Date Published: June 2021
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The stock structure of Hapuku in Australian waters is unknown. Hapuku stock status at the jurisdictional level is sustainable in WA, negligible in QLD and SA, and undefined in NSW and Commonwealth waters.
Stock Status Overview
|New South Wales||New South Wales||Undefined||
Catch, effort, standardised catch rate, nominal catch rate
The stock structure of Hapuku throughout Australian waters is unknown. Life history characteristics similar to Bass Groper (Polyprion americanus) suggest mixing across broad geographic areas [Ball et al. 2000]. However, Beentjes and Francis  inferred the likelihood of separate stocks within New Zealand based on tagging studies of Hapuku, despite recorded movements of up to about 1 400 km. Paul  reported on the stock structure of Hapuku (and Bass Groper) in New Zealand, concluding that stock structure could not be described, and that there was insufficient data describing the life history characteristics to distinguish different stocks. Wakefield et al.  described differences in aged-based demography and reproduction of Hapuku among regions of Western Australia, and likely pan-oceanic mixing of the broader Hapuku population (including Indian Ocean). No such investigations have been done on Hapuku throughout eastern and south eastern Australian waters to develop our understanding of stock structure. It is likely Hapuku in eastern and south eastern Australian waters constitute one or more stocks of a greater population and fisheries within this region access this stock or subset of stocks in support of their annual catches. Panmixia could be expected throughout the region, owing to the extended larval/juvenile phase (years) and large-scale genetic homogeneity of congener P. americanus which has similar life-history traits [Ball et al. 2000, Roberts 1996, Sedberry et al. 1996, Wakefield et al. 2010]. Evidence in support of a single biological stock, or stock structuring within broader Australian waters is limited.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Commonwealth, Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
New South Wales
Hapuku have primarily been caught as a by-product species in the Ocean Trap and Line (OTL) Fishery on dropline gear, where target species are commonly Blue-eye Trevalla (Hyperoglyphe antarctica). Since 1997–98, commercial catches of Hapuku have been reported independently of Bass Groper (P. americanus). Annual commercial catches of Hapuku have declined from a peak of 15.6 t in 1999–2000. Within the last decade (2009–10 to 2018–19) the average annual commercial catch of Hapuku was <3 t, and within in the last five years (2014–15 to 2018–19) was 1.6 t. Similarly, annual total effort (days fished) has declined steadily over the same period. Together with information on the mean weight (7.6 kg) of Hapuku caught and retained in the OTL Fishery [Macbeth and Gray 2015], the commercial fishery for Hapuku over the last five years, is responsible for the harvest of an average annual number of <250 individual fish.
From 1997–98 to 2009–10 droplining accounted for about 90 percent of total annual commercial catches. Since 2009–10, annual catches on dropline gear steadily declined, with decreasing levels of effort (days), to an average of about 60 per cent of total annual catch. Commensurate with these changes were increases in catch (and days of effort) and the percent of total annual catch on handline gear. Standardised catch rates (kg per day) for droplining in the OTL Fishery showed no significant trend between 1997–98 and 2018–19, with larger variance surrounding estimates after 2007–08 and particularly in 2018–19, associated with fewer active fishing businesses and fewer catches. From 2009–10, mean estimates of standardised catch rates declined to a historical low in 2014–15, where it has generally remained, with some indication of an increase in 2018–19. Median nominal catch rate (kg per day) for handlining also showed no clear trend between 1997–98 and 2018–19. As similarly indicated in standardised dropline catch rate, handline nominal median catch rate also increased in 2018–19 [Chick and Fowler 2020].
Although New South Wales commercial catches are low, the impact of fishing on the Hapuku stock in New South Wales remains uncertain. Recreational and Indigenous catch of Hapuku is not well understood in New South Wales. Henry and Lyle  estimated the New South Wales annual recreational harvest of Rock Cod/Gropers (including Hapuku and nine other ‘offshore/deep’ species) to be 4 770 (± 1 532) individuals, with offshore (> 5 km from shore) recreational fishing effort representing 1.3 per cent of the State-wide total. West et al.  and Murphy et al.  reported no recreational catch of Hapuku in 2013–14 or 2018–19, respectively.
A review of indicators (weight-of-evidence approach) was used to assess the status of Hapuku in New South Wales. There are insufficient data available to support more quantitative stock assessment methods. Important knowledge gaps and areas of uncertainty for Hapuku assessment include (i) Hapuku stock structure, biology and recreational catch, (ii) low and decreasing levels of commercial catch, together with similar patterns in effort (days), and (iii) low and variable catches and effort between different commercial fishing gears and methods. Point (iii) exacerbates uncertainty surrounding estimates of standardised and nominal catch rates. The cumulative effect of these uncertainties means there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock [Chick and Fowler 2020].
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Hapuku in New South Wales is classified as an undefined stock.
Hapuku biology [Ball et al. 2000, Paxton et al. 1989, Wakefield et al. 2010]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Hapuku||52 years Females 1 114 mm TL Males 702 mm TL||Females 7.1 years, 760 mm TL Males 6.8 years, 702 mm TL|
Distribution of reported commercial catch of Hapuku
|New South Wales|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Method||New South Wales|
|Bag and possession limits|
|Customary fishing management arrangements|
|Bag and possession limits|
|New South Wales|
Western Australia – Recreational (management methods) Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence is required for use of a powered boat to fish or to transport catch or fishing gear to or from a land-based fishing location.
Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) - https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing
Commercial catch of Hapuku - note confidential catch not shown
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- Paul, LR 2002, Can existing data describe the stock structure of the two New Zealand groper species, hapuku (Polyprion oxygeneios) and bass (P. americanus)? New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2002/14. 24p.
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