Golden Snapper (2018)
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There are five stocks of Golden Snapper across Australia’s north. In WA and QLD’s Gulf of Carpentaria stock is sustainable, in the Darwin region of the NT it is depleted, and it is undefined in regional NT and east coast QLD.
Stock Status Overview
|Queensland||Gulf of Carpentaria||GOCDFFTF, GOCLF||Sustainable||Catch, standardised CPUE|
- East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
- Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (QLD)
- Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
Golden Snapper is a moderately long-lived (i.e. 30 years), late-maturing species that can reach a length of one metre [Cappo et al. 2013]. They are broadly distributed throughout the tropical and sub-tropical Indo-West Pacific and exhibit a biphasic life history pattern, where juveniles spend several years in estuarine and inshore reef habitats before migrating offshore (to a depth of at least 80 m) as they near sexual maturity [Allen 1985, Kiso and Mahyam, 2003, Tanaka et al. 2011].
The distribution of this species within Australian waters extends from the Kimberley region in Western Australia, around the north of the continent to the southern Great Barrier Reef (around Rockhampton) [Travers et al. 2009]. A study of the stock structure of Golden Snapper across this range suggests that many adult populations may exist at a scale of tens of kilometres, although boundaries are unknown [Saunders et al. 2016].
Golden Snapper experience moderate to high harvest rates in some Australian fisheries (particularly those targeting adults of this late-maturing species) which can cause localised depletion. However, it is extremely difficult to collect relevant biological and catch-and-effort information to assess each adult population unit. There are known differences between the concentrated fishing effort around Darwin and the more diffuse effort in other surrounding areas of the Northern Territory, as such, the species is assessed and managed in different management units in the Northern Territory.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level―Western Australia; and the management unit level―Darwin Region, and Regional Northern Territory (Northern Territory); Gulf of Carpentaria, East Coast (Queensland).
Golden Snapper off the Queensland east coast is mainly harvested by the recreational sector, and no stock assessment has been undertaken to estimate current biomass in relation to unfished biomass in this management unit. Estimated recreational landed catch remained stable between 2000 (around 31 t) and 2010 (around 33 t), but then declined to around 13 t in 2013–14 [Webley et al. 2015]. According to the 2013–14 recreational angler survey, two-thirds of recreationally caught fish were released [Webley et al. 2015]. However, given that this species suffers substantial post-release mortality from barotrauma [Welch et al. 2014], the total fishing mortality by this sector is likely to be higher than indicated by landed catch. The Indigenous harvest of this management unit is unknown.
The species is taken as minor byproduct in the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland), predominantly by set mesh net. Annual commercial catches increased from less than one tonne per year from 2000–08 to a peak of 10 t in 2011. Catches from 2012 declined from this peak, and in 2017 the catch was around 9 t. There is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the East Coast (Queensland) management unit is classified as an undefined stock.
Gulf of Carpentaria
In the Gulf of Carpentaria management unit, Golden Snapper is mainly harvested by the commercial sector. There is no reliable estimate of recreational harvest. Harvest from the adjacent Northern Territory jurisdiction has been low in recent years.
Queensland commercial catches remained stable at 20–35 t annually over the decade to 2011, with most fish taken by the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery (Queensland) (GOCDFFTF). Fish trawl effort in the Gulf of Carpentaria declined markedly from 2012–14 as a result of trawl effort being transferred to areas in the Northern Territory (outside the Gulf) for commercial reasons. In 2017, there was no catch in the trawl sector and line catch was less than one tonne.
Standardised catch rates (calculated to 2009) in the trawl fishery showed declines after 2006 to around half the long-term average [O’Neill et al 2011]. Observer surveys over the period 2004–06 also showed that most Golden Snapper caught in the GOCDFFTF were smaller than the size at maturity [unpublished data]. However, the maximum sustainable yield for the species in the eastern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria was estimated at approximately 61 t [Leigh and O’Neill 2016] and catch has never exceeded half this level. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, 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 Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Golden Snapper biology [Cappo et al. 2013, Hay et al. 2005, Welch et al. 2014]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Golden Snapper||30 years, 990 mm FL, 15 kg||Varies by location and sex: Males 4–9 years and ~400–600 mm FL, Females 6–10 years and 400–650 mm FL|
Distribution of reported commercial catch of Golden Snapper
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Total allowable catch|
|Commercial||9.30t in ECIFFF, 172.00kg in GOCLF|
|Recreational||6 000 fish (in 2013–14)|
- East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
- Gulf of Carpentaria Line Fishery (QLD)
Western Australia – Active Vessels Data is unreportable as there were fewer than three vessels operating in the PFTIMF, PTMF and WL.
Western Australia – Recreational (management methods) A Recreational Fishing from Boat License is required for the use of a powered boat to fish or to transport catch or fishing gear to or from a land-based fishing location.
Western Australia – Recreational (Catch) Boat-based recreational catch is from 1 September 2015–31 August 2016. These data are derived from those reported in Ryan et al. 2017.
Western Australia – Indigenous (management methods) 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 recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by Indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.
Northern Territory – Charter (management methods) In the Northern Territory, charter operators are regulated through the same management methods as the recreational sector but are subject to additional limits on license and passenger numbers.
Northern Territory – Indigenous (management methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.
Queensland – Commercial (fishing methods) In Queensland, Golden Snapper is trawled in only one of the Queensland fisheries in which it is caught commercially - the Gulf of Carpentaria Developmental Fin Fish Trawl Fishery. Queensland – Commercial (catch) East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland) catch is reported by financial year.
Queensland – Indigenous (fishing methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.
- Allen, GR 1985, FAO species catalogue, volume 6, snappers of the world. FAO Fisheries Synopsis 125.
- Cappo, M, Marriott, RJ and Newman, SJ 2013, James’s rule and causes and consequences of a latitudinal cline in the demography of John’s Snapper (Lutjanus johnii) in coastal waters of Australia, Fishery Bulletin, 111(4): 309–324.
- Grubert, MA, Saunders, TM, Martin, JM, Lee, HS and Walters, CJ 2013, Stock assessments of selected Northern Territory fishes, Fishery report 110, Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Darwin.
- Hay, T, Knuckey, I, Calogeras, C and Errity, C 2005, Population and biology of the Golden Snapper, Fishery report 21, Northern Territory Government, Darwin.
- Kiso, K and MI Mahyam 2003, Distribution and feeding habits of juvenile and young John’s snapper Lutjanus johnii in the Matang mangrove estuary, west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Fisheries Science, 69: 563–568.
- Leigh, GM and O'Neill, MF 2016, Gulf of Carpentaria Finfish Trawl Fishery: Maximum Sustainable Yield, Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
- Newman, SJ, Brown, JI, Fairclough, DV, Wise, BS, Bellchambers, LM, Molony, BW, Lenanton, RCJ, Jackson, G, Smith, KA, Gaughan, DJ, Fletcher, WJ, McAuley, RB and Wakefield, CB 2018, A risk assessment and prioritisation approach to the selection of indicator species for the assessment of multi-species, multi-gear, multi-sector fishery resources. Marine Policy 88: 11–22.
- Newman, SJ, Wakefield, C, Skepper, C, Boddington, D, Jones, R and Smith, E 2018, North Coast Demersal Resource Status Report 2017. pp. 127-133. In: Gaughan, D.J. and Santoro, K. (eds.). Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2016/17: The State of the Fisheries. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia, Perth, Australia. 237p.
- Northern Territory Government (NTG) 2017, Status of key Northern Territory Fish Stocks Report 2015, Northern Territory Government Department of Resources, fishery report 118.
- O’Neill, MF, Leigh, GM, Martin, JM, Newman, SJ, Chambers, M, Dichmont, CM and Buckworth, RC 2011, Sustaining productivity of tropical Red Snappers using new monitoring and reference points, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2009/037, Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Brisbane.
- 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, Government of Western Australia, Perth.
- Saunders, TM, Welch, D, Barton, D, Crook, D, Dudgeon, C, Hearnden, M, Maher, S, Ovenden, J, Taillebois, L and Taylor J 2016, Optimising the management of tropical coastal reef fish through the development of Indigenous capability. FRDC final report 2013/017.
- Tanaka, K, Hanamura, Y, Chong, VC, Watanabe, S, Man, A, Kassim, FM, Kodama, M and Ichikawa, T 2011, Stable isotope analysis reveals ontogenetic migration and the importance of a large mangrove estuary as a feeding ground for juvenile John’s snapper Lutjanus johnii. Fisheries Science 77: 809–816.
- Travers, MJ, Potter, IC, Clarke, KR, Newman, SJ and Hutchins, JB 2009, The inshore fish faunas over soft substrates and reefs on the tropical west coast of Australia differ and change with latitude and bioregion. Journal of Biogeography, 37: 148–169.
- Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-14, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
- Welch, DJ, Robins, J, Saunders, T, Courtney, T, Harry, A, Lawson, E, Moore, BR, Tobin, A, Turnbull, C, Vance, D and Williams, AJ 2014, Implications of climate change impacts on fisheries resources of northern Australia, part 2: Species profiles, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2010/565, James Cook University, Townsville.
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