Penaeus indicus & Penaeus merguiensis

  • Ian Butler (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Mervi Kangas (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

Date Published: June 2021

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Banana prawns are found across northern Australia, from WA to QLD. They are sustainable across all jurisdictions. Harvests are highly dependent on seasonal conditions, which influence prawn populations from year to year.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery Sustainable

Catch, CPUE, trigger limits

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Stock Structure

In Australia the standard fish name Banana Prawn is a group name which refers to the White Banana Prawn, Penaeus merguiensis and the Redleg Banana Prawn, Penaeus indicus. Both species have also been placed in the genus Fenneropenaeus with taxonomy still unsettled [Ferfante and Kensley 1997; Ma et al. 2011] and name usage is mixed among fisheries. White and Redleg banana prawns are often not distinguished in the catch in Australian fisheries. An exception to this is the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf area of the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF), where populations of Redleg banana prawns are specifically targeted. The biological stock structure of Banana Prawn is uncertain. There is some evidence that there may be separate biological stocks of White Banana Prawn within the Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth); however, the boundaries of the biological stocks are unknown [Yearsley et al. 1999]. Banana prawn fisheries in Western Australia and Queensland are widely separated, but it is not known whether these are completely independent stocks [Tanimoto et al. 2006].

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth); Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery, Nickol Bay and Onslow Prawn Managed Fisheries, Kimberley Prawn Managed Fishery (Western Australia); and East Coast (Queensland).

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Stock Status

Northern Prawn Fishery

Two species of Banana Prawns are managed in the Northern Prawn Fishery(Commonwealth)(NPF)(White Banana Prawn - Penaeus merguiensis and Redleg Banana Prawn - Penaeus indicus). Here, we will report on White Banana Prawn (Penaeus merguiensis), which make up the bulk of banana prawn catch in the NPF.  

Recruitment of Banana Prawns in the NPF is highly variable and thought to be largely determined by seasonal environmental conditions, particularly rainfall [Venables et al. 2011]. As a result, a reliable stock–recruitment relationship has not been established and no formal stock assessment has been conducted for this stock. Status determination is based on a weight-of-evidence approach.

The harvest strategy for White Banana Prawns in the NPF is designed to facilitate the capture of larger prawns, while allowing for sufficient escapement to ensure adequate remaining spawning biomass, thereby preventing growth and recruitment overfishing and facilitating higher returns by minimising the capture of small prawns. This is achieved by controlling the timing of the fishing season (which impacts prawn size) and the length of the season, the end of which is determined using catch-rate thresholds [Dichmont et al. 2014]. The harvest strategy is designed to perform effectively under conditions of substantial variation in biomass, which are largely environmentally-driven. Although fishing mortality is thought to have been high for White Banana Prawns in some years [Zhou et al. 2007], the species has shown resilience to fishing pressure, with strong subsequent recruitment following historical high levels of catch.

The harvest strategy for White Banana Prawns causes the closure of the season when catch rates fall below a trigger level that is associated with permitting sufficient prawns to escape ensuring an adequate spawning biomass for subsequent recruitment (based on an analysis of historical data [Dichmont et al. 2014]). Harvesting has been undertaken in accordance with this harvest strategy for almost a decade. During this period, White Banana Prawn annual recruitment (as evidenced by catches) has been maintained and continued a pattern of high natural variability from year-to-year.

Total reported commercial landings of White Banana Prawns were 4 439 tonnes (t) in 2018 and 5 592 t in 2019, with average catch around 4 647 t for the years 2010 to 2019. Consistency in landings indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

Effort expended on Banana Prawns (including minor targeting of P. indicus) in the Northern Prawn Fishery was 2 343 days in 2019 (2 555 days in 2018) across 52 vessels. This is slightly below the average for the most recent decade (~2600 days, with similar fleet size), and substantially below effort in previous decades which were well in excess of 4 000 days, but with a substantially larger fleet.

The above evidence indicates 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 Northern Prawn Fishery (Commonwealth) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock


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Banana Prawn biology [Huber 2003, Tanimoto et al. 2006, Yearsley et al. 1999]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)

White Banana Prawn (P. merguiensis):     1–2 years; > 240 mm TL; ~38 mm CL

White Banana Prawn (P. merguiensis):  ~6 months; 120–150 mm TL;  >25 mm CL

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of BANANA PRAWNS

Confidentiality prevents the display of spatial data for some fisheries.

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Fishing methods
Otter Trawl
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Vessel restrictions
Commercial 5.59Kt
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Commonwealth – Commercial catch  Commercial catch in the NPF is only for White Banana Prawns (P. merguiensis)

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.

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of BANANA PRAWNS - note confidential catch not shown

Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery catch is for White Banana Prawns (P. merguiensis) only

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  1. Dichmont, CM, Jarrett, A, Hill, F and Brown, M 2014, Harvest strategy for the Northern Prawn Fishery under input control, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  2. Gaughan, DJ and Santoro, K (eds) 2020, State of the fisheries and aquatic resources report 2016/17, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
  3. Huber, D 2003, Audit of the management of the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville,
  4. Jacobsen, I, Zeller, B, Dunning, M, Garland, A, Courtney, T, Jebreen, E 2018, An ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Trawl Fishery in Southern Queensland including the River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  5. Ma, KY, Chan, T-Y and Chu, KH 2011, Refuting the six-genus classification of Penaeus s.l. (Dendrobranchiata, Penaeidae): a combined analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Zoologica Scripta, 40: 498–508.
  6. O’Neill, MF and Leigh, GM 2007, Fishing power increases continue in Queensland’s East Coast Trawl Fishery, Australia, Fisheries Research, 85: 84–92.
  7. Pears, RJ, Morison, AK, Jebreen, EJ, Dunning, MC, Pitcher, CR, Courtney, AJ, Houlden, B and Jacobsen, IP 2012, Ecological risk assessment of the East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: technical report, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.
  8. Perez Farfante, I and Kensley, BF 1997, Penaeids and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World: Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera. Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, 233 p.
  9. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  10. Tanimoto, M, Courtney, AJ, O’Neil, MF and Leigh, GM 2006, Stock assessment of the Queensland (Australia) east coast banana prawn (Penaeus merguiensis), Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  11. Venables, WN, Hutton, T, Lawrence, E, Rothlisberg, P, Buckworth, R, Hartcher, M and Kenyon, R 2011, Prediction of common banana prawn potential catch in Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  12. Yearsley, GK, Last, PR and Ward, RD 1999, Australian seafood handbook: domestic species, CSIRO Marine Research, Hobart.
  13. Zhou, S, Dichmont, CM, Burridge, CY, Venables, WV, Toscas, PJ and Vance, D 2007, Is catchability density-dependent for schooling prawns, Fisheries Research, 85: 23–36.

Downloadable reports

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