Pearl Perch (2020)
Date Published: June 2021
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Pearl Perch is a demersal fish endemic to the central NSW and QLD coast of Australia. Fishing levels have exceeded sustainable levels and the stock status is depleted.
Stock Status Overview
Biomass, Standardised Catch Rate, Fishery-Dependent Length and Age Frequency, Estimates of Total Mortality Rate, Catch and Effort
The Pearl Perch (Glaucosoma scapulare) is a relatively common demersal fish endemic to the central east coast of Australia. Pearl Perch generally form small schools around submerged reefs, pinnacles and rough rocky seabed in moderately deep water (up to 150 m) but may also move into shallow coastal waters throughout the day [McKay 1997]. Pearl Perch have a limited distribution from Rockhampton in Queensland (23°20’S) south to Port Jackson in New South Wales (33°50’S), but rarely occur south of Coffs Harbour (30°18’S) [Stewart et al. 2013]. Due to this limited distribution and influence of the prevailing southerly flowing Eastern Australian Current in distributing larvae across this area [Ridgway and Dunn 2003], Pearl Perch are considered to be a single biological stock [Stewart et al. 2015].
Here the assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Eastern Australia.
The 2017 combined Queensland and New South Wales integrated statistical stock assessment (using catch, effort, length and age frequency data up until 2014) of the Eastern Australia stock estimated exploitable biomass at between 15 and 40 per cent of virgin (pre-1938) levels [Sumpton et al. 2017]. Four of the seven model scenarios estimated median biomass in 2014 to be at or below 20 per cent of virgin levels. Since 2014 standardised catch rates in Queensland have declined by a further 30 per cent [Wortmann 2020] and nominal catch rates in the New South Wales line fishery have increased slightly but remain at a relatively low level [Stewart 2020]. Fishery-dependent monitoring in Queensland and New South Wales show truncated commercial and recreational age frequencies with absence of larger fish [Stewart 2011, Stewart et al. 2013, Stewart 2020]. Fishery dependent monitoring of age frequencies from 2008 to 2019 shows no clear signs of strong recruitment in Queensland waters. In New South Wales, length-based monitoring of commercial landings showed a steady increase in average lengths of the moderate sized fish between 2004–05 and 2014–15, with a lack of small fish observed in landings, indicative of poor recruitment during the decade [Stewart 2020]. A pulse of just legal-sized Pearl Perch were detected in landings during 2016–17 indicative of an improved recruitment; however there are no indications that the available biomass has yet increased above the limit. The stock is considered to be recruitment impaired.
Fishing mortality on the Eastern Australia stock of Pearl Perch was assessed as exceeding sustainable levels during the most recent stock assessment [Sumpton et al. 2017]. Historical landings greatly exceeded the estimated maximum sustainable yield from the stock, and fishing mortality was estimated to be above or near to natural mortality. Since that time the combined harvest from Queensland and New South Wales has been at historically low levels. Harvest levels from the southern component of the Queensland fishery (Fraser Offshore south) continue to decline. The commercial fishery in Queensland appears to have shifted north, with the few older fish observed in monitoring coming from this region. This spatial shift may be an indication that biomass has been subject to depletion in the main fishing area. Estimates of the recreational harvest in Queensland from 2019–20 (14 542 fish) increased slightly from 2013–14 (10 687 fish), however this is 73% below the 2000 estimate (53 555 fish) [Taylor et al. 2012, Webley et al. 2015, Teixeira et al. 2021]. Recreational catch rates have also decreased by approximately 58% since the 2000 survey estimate. Some of the reported drop in recreational harvest may be attributed to an increased minimum legal length (300 mm to 350 mm total length) and a reduced possession limit (from 10 to five) introduced in Queensland in 2002. In NSW the recreational harvest in terms of numbers of fish may have increased 3-fold since 2013–14 (consistent with a recruitment pulse into the fishery during 2016–17); however the survey results are not robust [Stewart 2020].
In Queensland, active commercial fishing licences and fishing effort days in 2019 were less than the previous three years [QFISH 2020] and effort had almost halved compared to the previous 10-year average. In New South Wales the number of days reported when Pearl Perch were landed in both trap and line fisheries are at or near historically low levels [Stewart 2020]. There is a minimum legal length of 300 mm total length for Pearl Perch in New South Wales and an increased (2019) 380 mm minimum legal size (increased from 350 mm) and reduced possession limit of four in Queensland (increased from 350 mm) that afford limited protection to juveniles. Despite these restrictions in fishing effort, the stock has shown no evidence of recovery.
This level of fishing mortality is expected to prevent the stock from recovering from its recruitment impaired state.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Eastern Australia biological stock is classified as a depleted stock.
Pearl Perch biology [McKay 1997, Sumpton et al. 2013]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Pearl Perch||22–25 years, 700 mm TL, 7.3 kg||Females 2–4 years, 250–450 mm TL|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Recreational||14 542 fish retained in 2019–20|
Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing
New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. .
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing
- McKay, RJ, 1997, FAO Species Catalogue, Vol. 17, Pearl perches of the world (family Glaucosomatidae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the pearl perches known to date, FAO Fisheries Synopsis, 125(17): 26p. Rome: FAO.
- 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.
- QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
- Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020–NSW Stock status summary–Pearl Perch (Glaucosoma scapulare)
- Stewart, J 2011, Evidence of age-class truncation in some exploited marine fish populations in New South Wales, Australia. Fisheries Research, 108 (1): 209–213.
- 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.
- Stewart, J, Sumpton, W., Lockett, M and Hughes, JM 2013, Age‐based demographics of the pearl perch Glaucosoma scapulare (Ramsay, 1881), Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 29(4), 801–807.
- Sumpton, W, Campbell, M, McLennan, M, Brown, I, Fraser, K, Wesche, S and Kerrigan, B, 2013, Addressing knowledge gaps for the sustainable management of rocky reef fisheries in southern Queensland, FRDC 2008/015 Final Report.
- Sumpton, W, O’Neill, MF, Campbell, M, McLennan, M and Campbell, AB 2017, Stock assessment of the Queensland and New South Wales pearl perch (Glaucosoma scapulare) fishery, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
- Taylor S, Webley, J, McInnes K 2012, 2012 Statewide recreational Fishing Survey, Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland.
- Teixeira, D, Janes, R, and Webley, J 2021, 2019–20 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey Key Results. Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.
- Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.
- West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14. Fisheries Final Report Series.
- Wortmann, J 2020, Queensland rocky reef finfish. Harvest and catch rates. May 2020, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.