Western King Prawn (2020)
Date Published: June 2021
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Western King Prawn is harvested in WA, SA and QLD. Stocks in all states are sustainable, except for the South Australian West Coast Prawn Fishery, which is depleting.
Stock Status Overview
|South Australia||Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery||Sustainable||
Survey and commercial catch rates, recruitment
|South Australia||Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery||Sustainable||
Survey catch rates
|South Australia||West Coast Prawn Fishery||Depleting||
Survey catch rates, catch
Western King Prawn is distributed throughout the Indo–West Pacific [Grey et al. 1983]. No research has been conducted into Western King Prawn biological stock structure in Western Australia or Queensland, and status in those states is therefore reported at the management unit level. In South Australia, one study of the genetic structure of Western King Prawn found no differences between the three fisheries [Carrick 2003], however, each fishery functions as an independent population at time scales relevant to management, with distinct adult and juvenile habitats and independent variations in recruitment and abundance. Each fishery in South Australia is therefore assessed and managed as a separate management unit.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery, North Coast Prawn Managed Fisheries, Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, South West Trawl Managed Fishery (Western Australia); East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (Queensland); Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery, Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, and West Coast Prawn Fishery (South Australia).
Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery
Management arrangements for the Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery have evolved since the fishery’s inception in 1967 and the fishery has gone through a number of cycles characterised by increasing catches, subsequent declines in recruitment and fishery performance, and resulting closure periods (1991–92 to 1992–93 and 2012–13 to 2013–14). The latest management plan for the fishery was implemented in April 2017 and provides the decision rules for classifying stock status relative to limit, trigger and target reference points defined for three performance indicators relating to relative stock biomass and recruitment [PIRSA 2017]. The performance indicators are: 1) standardised annual commercial catch per unit effort (CPUE); 2) standardised fishery-independent survey (FIS) CPUE; and 3) the Fisheries Recruitment Index (FRI). These are the primary indicators for biomass and fishing mortality.
The most recent stock assessment report was completed in 2020 [McLeay and Hooper 2020] and used data to the end of the 2019–20 season (1 November 2019–31 July 2020). In 2019–20, the total commercial catch of Western King Prawn in the Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery was 132 t obtained from 204 vessel-nights that comprised 82 per cent of the Total Allowable Commercial Effort of 250 vessel-nights.
In 2019–20, standardised annual commercial CPUE was 792 kg per block per vessel-night, which was a 9 per cent decrease since 2018–19 (866 kg per block per vessel-night) and within the target range defined for this performance indicator (≥750 to <900 kg per block per vessel-night). From 2013–14 to 2017–18, estimates of standardised FIS CPUE remained within the high range defined for this performance indicator (≥30 kg per trawl-shot). Since 2017–18, standardised FIS CPUE has decreased, and in 2019–20 was 22.1 kg per trawl-shot, which is within the trigger range defined for this performance indicator (≥20.0 to <25.0 kg per trawl-shot) [PIRSA 2017]. Estimates of FRI have remained in the high range defined for this performance indicator (≥ 600 recruits/h) in five out of seven surveys since 2014–15. In 2019–20, the FRI was 597 recruits/h and in the target range of ≥450 to <600 recruits/h. 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 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 Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery
The primary indicator for biomass and fishing mortality in Spencer Gulf is the weighted average catch rate of adult prawns (defined as 20 or fewer prawns per pound), obtained during fishery-independent surveys conducted yearly in November, February and April [PIRSA 2014]. This index of relative biomass is evaluated against limit and trigger reference points of 48 and 68 kg per hour, respectively, where the trigger reference point is considered to be the minimum catch rate at which future recruitment to the fishery will be adequate (that is, the level that delineates a stock status classification of ‘sustainable’ from ‘depleting’).
In 2019-20, the weighted average catch rate was 113 kg per hour for adult prawns which was above the trigger reference point. Fishery-independent surveys and fishery-dependent data have demonstrated a long history of stable recruitment (above the limit reference point of 1 225 recruits per nautical mile trawled) and commercial catch (generally between 1,600 and 2,400 t, Noell and Hooper 2017). 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 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 Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
West Coast Prawn Fishery
The West Coast Prawn Fishery harvests the Western King Prawn from an oceanic stock that shows large fluctuations in recruitment, thought to be environmentally driven [Carrick and Ostendorf, 2005, Carrick, 2008], and consequently has experienced large fluctuations in commercial catch. The harvest strategy for the West Coast Prawn Fishery includes defined performance indicators and associated reference levels (PIRSA 2019). Average catch rate is considered a proxy for biomass and mortality and is used as the primary performance indicator to assess this fishery. This performance indicator is the average of two key indicators; (1) nominal commercial catch per unit effort (CPUE) from at least three months of commercial fishing between March and September and (2) average fishery-independent survey CPUE measured from the March and June surveys undertaken in Venus Bay. Average catch rate is considered to be a reliable proxy for biomass and fishing mortality because: (1) the fishery-independent sampling design has remained relatively consistent since inception in 2002 and (2) there is contrast in the data as they span the most recent low catch period from 2002 to 2007 and the more recent, relatively higher level.
The most recent stock assessment [Beckmann and Hooper 2020] reported a total catch of 84 t during the 2019 season (calendar year), and this was below the 10 year mean (147 t). The average catch rate in 2019 was 53 kg per hour; this was below the trigger reference point (54 kg per hour). In 2019, average catch rate declined by 37 per cent from 2018 (68 kg per hour) and this was the fourth year of successive decline since 2015. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. However, the above evidence indicates that, for the period from 2015–2019, the biomass declined and that the current level of fishing mortality is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the West Coast Prawn Fishery (South Australia) management unit is classified as a depleting stock.
Western King Prawn biology [Kangas et al. 2015 a,b, Penn 1980, Noell and Hooper 2019]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Western King Prawn||2–3 years, maximum 4 years South Australia: males 46 mm CL, females 57 mm CL Western Australia: males 45 mm CL, females 60 mm CL||6–7 months, 25 mm CL|
Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing
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