Black Bream (2018)

Acanthopagrus butcheri

  • Simon Conron (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Bradley Moore (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Matt Broadhurst (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Rodney Duffy (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

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The estuary-based Black Bream is sustainable in WA, NSW and TAS. In VIC, western and eastern estuary stocks are sustainable, Gippsland Lake stocks are depleting. In SA, marine stocks are sustainable but the Lakes and Coorong Fishery is depleted.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Tasmania Tasmania Scalefish Fishery SF Sustainable Catch
Scalefish Fishery (TAS)
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Stock Structure

Black Bream have a wide distribution in the estuaries of southern Australia from central New South Wales to central west coast Western Australia, including Tasmania [Kailola et al. 1993]. Various studies conclude that Black Bream are an estuarine-dependent species, completing much of their life-cycle within a single estuary [Chaplin et al. 1997, Conron et al. 2016, Earl et al. 2016]. Genetic studies of Black Bream in Victoria and Western Australia have indicated that, while there has been gene flow between adjacent estuaries, there is evidence of isolation by distance between populations [Burridge and Versace 2007, Burridge et al. 2004, Chaplin et al. 1997, Farrington et al. 2000].

The distribution of Black Bream in eastern Australia overlaps with the closely related Yellowfin Bream, A. australis, which occur from Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria to northern Queensland. Where both Black Bream and Yellowfin Bream occur in the same area, hybridization is considerable [Farrington et al. 2000, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2012, Roberts et al. 2009, 2010, 2011].

Results of tagging studies conducted in the Swan River [Norriss et al. 2002], Gippsland Lakes [Butcher and Ling 1962, Hindell et al. 2008] and the Coorong estuary [Hall 1984] indicated limited or no evidence of coastal migration or emigration between estuaries. This indicates that estuarine Black Bream populations should be managed as distinct biological stocks. However, for most fisheries management agencies this is not practical.

Furthermore, Black Bream growth, size- and age-at-maturity and recruitment are strongly influenced by environmental conditions, particularly fresh water influx into estuaries [Cottingham 2008, Norriss et al. 2002]. It is therefore likely that over local scales at least, annual recruitment strength is dependent on environmental conditions, with substantial inter-annual variation in recruitment affecting individual stock demographics and biomasses.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Western Australia West Coast Estuaries, Western Australia South Coast Estuaries (Western Australia); Southern New South Wales (New South Wales); Victoria Western Estuaries, The Gippsland Lakes, Victoria Eastern Estuaries (Victoria); Tasmania Scalefish Fishery (Tasmania); Lakes and Coorong Fishery and South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery (South Australia).

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Stock Status

Tasmania Scalefish Fishery

The sale of Black Bream in Tasmanian State waters has been prohibited since 1998, essentially resulting in a cessation of the harvest of the species for commercial purposes. Prior to 1998, Black Bream were harvested commercially using seine nets (including beach seine) and gillnets and, to a lesser extent, handlines. When operating, commercial catches in State waters were low, with a total annual catch of 2.5 t reported in 1996 and 1.9 t reported in 1997. In contrast, Black Bream are a popular target for recreational fishers, who target the species primarily using lines with bait or lures. Recreational catches of Black Bream have remained stable over time, while fishing effort (days fished) has declined in estuarine waters and in the recreational sector as a whole [Lyle et al. 2009, Lyle et al. 2014]. Release rates have increased markedly since 2001, reflecting a documented change in fishing motivations to catch-and-release sports fishing [Lyle et al. 2009, Lyle et al. 2014]. Of the estimated 59 000 fish caught by recreational fishers in 2012–13, an estimated 40 000 were released [Lyle et al. 2014]. Post-release survival of Black Bream is generally high, though varies with hooking depth, with shallow-hooked fish having higher survival rates (94 per cent) than deep-hooked fish (74 per cent) [Conron et al. 2010]. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired, and 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, the Tasmania Scalefish Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Black Bream biology [Cheshire et al. 2013, Kuiter 1993, Morison et al. 1998, Sarre and Potter 2000, Walker and Neira 2001]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Black Bream 37 years, 600 mm TL 180–340 TL mm
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Black Bream

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Fishing methods
Management methods
Method Tasmania
Bag and possession limits
Gear restrictions
Bag and possession limits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 16.7 t (in 2012–13)

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.

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. The species is subject to a minimum size limit of 250 mm. A bag limit of five individuals and a possession limit of ten individuals is in place for recreational fishers fishing in marine waters.

Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous persons 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, Indigenous persons 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.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) In Western Australia a recreational fishing licence is only required for fishing from a boat

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Black Bream - note confidential catch not shown

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  2. Burridge, CP, Hurt, AC, Farrington, LW, Coutin, PC and Austin, CM 2004, Stepping stone gene flow in an estuarine dwelling sparid from south‐east Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 64, 805–819.
  3. Butcher, AD and Ling, JK 1962, Bream tagging experiments in East Gipsland during April and May 1944. Victorian Naturalist 78, 256–264.
  4. Chaplin, JA, Baudains, GA, Gill, HS, Mccullock, R and Potter, IC1997, Are assemblages of black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) in different estuaries genetically distinct? International Journal of Salt Lake Research, 6(4):303–321.
  5. Cheshire, KJM, Ye, Q, Fredberg, LJ and Earl, J 2013, Aspects of reproductive biology of five key species in the Murray Mouth and Coorong. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2009/000014-3 SARDI Research Report Series No 699. 65pp.
  6. Conron, S, Giri K, Hall, K and Hamer, P 2016, Gippsland Lakes Fisheries Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 14, Fisheries Victoria, Queenscliff.
  7. Conron, SD and Oliveiro, P 2016, State-wide Angler fishing Diary Program 2011–14 Recreational Fishing Grants Program Research Report June 2016. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Queenscliff. 45 pp.
  8. Conron, SD, Grixti D and Morison AK 2010, Survival of snapper and black bream released by recreational hook-and-line fishers in sheltered coastal temperate ecosystems. Final report to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project No. 2003/074. Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff, Victoria.
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  10. Earl, J, Ward, TM and Ye, Q 2016, Black Bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri) Stock Assessment Report 2014/15. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2008/000810-2. SARDI Research Report Series No. 885. 44pp.
  11. EconSearch 2017, Economic and social indicators for the Lakes and Coorong Fishery 2015/16. A report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. 92pp.
  12. Farrington, LW, Austin, CM and Coutin, PC 2000, Allozyme variation and stock structure in the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro) (Sparidae) in southern Australia: implications for fisheries management, aquaculture and taxonomic relationship with Acanthopagrus australis (Gunther). Fisheries Management and Ecology 7, 265–279.
  13. Froese, R, Demirel, N, Coro, G, Kleisner, K and Winker, H 2016, Estimating fisheries reference points from catch and resilience. Fish and Fisheries, 18(3):506–526. 
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  24. Lyle, JM, Tracey, SR, Stark KE and Wotherspoon, S 2009, 2007–08 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Tasmania Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hobart.
  25. Norriss, JV, Tregonning, JE, Lenanton, RCJ and Sarre, GA, 2002, Biological synopsis of the black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri (Munro)(Teleostei: Sparidae) in Western Australia with reference to information from other southern states. Fisheries Research Report No.93, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  26. Ochwada-Doyle, F, Roberts, D, Gray, C, Barnes, L, Haddy, J and Fearman, J 2012, Characterizing the biological traits and life history of Acanthopagrus (Sparidae) hybrid complexes: implications for conservation and management. Journal of Fish Biology, 81: 1540–1558.
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  30. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM and 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.
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  36. Ye, Q, Bucater, L and Short, D, 2017, Coorong fish condition monitoring 2015/16: Black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri), greenback flounder (Rhombosolea tapirina) and smallmouthed hardyhead (Atherinosoma microstoma) populations. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2011/000471-5. SARDI Research Report Series No. 943. 89pp.

Downloadable reports

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