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Eastern Sea Garfish (2020)

Hyporhamphus australis

  • John Stewart (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

Date Published: June 2021

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Summary

Eastern Sea Garfish is found in sheltered bays, coastal waters, and occasionally in the lower reaches of estuaries along south-eastern Australia. It has been historically overfished but is now classified as a sustainable stock.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
New South Wales Eastern Australia Sustainable

Spawning stock biomass, fishing mortality rate, age composition, catch, effort

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Stock Structure

Eastern Sea Garfish (Hyporhamphus australis) is found in sheltered bays, coastal waters, and occasionally in the lower reaches of estuaries from Moreton Bay in Queensland to Eden in New South Wales, including Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. The stock structure of Eastern Sea Garfish has not been formally examined through genetics. However, based on their limited distribution along south-eastern Australia and predictable seasonal abundance at different latitudes, it is likely to constitute a single biological stock [Stewart et al. 2005].

Here, the stock status of Eastern Sea Garfish is reported at the biological stock level—Eastern Australia.

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

The NSW Ocean Hauling Sea Garfish Fishery transitioned to quota management in 2017–18, with an interim annual catch quota of 45.5 t allocated until 2024. The most recent assessment of Eastern Sea Garfish [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Stewart 2020] estimated that biomass and recruitment levels have increased considerably (approximately tripled) since the stock was assessed as being overfished during the early 2000s [Stewart et al. 2015]. Recruitment in Eastern Sea Garfish is variable, with peaks evident in 2009–10 and 2013–14 and estimated to be very high during 2018–19, noting that this recent spike should be treated with caution as too few data were available for the model to accurately estimate recruitment in the final year [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Stewart 2020]. In addition to the modelled increase in biomass, increases in the proportion of fish older than two years in landings since around 2007–08 indicate that the population was recovering to a more natural state [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Stewart 2020]. However the proportion of fish aged 2+ in landings has declined slightly in recent years which may reflect stronger 1+ cohorts entering the fishery [Stewart 2020].

Despite the recovery of Eastern Sea Garfish, there remain some minor concerns for the stock. The updated assessment for 2018–19 [Stewart 2020] indicated ongoing highly variable levels of recruitment which may be indicative of insufficient spawning biomass and/or variable environmental conditions. However biomass increased considerably in each of the most recent two years and was estimated to be around 300 t in 2018–19 [Stewart 2020]. Monitoring of the fishery during 2018–19 found landings remained relatively low but with slightly increasing catch rates. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

Landings and fishing effort targeting Eastern Sea Garfish have declined considerably since they were overfished during the 1980s and 1990s. Commercial landings peaked at more than 250 t per year during the early 1990s but have averaged less than 45 t per annum during the past decade. Recreational landings are poorly estimated and considered relatively minor (~1.3 t). Reported commercial effort targeting Eastern Sea Garfish has declined from approximately 800 boat days during 2004–05 to approximately 150 boat days during 2017–18 and 2018–19 [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Stewart 2020]. The minimum mesh size in garfish hauling nets was increased to 28 mm during the mid-2000s, reducing fishing mortality on juveniles considerably [Broadhurst et al. 2018]. Fishing mortality on fully recruited age classes declined to below the estimated natural mortality level in 2010–11 and has remained there since [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Stewart 2020]. The reported commercial catch in 2018–19 was approximately 33 t, which is around 11 per cent of the estimated biomass in that year. It is not known whether a harvest fraction at this level is sustainable for Eastern Sea Garfish; however higher harvest fractions have been found to be sustainable for other species with similar life-histories [Smith et al. 2015]. 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 biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Eastern Sea Garfish biology [Broadhurst et al. 2018, Collette 1974, Hughes and Stewart 2006]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Eastern Sea Garfish 6 years, 398 mm FL 210 mm FL, 1 year
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Eastern Sea Garfish
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Tables

Fishing methods
New South Wales
Commercial
Net
Various
Charter
Hook and Line
Indigenous
Hook and Line
Recreational
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Charter
Bag and possession limits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Marine park closures
Spatial closures
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Marine park closures
Mesh size regulations
Quota
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Indigenous
Customary fishing management arrangements
Recreational
Bag and possession limits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Marine park closures
Spatial closures
Catch
New South Wales
Commercial 33.25t
Charter Unknown
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 9 000 fish, 1.3 t (2017-18)

New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. [2020].

New South Wales – Indigenous https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Eastern Sea Garfish 

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References

  1. Broadhurst, MK, Kienzle, M and Stewart, J 2018, Natural and fishing mortalities affecting eastern sea garfish, Hyporhamphus australis inferred from age-frequency data using hazard functions. Fisheries Research, 198: 43–49.
  2. Collette, BB 1974, The garfishes (Hemiramphidae) of Australia and New Zealand. Records of the Australian Museum, 29: 11–105.
  3. Hughes, JM and Stewart, J 2006, Reproductive biology of three commercially important Hemiramphid species in south-eastern Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 75: 237–256.
  4. Murphy, JJ, Ochwada-Doyle, FA, West, LD, Stark, KE and Hughes, JM 2020, The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  5. Smith, A, Ward, T, Hurtado, F, Klaer, N, Fulton, E and Punt, A 2015, Review and update of harvest strategy settings for the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery: single species and ecosystem considerations, report for FRDC project 2013/028, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart.
  6. Stewart, J 2020, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020 – NSW Stock status summary – Eastern Sea Garfish (Hyporhamphus australis).
  7. Stewart, J, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J 2015, Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, 391 pp.
  8. Stewart, J, Hughes, JM, Gray, CA and Walsh, C 2005, Life history, reproductive biology, habitat use and fishery status of eastern sea garfish (Hyporhamphus australis) and river garfish (H. regularis ardelio) in NSW waters. NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries Final Report Series 73. 180 pp. ISSN 1449–9967.

Downloadable reports

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