Dusky Flathead (2018)

Platycephalus fuscus

  • Jason McGilvray (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Matt Broadhurst (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Paul Hamer (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

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Dusky Flathead is an inshore and estuary fish found in QLD, NSW and VIC, and stocks in all states are sustainable.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Victoria Victoria GLF Sustainable Commercial catch and CPUE, angler diary catch rates and length frequency
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
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Stock Structure

The biological stock structure of Dusky Flathead populations is unknown.

In the absence of information on biological stock boundaries, here assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

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Stock Status


Most of the Victorian commercial Dusky Flathead catch is taken from the Gippsland Lakes using mesh nets, although they are also caught incidentally using other methods. Commercial catch from the Gippsland Lakes Fishery since 2010 has ranged from about 8 t to 25 t, increasing in recent years from 7.5 t in 2014, to 15 t to 16 t in 2016 and 2017. This is compared to historical peak harvests of approximately 65 t in 1986 and 53 t in 2006 [Conron et al. 2016, Kemp et al. 2013].

Commercial catch and catch rates of Dusky Flathead in the Gippsland Lakes are highly variable over time, reflecting the influence of naturally variable recruitment. The most recent peak in mesh net catch rates occurred in 2005–06. Apart from a smaller peak in catch rates in 2010–11, catch rates have declined over the last decade, and in 2016 –17 were at approximately 20 per cent of the 2005–06 peak [Conron et al. 2016, VFA, unpublished data]. Similar declines have been observed for diary angler catch rates in recreational only estuaries in eastern Victoria, namely: Lake Tyers and Mallacoota Inlet [Ingram et al. 2016, VFA, unpublished data]. Diary angler catch rates in Mallacoota Inlet have declined over the last decade, and similar to the Gippsland Lakes, are now at approximately 20 per cent of the most recent peak in 2006–07 [Ingram et al. 2016, VFA, unpublished data]. In all three estuaries discussed above, recent catch rates are similar to those observed in the early 2000s, and it is likely that a regionally strong recruitment event was responsible for the higher catch rates observed during the mid-2000s. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

In 2013, recreational fishing regulations were tightened to create a slot limit for retained Dusky Flathead of 300–550 mm TL, while maintaining the daily per person bag limit of five fish. The slot and bag limits were designed to protect larger female and trophy size fish along with recruits up to spawning size, and to limit the overall recreational take. No recent information on recreational catch or fishing mortality is available for eastern Victorian populations. Commercial fishing effort on Dusky Flathead in Victoria has reduced substantially since the early 2000’s. Licence buy back schemes removed all commercial fishing from Mallacoota Inlet and Lake Tyers and reduced the number of licences in the Gippsland Lakes fishery from 27 in 1999–2000 to 10 in 2006–07. Since 2006–07 total commercial effort (fisher days) in the Gippsland Lakes fishery has been stable at levels that are approximately 30 per cent of the peak levels observed in the early 1990s [Conron et al. 2016].

While catch rates have declined over the last decade, they have stabilised since 2013 and current levels are within historic variation and similar to those in the early 2000s, immediately prior to the mid-2000s peak. Commercial catches in the Gippsland Lakes fishery are also low relative to the historical peaks due to lower effort. The recent declines have been consistent across the three major estuaries in eastern Victoria (Mallacoota Inlet, Lake Tyers and Gippsland Lakes), despite varying levels of fishing pressure, suggesting that environmental influences on recruitment have been the main driver of the recent declines. The above evidence suggests that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Dusky Flathead in Victoria is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Dusky Flathead biology [Gray and Barnes 2008, Hicks et al. 2015, Kailola et al. 1993]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Dusky Flathead Females ≥ 16 years, 1 200 mm TL Males ≥ 11 years, 620 mm TL Females 570 mm TL Males 320 mm TL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Dusky Flathead

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Fishing methods
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Victoria
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Customary fishing permits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Size limit
Commercial 15.79t in GLF
Indigenous Unknown (No catch under permit)
Recreational Unknown
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)

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.

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) The 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.; (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 (Management Methods) 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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Dusky Flathead - note confidential catch not shown

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  1. Broadhurst, MK, Gray, CA, Young, DJ, and Johnson, DD 2003, Relative efficiency and size selectivity of bottom-set gill-nets for dusky flathead, Platycephalus fuscus and other species in New South Wales, Australia, Fishery and Marine Research, 50: 289–302.
  2. Broadhurst, MK, Millar, RB, and Brand, CP 2009, Mitigating discard mortality from dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus gillnets, Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 85: 157–166.
  3. Butcher, PA, Broadhurst, MK and Cairns, SC 2008, Mortality and physical damage of angled and released dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus, Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 81: 127–134.
  4. Conron S., Giri K, Hamer P and Hall K 2016, Gippsland Lakes Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 14
  5. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2018, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop Proceedings 2018. Species Summaries. 19–20 June 2018, Brisbane.
  6. Department of Primary Industries 2018, NSW DPI Commercial catch records, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Sydney. 
  7. Gray, CA and Barnes, LM 2008, Reproduction and growth of dusky flathead in NSW estuaries, Fisheries final report series no. 101, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla.
  8. Gray, CA, Broadhurst, MK, Johnson, DD and Young, DJ 2005, Influences of hanging ratio, fishing height, twine diameter and material of bottom-set gillnets on catches of dusky flathead Platycephalus fuscus and non-target species in New South Wales, Australia, Fisheries Science, 71: 1217–1228.
  9. Henry, GW and Lyle JM, 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey. Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hobart. FRDC 99/158
  10. Hicks T, Kopf RK, Humphries P 2015, Fecundity and egg quality of dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) in East Gippsland, Victoria. Institute for Land Water and Society, Charles Sturt University. Report number 94. Prepared for the Recreational Fishing Grants Program, Fisheries Victoria. The State of Victoria Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. Pp. 1–34. ISBN 978-1-86-467279-4.
  11. Ingram, BA, Hall, K, and Conron, S 2016, Recreational fishery assessment 2016 – small eastern estuaries. Recreational Fishing Grants Program Research Report, Victorian Government, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
  12. Kailola, PJ, Williams, MJ, Stewart, PC, Reichelt, RE, McNee, A and Grieve, C 1993, Australian Fisheries Resources, Bureau of Rural Resources and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, Australia.
  13. 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 no. 67, Fisheries Victoria, Victoria.
  14. Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association 2012, Moreton Bay tunnel net fishery code of best practice.
  15. Pollock, BR 2015, The annual spawning aggregation of Dusky Flathead Platycephalus fuscus at Jumpinpin, Queensland. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland.
  16. Then, AY, Hoenig, NJ, Hall, NG, Hewitt, DA 2014, Evaluating the predictive performance of empirical estimators of natural mortality rate using information on over 200 fish species. ICES Journal of Marine Science.
  17. Uhlmann, SS and Broadhurst, MK 2015, Mitigating unaccounted fishing mortality in gillnets and traps. Fish and Fisheries, 16: 183−229.
  18. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Tiexiera, D, Lawson, A and Quinn R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
  19. West, LD, 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. 

Downloadable reports

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