Gummy Shark (2018)

Mustelus antarcticus

  • James Woodhams (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Corey Green (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Matias Braccini (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Paul Rogers (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Vic Peddemors (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Gummy Shark is a sustainable species found throughout Australia’s temperate waters. It occurs from Geraldton in WA around to Jervis Bay in NSW, and in TAS. There is also an undefined stock in NSW from Newcastle north to the Clarence River.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia Southern Australia MSF Sustainable Biomass (pup production), catch
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

Gummy Shark (Mustelus antarcticus) is distributed throughout the temperate waters of Australia, from at least Port Stephens in New South Wales, to Geraldton in Western Australia (including Tasmania) [Gardner and Ward 2002, Last and Stevens 2009]. The most recent research on biological stock structure for Gummy Shark [White and Last 2008] suggests there is most likely one biological stock in southern Australia (extending from the lower west coast of Western Australia to Jervis Bay in New South Wales) and a second biological stock in eastern Australia (extending from Newcastle to the Clarence River in New South Wales). Conventional tagging showed adult Gummy Sharks exhibit broad-scale displacements from tagging locations of up to 2 362 km in 6.8 years, yet only 15 per cent of adults were recaptured > 250 km from the tagging location. The mean displacement was approximately 150 km [Walker 2000]. Acoustic tagging in Western Australia showed comparable movements, with average long-distance displacements of 238 km and maximum displacements of > 900 km [Braccini et al. 2017].

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

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Stock Status

Southern Australia

There is a close relationship between the number of pups and both the number, and length, of females [Walker 1992] and so the Commonwealth assessment uses pup production as an indicator of biomass for Gummy Shark. The stock assessment model incorporates available catch data from all jurisdictions impacting the stock. The base-case model from the most recent assessment [Punt et al. 2016] estimated 2016 pup production as a proportion of the unfished level of pup production (P0; 1927) to be above 0.48P0 (48 per cent of virgin pup production). Therefore, this part of the biological stock is not considered to be recruitment impaired.

The most recent stock assessment gave a recommended biological catch (RBC ) for 2016, 2017 and 2018 of 2 080 t, 1 878 t and 1 807 t, respectively [Punt et al. 2016]. Total catch in the Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) for 2016 was 1 799 t; in 2017 it was 1 673 t and in 2018 it was 1 744 t. This level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the biological stock to become recruitment impaired.

In South Australia, the commercial multispecies, multi-gear and multi-sectoral Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) takes Gummy Shark as bycatch using demersal long-lines, gill-nets and hand-lines. The total reported catch of Gummy Shark by the MSF in 2017 was 73.3 t. There are limited South Australian State-based commercial licence holders that have been issued quota by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority via South Australian Coastal Waters permits. All other MSF licence holders are entitled to a bycatch limit of five sharks per day, and a possession limit of 10 sharks on a fishing trip of more than one day [Steer et al. 2018]. Given the spatial overlap with the southern Australian coastal and shelf regions covered during the Commonwealth assessment processes, no separate formalised stock assessment is undertaken on Gummy Shark within South Australian State-managed waters. Gummy Sharks are also targeted by clients of the South Australian Charter Fishery [Rogers et al. 2017] and by recreational anglers [Steer et al. 2018]. The South Australian State-wide recreational catch of Gummy Shark was estimated at approximately 37.03 t in 2013/14 [Giri and Hall 2015].

In Victoria, the majority of Gummy Shark is taken within the Corner Inlet Fishery using mesh net, and the Port Phillip and Western Port Bay Fishery using hook and line, and mesh net. Catch rates in both fisheries have indicated declines since around 2006 [VFA 2017]. However, considering the Victorian component accounts for less than one per cent of the Commonwealth catch, the level of fishing mortality in Victoria is unlikely to significantly influence the stock biomass.

The Western Australian component of the stock was recently assessed using a risk-based weight of evidence approach using all available lines of evidence, including simulated biomass trajectories derived from a combination of demographic modelling and catch-only stock reduction analysis [Braccini et al. in prep]. This assessment estimated a “Low” current risk level for the Gummy Shark stock, with 87 per cent, 100 per cent and 100 per cent of the simulated current (2015–16) relative total biomass trajectories being above the target, threshold and limit biomass reference points, respectively [Braccini et al. in prep]. Therefore, this part of the biological stock is not considered to be recruitment impaired.

The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, recruitment is unlikely to be impaired, and the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired. 

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

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Gummy Shark biology [Moulton et al. 1992, Walker 2007, Walker 2010]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Gummy Shark 16 years, 1 850 mm TL (25 kg total body mass) Females 1 105–1 253 mm TL  Males 950–1 133 mm TL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Gummy Shark
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Fishing methods
South Australia
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method South Australia
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Processing restrictions
Size limit
Trip limits
Bag limits
Size limit
Bag limits
Size limit
South Australia
Commercial 73.25t in MSF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 37.03 t (in 2013–14)
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)

Commonwealth – Recreational The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations. Commonwealth – Indigenous The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) A recreational fishing from boat licence is required for recreational fishing from a powered vessel in Western Australia.

New South Wales Data provided for New South Wales align with the 2016–17 fiscal year with all vessels active in the fishery included (irrespective of whether they reported landing this species). The New South Wales EGF, OTF and OTLF fish both the Southern Australian and Eastern Australian stocks.

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a 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 for themselves, (b) The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority, and (c) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.

Victoria – Indigenous In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise fishing for specific Indigenous cultural ceremonies or events (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). There were no Indigenous permits granted in 2017 and hence no Indigenous catch recorded.

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. Tasmania – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous people 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 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 Gummy Shark - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Braccini, M, Hesp, A, Molony, B and Blay, N in prep. Resource Assessment Report Whiskery, Gummy, Dusky and Sandbar Shark Resource of Western Australia. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
  2. Braccini, M, Rensing, K, Langlois, T and McAuley, R 2017, Acoustic monitoring reveals the broad-scale movements of commercially-important sharks. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 577:121–129.
  3. Gardner, MG and Ward, RD 2002, Taxonomic affinities within Australian and New Zealand Mustelus sharks inferred from allozymes, mitochondrial DNA and precaudal vertebrae counts, Copeia, 2002(2): 356–363.
  4. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  5. Last, PR and Stevens, JD 2009 Sharks and rays of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
  6. Moulton, PL, Walker, TI and Sadlier, SR 1992, Age and growth studies of Gummy Shark, Mustelus antarcticus (Günther), and school shark, Galeorhinus galeus (Linnaeus), from southern-Australian waters, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 43: 1241–1267.
  7. Punt, A, Thomson, R and Sporcic, M 2016, Gummy shark assessment update for 2016, using data to the end of 2015, report presented to the SharkRAG meeting, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart.
  8. Rogers, PJ, Tsolos, A, Boyle, MK and Steer, M 2017, South Australian Charter Boat Fishery Data Summary. Final Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2011/000437-2. SARDI Research Report Series No. 967. 17pp.
  9. Rowling, K, Hegarty A and Ives M 2010, Gummy Shark (Mustelus antarcticus), in K Rowling, A Hegarty and M Ives (eds), Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2008/09, Industry and Investment New South Wales, Cronulla, 392.
  10. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, McGarvey, R, Feenstra, J, Westlake, EL, Matthews, D, Drew, M, Rogers, PJ and Earl, J 2018, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2016. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 974. 250pp.
  11. Victorian Fisheries Authority. 2017. Review of key Victorian fish stocks—2017. Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1.
  12. Walker, TI 1992, Fishery Simulation Model for Sharks Applied to the Gummy Shark, Mustelus antarcticus Gunther, from Southern Australian Waters. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 43.
  13. Walker, TI 2007, Spatial and temporal variation in the reproductive biology of Gummy Shark Mustelus antarcticus (Chondrichthyes: Triakidae) harvested off southern Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 58: 67–97.
  14. Walker, TI 2010, Population biology and dynamics of the Gummy Shark (Mustelus antarcticus) harvested off southern Australia, PhD thesis, University of Melbourne.
  15. White, WT and Last, PR 2008, Description of two new species of gummy sharks, genus Mustelus (Carcharhiniformes: Triakidae), from Australian waters, in PR Last, WT White and JJ Pogonoski (eds), Descriptions of new Australian chondrichthyans, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research paper 22, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra, 189–202.

Downloadable reports

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