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Southern Garfish (2020)

Hyporhamphus melanochir

  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Jonathan Smart (SARDI Aquatic Sciences)
  • Rodney Duffy (Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

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Summary

Southern Garfish has a wide distribution around Australia. There are ten stocks across WA, SA, TAS and VIC. Six stocks are sustainable, two are depleted and two are recovering.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Western Australia South Coast Sustainable

Catch

Western Australia Western Australia West Coast Recovering

Catch

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Stock Structure

Southern Garfish has a wide distribution in Australia, extending from Lancelin in Western Australia, along the southern coast of mainland Australia and up the east coast to Eden in southern New South Wales, as well as the surrounding waters of Tasmania [Gomon et al. 2008].

There has been no research into the stock structure of Western Australian populations of Southern Garfish. However, given the limited dispersal typically displayed by Southern Garfish, and the large spatial separation between the west and south coasts of Western Australia, it is highly likely that the west and south coast support separate biological stocks of this species [Ye et al. 2002, Steer et al. 2009].

In Victoria, there has been no research into the stock structure for populations of Southern Garfish and they are assumed to constitute a single jurisdictional stock.

In Tasmania, differences in size and age composition between the north coast and the east coast indicate that there may be multiple biological stocks; however, no firm evidence exists at present, and current stock assessments assume a single state-wide biological stock [Moore et al. 2018].

A multidisciplinary otolith-based study (otolith chemistry and morphometrics) identified at least five biological stocks in South Australia: West Coast, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and Southern Gulf St. Vincent [Steer et al. 2009]. Given the level of spatial separation of Southern Garfish observed between the gulfs, it was assumed that Southern Garfish from the south east also comprised a separate biological stock.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Western Australia West Coast and Western Australia South Coast; South Australia West Coast (Western Australia); Southern Spencer Gulf, Northern Spencer Gulf, Southern Gulf St. Vincent, Northern Gulf St. Vincent and South East (South Australia); Tasmania; and at the jurisdictional level—Victoria.

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Stock Status

Western Australia South Coast

The current assessment of the Western Australia South Coast stock  is primarily based on estimates of biomass and fishing mortality from a data-limited Catch-MSY assessment model, compared periodically to reference levels relating to estimates of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The estimated biomass expected to achieve MSY (BMSY) is considered as the Threshold reference level for the stock, and 50 per cent BMSY is set as the limit reference level. The target level is considered as any stock levels above BMSY.

Annual commercial catches of Southern Garfish taken in the South Coast Bioregion since 1976 have fluctuated between around 5 and 35t. The highest catch occurred in the early 1990’s, whilst the lowest catch occurred around 2000. Overall, there has been a slight downward trend in catch over the time series. The estimated fishing mortality experienced by the stock in 2019 was 0.01 year-1, with the 95 per cent CLs ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 year-1. As the upper 95 per cent CL of this performance indicator is well below the level of FMSY (0.17 year-1), the stock is unlikely to deplete to a level at which recruitment could be impaired if the current catch level is maintained.

The point estimate for relative stock biomass in 2019 was high at 0.82 of the unfished level ( 95 per cent CLs = 0.64–1.0). As the current value of this performance indicator is above the threshold, the stock is considered not to be depleted to a level at which recruitment could be impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Western Australia South Coast stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

Western Australia West Coast

The previous assessment in 2016 indicated that spawning biomass  was below the limit reference level (i.e. 20 per cent of unfished level) (Smith et al. 2016). This zone was closed to commercial and recreational fishing for Southern Garfish, and monitoring is being undertaken to assess signs of recovery.

The current assessment of the Western Australia West Coast biological stock is primarily based on estimates of biomass and fishing mortality from a data-limited Catch-MSY assessment model [Martell and Froese 2013], compared periodically to reference levels relating to estimates of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The estimated biomass expected to achieve MSY (BMSY) is considered as the Threshold reference level for the stock, and 50 per cent BMSY is set as the limit reference level. The target level is considered as any stock levels above BMSY.

Annual catches of Southern Garfish from the Western Australia West Coast biological stock taken by commercial fisheries since 1976, increased from the beginning of the time series, peaking in the late 1990s. Catch has declined since then to all-time lows in recent years. The estimated fishing mortality (F) experienced by the stock in 2019 was 0.01 year-1, with the 95 per cent CLs ranging from 0 t,o 0.02 year-1. As the upper 95 per cent CL of this performance indicator is well below the level of FMSY (0.11 year-1), the stock is unlikely to continue to deplete to a level at which recruitment will  be impaired if this F is maintained. 

The point estimate for relative stock biomass in 2019 was  0.4 of the unfished level ( 95 per cent CLs = 0.13–0.67). The  current value of this performance indicator has increased since 2017,and is above the limit BRP.  However it is still below the threshold BRP. Thus, although growing, the  stock may still be depleted to a level at which there is an increased risk of recruitment impairment. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Western Australia West Coast biological stock is classified as a recovering stock.

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Biology

Southern Garfish biology [Ye et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2017]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Southern Garfish South Australia: 10 years, 380 mm TL Tasmania: 9.5 years, 460 mm TL. Western Australia: 12 years, 430 mm TL Western Australia: 12 months, 230 mm TL South Australia: 18 months, 190 mm TL Victoria: 19 months, 210 mm TL Tasmania: 22 months, 200 mm TL
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Southern Garfish
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Tables

Fishing methods
Western Australia
Commercial
Line
Gillnet
Beach Seine
Haul Seine
Recreational
Hook and Line
Charter
Rod and reel
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Recreational
Bag and possession limits
Bag limits
Licence (boat-based sector)
Catch
Western Australia
Commercial 6.73t
Charter Negligible
Recreational Insufficient data

Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

South Australia – Commercial (catch) Data for the Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) and the Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (South Australia) have been combined because of confidentiality requirements.

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.

Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous people engaged in 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, aborigines must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a Unique Identifying Code (UIC) to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC

Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Current shore-based recreational catch and effort in Western Australia is unknown. State-wide surveys of boat-based fishing are conducted regularly, most recently in 2015/16 [Ryan et al. 2017].

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Southern Garfish - note confidential catch not shown

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References

  1.  Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey, Fisheries Research Development Corporation project 99/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  2. Conron S, Green C, Hamer, P, Giri K, and Hall K 2016, Corner Inlet- Nooramunga Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 11.
  3. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp.
  4. Giri K and Hall K, 2015 South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  5. Gomon, M, Bray, D and Kuiter, R 2008, Fishes of Australia’s southern coast, New Holland Publishers, Australia.
  6. Krueck, N., Hartmann, K., Lyle, J., Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery Assessment 2018/19
  7. Martell, S and Froese, R 2013, A simple method for estimating MSY from catch and resilience. Fish and Fisheries, 14: 504–514.
  8. Moore, BM, Lyle, J and Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian Scalefish Fshery Assessment 2016/17, The Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Tasmania.
  9. Pearce, A, Lenenton, R, Jackson, G, Moore, J, Feng, M and Gaughan, D 2011, The “Marine Heat Wave” off Western Australia during the Summer of 2010/11, Fisheries Research Report 222, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  10. Review of key Victorian fish stocks—2017 Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1
  11. Ryan KL, Hall NG, Lai EK, Smallwood CB, Taylor SM and Wise BS 2017. Statewide survey of boatbased recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16. Fisheries Research Report No. 287, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 205pp.
  12. Smith K, Dowling C, Mountford S, Hesp A, Howard A and Brown J. 2017, Status of southern garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. Research Report No. 271. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.Smith K, Holtz M, Bunbury E, O'Malley J and Yerman M. 2018, West Coast Nearshore and Estuarine Finfish Resource Status Report 2017. In: Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2016/17: State of the Fisheries. eds. Gaughan DJ and Santoro K. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. pp 50–56.
  13. Smith K, Dowling C, Mountford S, Hesp A, Howard A, and Brown J. 2016. Status of southern garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia. Fisheries Research Report, No. 271, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 139pp.
  14. Smith K, Holtz M, Bunbury E, O'Malley J and Yerman M 2018, West Coast Nearshore and Estuarine Finfish Resource Status Report 2017. In: Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2016/17: State of the Fisheries. eds. Gaughan DJ and Santoro K. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. pp 50–56.
  15. Steer MA, Fowler AJ, McGarvey R, Feenstra J, Westlake EL, Matthews D, Drew M, Rogers PJ and Earl J 2018, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2016. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 974. Pp 250. 
  16. Steer, M.A., Fowler, A.J., Rogers, P.J., Bailleul, F., Earl J., Matthews, D., Drew, M. and Tsolos, A. (2020). Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2018. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1049.
  17. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ and Gillanders, BM 2009, Spatial management of Garfish in South Australia – stock structure and adult movement, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2007/029, Canberra.
  18. Ye, Q, Jones, GK, McGlennon, D, Ayvazian, S and Coutin, P 2002, Fisheries Biology and Habitat Ecology of Southern Sea Garfish (Hyporhamphus melanochir) in Southern Australian Waters, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 1997/133, Canberra.Conron S, Green C, Hamer, P, Giri K and Hall K 2016, Corner Inlet- Nooramunga Fishery Assessment 2016. Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 11.

Downloadable reports

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