Australian Herring (2018)

Arripis georgianus

  • Kim Smith (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Julian Hughes (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Mike Steer (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Paul Hamer (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

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Australian Herring is a sustainable species with a single southern Australian biological stock. It is found from Shark Bay in WA, to Forster in NSW.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Victoria Southern Australia CIF, GLF, OF, PPBWPF Sustainable Catch, age and length composition
Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)
Gippsland Lakes Fishery (VIC)
Ocean Fishery (VIC)
Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay Fishery (VIC)
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Stock Structure

Australian Herring occurs around southern Australia from Shark Bay (Western Australia) to Forster (New South Wales), although is uncommon east of Bass Strait. It constitutes a single biological stock across this range [Ayvazian et al. 2004, Smith and Brown 2014]. Spawning occurs in late May/early June in the south-west of Western Australia, with eggs and larvae being dispersed southwards and eastwards by the Leeuwin Current [Smith et al. 2013]. Fish grow and mature in each jurisdiction before migrating back to the spawning area where they remain as adults. There are no records of spawning by this species along the east coast.

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

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Stock Status

Southern Australia

The most recent stock assessment is based on indicators derived from catch, age composition and length composition [Molony and Wise 2018]. Fishery catch rates (CPUE) are regarded as unreliable indicators of abundance for this stock [Molony and Wise 2018, Smith et al. 2013].

In Western Australia, commercial and recreational catches in the two management areas (West Coast and South Coast Bioregions) followed a similar trend, declining from about 1 500 tonnes (t) in 1990 to < 400 t in 2010, then declining at a slower rate to reach about 150 t in 2017. The commercial catch was 87 t in 2017. The recreational catch is not precisely known due to the lack of recent surveys of shore-based fishers who are believed to capture the majority of recreational landings. Declines in commercial catch are at least partly due to reduced targeting (due to low market demand, fishery closures), but may also reflect reduced availability due to stock reduction. Recreational catch trends are not readily attributable to changes in effort and are considered to primarily reflect changes in fish availability. The current recreational catch is believed to be similar in magnitude to the commercial catch. In 2015, the commercial Herring G-trap net fishery was closed, and the recreational daily bag limit was reduced. These changes, combined with reduced commercial targeting since 1990, are intended to allow the stock biomass to increase.

Catch-MSY analyses based on total national catches estimated that catches exceeded MSY in the 1980s and 1990s [Molony and Wise 2018]. Simulations showed increasing biomass since the mid-2000s, with more than 50 per cent of trajectories exceeding 30 per cent unfished biomass since 2016. The biomass is predicted to continue to increase under current catch levels, although there is high uncertainty associated with low information catch-MSY analysis results. Estimates of spawning potential ratio (SPR) derived from length and age composition data indicate a current stock level between 30 per cent and 40 per cent, although also with wide confidence intervals. Age composition trends since 1980 suggest that some truncation of the age distribution occurred in the past [Molony and Wise 2018, Smith et al. 2013]. Strong recruitment is evident in more recent samples, which is consistent with increased recent productivity and stock recovery.

The current assessment for Western Australia indicates that the spawning biomass is above the limit reference level (20 per cent of the unfished level). The stock is not considered to be recruitment impaired. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in Western Australia is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

The New South Wales commercial catch in 2012–17 averaged approximately 2 t per annum, and Australian Herring is not a major component of recreational landings [West et al. 2015]. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in New South Wales is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

In Victoria, Australian Herring are mostly harvested by netting methods, with most of the harvest historically being from Port Phillip Bay using purse seine. Total commercial harvests of Australian Herring in Victoria peaked at approximately 32 t in 2002 [VFA, unpublished data]. Since then annual catches have been lower at between < 1 to 18.6 t per year. In 2017 the commercial harvest dropped to 190 kg, with none of this catch taken from the historical main fishery of Port Phillip Bay. This is a direct result of changes to management arrangements for the Port Phillip Bay commercial fishery, particularly the phasing out of commercial netting, and does not indicate changes in stock availability. Since 2016, 34 of the 43 licences have been bought out by the Victorian government. Commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay will cease by 2022 and has already ceased in Corio Bay. Catches of Australian Herring are expected to be low and incidental in the future. Recreational take of Australian Herring is unknown in Victoria, but thought to be low, as it is not a popular target species. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in Victoria is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

In South Australia, the levels of fishing effort and catch of Australian Herring have declined substantially over the past 33 years, particularly following the implementation of a series of netting closures in 2005 [Steer et al. 2018]. Total catch of Australian Herring in 2017 was 61.2 t, the lowest on record, reflecting low effort levels. Catch rates within the hauling net sector have been highly variable with no clear trend. This is most likely due to this species being infrequently targeted by the commercial multispecies, multi-gear and multi-sectoral Marine Scalefish Fishery, as a result of Australian Herring having a low market value. The species is a popular target in the state’s recreational fishing sector harvesting an estimated 157.23 t in 2014/15 [Giri and Hall 2015]. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in South Australia 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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Australian Herring biology [Smith and Brown 2014]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Australian Herring 12 years, 410 mm TL  180–200 mm TL, 2 years
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Australian Herring

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Fishing methods
Management methods
Method Victoria
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Customary fishing permits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial closures
Commercial 189.80kg in CIF
Indigenous Unknown (No catch under permit)
Recreational Unknown
Corner Inlet Fishery (VIC)

Western Australia - Recreational catch estimated in 2015/16, for boat-based fishing only [Ryan et al. 2017]. Current shore-based catch is unknown.

New South Wales – Indigenous (management method) (a) Aboriginal fishing interim compliance policy (increased bag limits) - allows an Aboriginal 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) Aboriginal cultural fishing authority - the authority that Indigenous persons can apply for to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1)(c1), 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 method) 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 Australia Herring - note confidential catch not shown.
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  1. Ayvazian, SG, Bastow TP, Edmonds, JS, How, J and Nowara, G 2004, Stock structure of Australian herring (Arripis georgiana) in southwestern Australia. Fisheries Research 67:39–53
  2. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  3. Molony, BW and Wise, BS (eds) 2018, Australian Herring and West Australian Salmon Scientific Workshop Report, October 2017. Fisheries Research Report No. 289 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 158pp.
  4. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM, Wise, BS 2017, Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16. Fisheries Research Report No. 287. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
  5. Smith, K and Brown, J 2014, Biological synopsis of Australian herring (Arripis georgianus). Fisheries Research Report No. 251. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 40pp.
  6. Smith, K, Brown, J, Lewis, P, Dowling, C, Howard, A, Lenanton, R and Molony, B 2013, Status of nearshore finfish stocks in south-western Western Australia. Part 1: Australian herring. Final NRM Report - Project No. 09003. Fisheries Research Report No. 246. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 200 pp.
  7. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, McGarvey, R, Feenstra, J, Smart, J, Rogers, PJ, Earl, J, Beckmann, C, Drew, M and Matthews, D 2018, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2017. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-2. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1002. 242pp.
  8. West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013–14, Fisheries final report series 149, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.

Downloadable reports

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