Southern Sand Flathead (2020)

Platycephalus bassensis

  • Jeff Norriss (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Nils Krueck (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Paul Rogers (SARDI Aquatic Sciences, South Australia)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

Date Published: June 2021

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Southern Sand Flathead is popular with recreational fishers. It is found in shallow waters around southern Australia. In VIC, one stock is sustainable, one is recovering, and one is undefined. The TAS stock is depleting, the SA stock is undefined and the WA stock is negligible.  

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Western Australia Negligible
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Stock Structure

Southern Sand Flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) is endemic to Australia and inhabits bays, inlets, estuaries and shallow coastal waters to a depth of around 100 m from the central New South Wales coast, around Tasmania to South Australia and southern Western Australia [Gomon et al. 2008]. There is some evidence of regional sub-populations with differences in physical characteristics, recruitment dynamics and growth rates. Information from tagging, larval sampling and growth rate studies [Brown 1977, Hamer et al. 2010, Hirst et al. 2014], indicate that Southern Sand Flathead in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, comprise a distinct biological stock that has slower growth, and asymptotic length that is 30 per cent smaller than fish from Bass Strait and 20 per cent smaller than fish from south east Tasmania [Hirst et al. 2014, Koopman et al. 2009]. However, biological stock structure has not been studied in detail in other areas and each of the State jurisdictions have different management arrangements for Southern Sand Flathead.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Port Phillip Bay (Victoria); at the management unit level—Corner Inlet and Victoria Other (Victoria); and at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia.

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Stock Status

Western Australia

Stock status for Western Australia is reported as Negligible due to low catches by this jurisdiction. The species is rare in Western Australia; catch is unknown but very low, possibly zero. This stock has not previously been depleted, is not subject to targeted fishing and the current level of fishing is unlikely to be having a negative impact on the stock.

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Southern Sand Flathead biology [Bani and Moltschaniwskyj 2008, Brown 1977, Jordan 1998, Koopman et al. 2004]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Southern Sand Flathead 23 years (both sexes) Males 370 mm TL Females 480 mm TL Males 2.5–3.5 years, 210 mm TL Females 2.6–5.2 years, 235 mm TL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Southern Sand Flathead
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Management methods
Method Western Australia
Bag limits
Limited entry
Size limit
Limited entry
Size limit
Bag/possession limits
Licence (Recreational Fishing from Boat License)
Size limit
Temporal closures

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.

TasmaniaCommercial (Catches) Catches reported for the Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery are for the period 1 July to 30 June the following year. The most recent assessment available is for 2016–17

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. The species is subject to a minimum size limit of 320 mm. A bag limit of 20 fish and a possession limit of 30 fish (Sand and Tiger Flathead) is in place for recreational fishers.

Tasmania – Indigenous (Management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous persons engaged in traditional 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. For details, see the policy document "Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities” (https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Documents/Policy%20for%20Aboriginal%20tags%20and%20alloting%20an%20UIC.pdf).

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Southern Sand Flathead - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Bani, A and Moltschaniwskyj, NA 2008, Spatio-temporal variability in reproductive ecology of Sand Flathead, Platycephalus bassensis, in three Tasmanian inshore habitats: potential implications for management. Journal of Applied Icthyology ,24: 555–561.
  2. Brown, IW 1977, Ecology of three sympatric flatheads (Platycephalidae) in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. PhD thesis, Monash University, Victoria.
  3. 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.
  4. Conron, S, Hamer, P and Jenkins, G 2016, Western Port Fishery Assessment 2015, Recreational Fishing Grants Program Research Report, Fisheries Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
  5. 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.
  6. Ewing, GP, Lyle, JM and Mapstone, A 2014, Developing a low-cost monitoring regime to assess relative abundance and population characteristics of sand flathead, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  7. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey, Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  8. Gomon, M, Bray, D and Kuiter, R (ed) 2008, Fishes of Australia's southern coast, Sydney: Reed New Holland.
  9. Hamer, P, Conron, S, Hirst, A and Kemp, J 2016, Sand Flathead Stock Assessment 2015, Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 13, Fisheries Victoria, Queenscliff.
  10. Hamer, P, Kemp, J and Kent, J 2010, Analysis of existing data on sand flathead larval and juvenile recruitment in Port Phillip Bay, Fisheries Victoria Research Report Series No. 50.
  11. Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 99/158, Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  12. Hirst, A, Rees, C, Hamer, PA, Kemp, JE and Conron, SD 2014, The decline of Sand Flathead stocks in Port Phillip Bay: magnitude, causes and future prospects, Recreational Fishing Grant Program Research Report, Fisheries Victoria, Queenscliff.
  13. Jordan, AR 1998, The life‐history ecology of Platycephalus bassensis and Nemadactylus macropterus. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.
  14. Koopman, M, Morison, AK and Troynikov, V 2004, Population dynamics and assessment of sand and rock flathead in Victorian waters, Final Report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2000/120, Primary Industries Research Victoria, Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff.
  15. Koopman, MT, Morrison, AK and Coutin, PC (eds) 2009, Sand Flathead 2000, Fisheries Victoria internal report 10, Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff.
  16. Krueck N, Hartmann, K and Lyle J 2020, Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery Assessment 2018/19. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania.
  17. Lyle, JM, Stark, KE, Ewing, GP and Tracey, SR 2019, 2017-18 Survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
  18. MacDonald, CM and Hall, DN 1987, A survey of recreational fishing in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Marine Fisheries Report No. 11, Department of Conservation Forests and Lands.
  19. Ryan, KL, Morison, AK and Conron, S 2009, Evaluating methods of obtaining total catch estimates for individual Victorian bay and inlet recreational fisheries, Final report, FRDC project 2003/047.
  20. Southern Sand Flathead–Port Phillip Bay stock status indicators update 2018.
  21. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, Rogers, PJ, Bailleul, F, Earl, J, Matthews, C, Drew, M, and Tsolos, A 2020, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2018, Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1049. 213pp.
  22. Victorian Fisheries Authority 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019. VFA Internal Report Series, May 2020.
  23. Victorian Fisheries Authority, 2017, Review of key Victorian fish stocks—2017, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1.

Downloadable reports

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