIFFF
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
Commercial 175.72t in ECIFFF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 125 t (2013–14)
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)

a Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) 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 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.
c 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.
d Victoria – Indigenous (management methods) 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 has been interpreted to mean customary fishing being undertaken by Recognised Traditional Owners. In 2012–13 there were no applications for customary fishing permits to access Yellowfin Bream.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Yellowfin Bream - note confidential catch not shown

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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 harvest19. Bycatch is generally low when compared to the harvest of the target species19. Fishers using tunnel nets operate under industry developed code of best practice guidelines20. 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 species21–23.
  • Studies conducted in New South Wales indicate that gillnets used in estuaries can incur substantial amounts of bycatch, including the capture of undersized individuals of key species24,25.
  • Seabirds and other marine life often become entangled in discarded recreational fishing tackle26. 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 Yellowfin Bream

  • Yellowfin Bream are dependent on estuarine and inshore coastal habitats throughout their life cycle27,28. Physical impacts on coastal marine vegetation, sub-surface topography and water quality are likely to influence the resilience and productivity of Yellowfin Bream populations at local scales.
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  1. 1 Thomson, J 1959, Some aspects of the ecology of Lake Macquarie, NSW, with regard to an alleged depletion of fish. X. The movement of fish, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Sydney.
  2. 2 Pollock, BR 1982, Movements and migrations of Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis (Gunther), in Moreton bay, Queensland as determined by tag recoveries, Journal of Fish Biology, 20: 245–252.
  3. 3 Roberts, DG and Ayre, DJ 2010, Panmictic population structure in the migratory marine sparid Acanthopagrus australis despite its close association with estuaries, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 412: 223–230.
  4. 4 Roberts, DG, Gray, CA, West, RJ, and Ayre, DJ 2009, Evolutionary impacts of hybridization and interspecific gene flow on an obligately estuarine fish, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22: 27–35.
  5. 5 Roberts, DG, Gray, CA, West, RJ, and Ayre, DJ 2010, Marine genetic swamping: hybrids replace an obligately estuarine fish, Molecular Ecology, 19: 508–520.
  6. 6 Rowland, SJ 1984, Hybridization between the Estuarine Fishes Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis (Gunther), and Black Bream, A. butcheri (Munro) (Pisces : Sparidae), Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 35: 427–40.
  7. 7 Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2016, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop 2016, 13–14 June 2016, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  8. 8 Broadhurst, MK, Gray, CA, Reid, DD, Wooden, MEL, Young, DJ, Haddy, JA, and Damiano, C 2005, Mortality of key fish species released by recreational anglers in an Australian estuary, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 321: 171–179.
  9. 9 Butcher, P, Broadhurst, M, Reynolds, D, and Cairns, S 2008, Influence of terminal rig configuration on the anatomical hooking location of line-caught Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 15: 303–313.
  10. 10 Butcher, PA, Broadhurst, MK, Orchard, BA, and Ellis, MT 2010, Using biotelemetry to assess the mortality and behaviour of Yellowfin Bream (Acanthopagrus australis) released with ingested hooks, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 67: 1175–1184.
  11. 11 McGrath, SP, Broadhurst, MK, Butcher, PA, and Cairns, SC 2011, Fate of three Australian teleosts after ingesting conventional and modified stainless and carbon-steel hooks, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68: 2114–2122.
  12. 12 Department of Primary Industries 2016, NSW DPI Commercial catch records, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Sydney.
  13. 13 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.
  14. 14 Gray, CA, Young, CL, Johnson, DD and Rotherham, D 2015, Integrating fishery-independent and –dependent data for improved sustainability of fisheries resources and other aspects of biodiversity. Final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra. Project no. 2008-004.
  15. 15 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.
  16. 16 Kemp, J, Bruce, T, Conron, S, Bridge, N, MacDonald, M, and Brown, L 2013, Gippsland Lakes (non‐Bream) fishery assessment 2011, Fisheries Victoria.  
  17. 17 Conron S, Giri K, Hall K and Hamer P. (2016) Gippsland Lakes Fisheries Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 14.
  18. 18 Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  19. 19 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.
  20. 20 Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association 2012, Code of Best Practice for the Moreton Bay Tunnel Net Fishery,Brisbane.
  21. 21 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.
  22. 22 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.
  23. 23 Gray, CA and Kennelly, SJ 2003, Catch characteristics of the commercial beach-seine fisheries in two Australian barrier estuaries, Fisheries Research, 63: 405–422.
  24. 24 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.
  25. 25 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.
  26. 26 Campbell, M 2013, Reducing the impact of discarded recreational fishing tackle on coastal seabirds, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2011/057, Queensland Government Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Brisbane.
  27. 27 Pollock, B and Weng, H 1983, The seasonal occurrence of postlarval stages of Yellowfin Bream, Acanthanpagrus australis (Gunther), and some factors affecting their movement into an estuary, Journal of Fish Biology, 22: 409–415.
  28. 28 West, RJ and King, R 1996, Marine, brackish, and freshwater fish communities in the vegetated and bare shallows of an Australian Coastal River, Estuaries, 19: 31–41.

Archived reports

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