Plectropomus spp. & Variola spp.

  • Thor Saunders (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Ian Butler (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Ian Butler (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science)
  • Fabian Trinnie (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Stephen Newman (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)

Date Published: June 2021

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Stocks of Coral Trout are sustainable in the Torres Strait, WA and QLD’s Reef Line Fishery. They are undefined in QLD’s Gulf of Carpentaria, and negligible in the NT. This is a combined assessment for five Coral Trout and two Coronation Trout species. The main commercial catch comes from QLD.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Torres Strait Finfish Fishery Sustainable

Management strategy evaluation

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Stock Structure

The Coral Trout species complex, part of the family Epinephelidae, is found throughout Australia and is comprised of: Common Coral Trout (Plectropomus leopardus), Barcheek Coral Trout (Plectropomus maculatus), Bluespotted Coral Trout (Plectropomus laevis), Passionfruit Coral Trout (Plectropomus areolatus), Highfin Coral Trout (Plectropomus oligocanthus), Yellow-edge Coronation Trout (Variola louti) and White-edge Coronation Trout (Variola albimarginata), with the Passionfruit Coral Trout not being found in the Northern Territory. The biological stock structures of these species are species-specific and spatially complex [Bergenius et al. 2005, Bergenius et al. 2006, van Herwerden et al. 2006, van Herwerden et al. 2009], and remain uncertain for some species.

Here, assessment of stock status for this multispecies group is presented at the management unit level—Torres Strait Finfish Fishery (Commonwealth); Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery and Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland); and at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia and Northern Territory.

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Stock Status

Torres Strait Finfish Fishery

Annual commercial catches of Coral Trouts in the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery (TSFF) have remained below 50 tonnes (t) since 2007, including the most recent catches in 2017–18 (27 t) and 2018–19 (17.3 t). The Coral Trout stock in the TSFF has not been formally assessed, but a management strategy evaluation (MSE) was undertaken for the stock using catch data up to 2004 [Williams et al. 2007, Williams et al. 2011]. Four constant-catch scenarios, ranging from 80 to 170 t, were evaluated. The biomass in 2014 was estimated to be more than 60 per cent of assumed unfished level, and all catch scenarios achieved a biomass of at least 70 per cent of the unfished level, by 2025. 

Although changes in the management and operation of the fishery since the MSE was completed may have diminished the relevance of the results for informing current status, the above evidence, as well as the generally low catches in recent years, support that the biomass of this management unit is unlikely to be depleted and recruitment is unlikely to be impaired [Williams et al. 2020]. The above evidence also 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, Coral Trouts in the Torres Strait Finfish Fishery are classified as a sustainable stock.

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Coral Trout biology [Kailola et al. 1993, Ferreira 1995, Samoilys 1997, Mapstone 2004, Williams et al. 2008, Mapleston et al. 2009, Heupel et al. 2010, Frisch et al. 2016]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
CORAL TROUTS Plectropomus leopardus: 17 years, ~650 mm FL P. maculatus: 13 years, ~650 mm FL P. laevis: 16 years, ~1 150 mm FL P. areolatus: 14 years, ~650 mm FL Variola louti: 7 years, ~520 mm FL V. albimarginata: 12 years, ~380 mm FL All species are protogynous hermaphrodites (individuals are born female and later become male). Size at maturity and sex change also vary by location. P. leopardus: female ~280 mm FL, male ~500 mm FL P. maculatus: female ~300 mm FL, male ~ 440 mm FL P
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Coral Trout

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Fishing methods
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Catch restrictions
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Commercial 17.31t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Commonwealth Data Provided for the Commonwealth and Queensland align with the 2014–15 financial year.

Western Australia and Northern Territory Data provided for Western Australia and the Northern Territory align with the 2017 calendar year.

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. In the Torres Strait, both commercial and non-commercial Indigenous fishing is managed by the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (Commonwealth), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Queensland), and the Torres Strait Regional Authority. The PZJA also manages non-Indigenous commercial fishing in the Torres Strait.

Western Australia – Commercial (management methods) In Western Australia, different zones within fisheries may have different effort allocations.

Western Australia – Active Vessels Data is confidential as there were fewer than three vessels operating in PFTIMF, PTMF and WCDGDLIMF.

Western Australia – Recreational (Catch) Boat-based recreational catch if from 1 September 2017–31 August 2018. These data are derived from those reported in Ryan et al. 2019.

Western Australia – Recreational (management methods) A Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence 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 – Indigenous (management methods) Subject to application of 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 – 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 Coral Trout - note confidential catch not shown

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Downloadable reports

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