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King George Whiting (2020)

Sillaginodes punctatus

  • Anthony Fowler (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Rodney Duffy (Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

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Summary

King George Whiting is a sustainable species found in WA, VIC and SA waters. It is the premium species in SA and attracts the highest price per unit weight for commercial fishers.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Victoria Victoria Sustainable Catch, CPUE, age/length structures, pre-recruit survey
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Stock Structure

Research on King George Whiting stock structure in southern Australia using genetic and otolith chemistry approaches indicates that separate stocks occur in each state jurisdiction (Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia), but with some genetic mixing between Victorian and South Australian populations [Jenkins et al. 2015]. King George Whiting sampled from northern Tasmania appear genetically different from those in the mainland states, although further sampling is required to confirm whether there are separate genetic stocks in Tasmania [Jenkins et al. 2015].

 

The South Australian population of King George Whiting is thought to be comprised of three biological stocks—Gulf St. Vincent, Spencer Gulf and the West Coast - Eyre Peninsula. This delineation has been determined based on understanding of the life history, including movement patterns of adult fish, knowledge of the location of spawning grounds and nursery areas [Fowler et al. 2000a, Fowler et al. 2002], and understanding of larval advection pathways and distances based on early life history and hydrodynamic modelling [Fowler et al. 2000b]. Recently, this stock structure has been called into question based on results from a detailed study of the early life history that included consideration of the larval movement processes. This involved studies that considered the microstructure and chemistry of otoliths from larvae and post-settlement juveniles [Rogers et al. 2019a, Rogers et al. 2019b], as well as biophysical oceanographic modelling [Rogers et al. 2020]. The complex findings from this study indicated that there was potential for movement of larvae between the putative stocks.  Nevertheless, given the lack of empirical evidence about the extent of such movement, it is considered preferable here to retain the original model of stock structure until further information becomes available. The Gulf St. Vincent biological stock occurs throughout Gulf St. Vincent, Investigator Strait and around Kangaroo Island. The Spencer Gulf biological stock occurs throughout the waters of Spencer Gulf and adjacent coastal waters from western Kangaroo Island to the Eyre Peninsula. The West Coast - Eyre Peninsula biological stock extends throughout all the bays and offshore areas of the west coast of Eyre Peninsula.

 

Further subdivision in biological stock structure is uncertain for Western Australian and Victorian populations. In Western Australia, King George Whiting occurs in the West Coast Bioregion (WCB) and South Coast Bioregion (SCB). Juveniles occur in inshore waters of both bioregions, but adults appear to be restricted to offshore waters of the WCB [Hyndes et al. 1998, Sulin 2012, Brown et al. 2013]. On this basis there is assumed to be a single biological stock in Western Australia, with the spawning component of the stock residing in the WCB. Similarly, there is assumed to be a single biological stock in Victorian waters, with juveniles occurring mostly in bays and estuaries and adults in coastal waters [Jenkins et al. 2015].

 

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

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Stock Status

Victoria

King George Whiting occur in bays, estuaries and coastal waters throughout Victoria. The most productive fisheries occur in Port Phillip Bay (PPB), Corner Inlet-Nooramunga (CI) and Western Port (WP). Population dynamics are strongly influenced by climatic factors determining numbers of larvae transported to bay and estuarine nurseries from coastal spawning areas in spring [Jenkins and May 1994, Hamer and Jenkins 1996, Jenkins et al. 2000, Jenkins 2005]. As most King George Whiting leave the bays and inlets permanently by four years of age (prior to adulthood) [Hamer et al. 2004], these fisheries are based on just a few age classes at any one time, making catches highly variable over relatively short time scales. Over the past 60 years catches have shown peaks and troughs at about 10 to 12-year intervals. These cycles that are thought to be related to variation in westerly winds driving larval transport and survival [Jenkins 2005]. Effort is concentrated in bays and inlets implying that adults in coastal waters are subject to low fishing mortality.

Commercial effort for all gear types has decreased since 1999 due to a reduction in the number of licensed commercial fishers in Victorian waters [VFA 2017]. Commercial netting is being phased out in PPB and will cease by 2022. The main commercial fishery is now in CI, where the catch in 2018/19 returned to about 140 t after falling briefly to 32 t in 2016. The species remains highly targeted by recreational fishers in PPB, CI, and WP. 

State-wide assessments were conducted in 2017 [VFA 2017] and 2019 [Conron at al. 2020], preceded by specific assessments of PPB, WP and CI in 2016 [Conron et al. 2016a, Conron et al. 2016b, Hamer and Giri 2016]. These indicated that CPUE for the main commercial gear (haul seine) increased from 2014–15 to 2015–16 in PPB and CI. Since 2015/16, commercial CPUE information is no longer informative for PPB due to removal of most of the haul seine effort. Recent fluctuations in CPUE in CI is consistent with surveys of post-larval recruitment in PPB that showed higher recruitment of post-larvae in spring 2013, followed by lower recruitment in 2014 and 2015 [VFA 2017, Conron at al. 2020]. Commercial catches in CI are consistently bimodal in structure with two dominant age classes, and few fish over 400 mm [Conron et al. 2016a]. Reduced catch and CPUE in CI can be attributed to natural fluctuations in availability [Conron at al. 2020]. 

Recent surveys of post-larvae recruitment have shown increased recruitment from 2016 to 2019, with 2017 being the third highest recruitment of post-larvae observed since surveys began in 1998 [Conron et al. 2020]. 

Creel surveys of recreational fishers in PPB and WP show highly variable annual catch rates similar to those of commercial fishers. Catch rates during 2018–19 were the third highest on record in PPB and well above average in WP.

Although highly variable due to recruitment dynamics, none of the fishery CPUE or pre-recruit time series show persistently declining trends. This provides reassurance that the poorly known and lightly fished adult stock component in coastal waters is continuing to be replenished at rates sufficient to prevent declines in recruitment. Recent strong post-larval recruitment is expected to drive a rapid increase in CPUE over the next few years . 

 The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the 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 above, the Victoria biological King George Whiting stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

King George Whiting biology [Hyndes et al. 1998, Fowler et al. 2000a, Hamer et al. 2004, Sulin 2012]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
King George Whiting South Australia 22 years, 590 mm TL Western Australia at least 14 years, 620 mm TL Victoria at least 11 years, 600 mm TL South Australia 3–4 years, 300–350 mm TL Western Australia 3–4 years, 410 mm TL Victoria unknown
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of King George Whiting
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Tables

Fishing methods
Victoria
Commercial
Hook and Line
Net
Recreational
Spearfishing
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Victoria
Commercial
Gear restrictions
Licence
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial restrictions
Recreational
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Licence
Size limit
Spatial closures
Catch
Victoria
Commercial 117.65t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) In Western Australia a recreational fishing licence is only required for fishing from a boat.

Victoria – Recreational (Management methods) Boat limits do not apply in Victoria. In Victoria a recreational fishing licence is required for all forms or recreational fishing, unless exempt.

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 - Recreational (Catch) Giri and Hall [2015].

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of King George Whiting - note confidential catch not shown
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References

  1. Brown, J, Dowling, C, Hesp, A, Smith, K and Molony, B 2013, Status of nearshore finfish stocks in south-western Western Australia. Part 3: Whiting (Sillaginidae), Fisheries Research Report 248, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  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, 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.
  4. Fisher, EA, Hesp, SA, Hall, NG and Sulin, EH 2014, Predicting the impacts of shifting recreational fishing effort towards inshore species, Final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2010/001
  5. Fowler, AJ, Black, KP, and Jenkins, GP 2000, Determination of spawning areas and larval advection pathways for King George whiting in south-eastern Australia using otolith microstructure and hydrodynamic modelling II. South Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 199: 243–254.
  6. Fowler, AJ, Jones, GK, McGarvey, R 2002, Characteristics and consequences of movement patterns of King George whiting (Perciformes: Sillaginodes punctata) in South Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 53: 1055–1069.
  7. Fowler, AJ, McGarvey, R, Carroll, J and Feenstra, JE 2014, King George Whiting (Sillaginodes punctatus), Fishery Assessment Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. F2007/000843-4. SARDI Research Report Series No. 801. 85 pp.
  8. Fowler, AJ, McLeay, L, and Short, DA 2000, Spatial variation in size and age structures and reproductive characteristics of the King George whiting (Percoidei: Sillaginidae) in South Australian waters. Marine and Freshwater Research, 51: 11–22.
  9. Giri, K, and Hall, K, 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  10. Hamer, P and Giri, K 2016, Port Phillip Bay Commercial Fishery Assessment 2016, Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 9.
  11. Hamer, PA and Jenkins, GP 1996, Larval supply and short-term recruitment of a temperate zone demersal fish, the King George whiting, Sillaginodes punctata Cuvier and Valenciennes, to an embayment in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Experimental Biology and Ecology, 208: 197–214.
  12. Hamer, PA, Jenkins, GP and Sivakumaran, KP 2004, Identifying the spawning locations of King George whiting in Victoria: a recreational fishing based study, Fisheries Victoria Assessment Report Series No. 21, Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff.
  13. Hyndes, GA, Platell, ME, Potter, IC and Lenanton, RCJ 1998, Age composition, growth, reproductive biology and recruitment of King George whiting, Sillaginodes punctata, in south western Australia. Fishery Bulletin U.S., 96: 258–270.
  14. Jenkins, GP 2005, The influence of climate on the fishery recruitment of a temperate, seagrass associated fish, the King George whiting, Sillaginodes punctata. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 288: 263–271.
  15. Jenkins, GP and May, HMA 1994, Variation in settlement and larval duration of King George whiting, Sillaginodes punctata (Sillaginidae), in Swan Bay, Victoria, Australia. Bulletin of Marine Science 54: 281–296.
  16. Jenkins, GP, Black, KP and Hamer, PA 2000, Determination of spawning areas and larval advection pathways for King George whiting in south-eastern Australia using otolith microstructure and hydrodynamic modelling, I. Victoria. Marine Ecology Progress Series 199: 231–242.
  17. Jenkins, GP, Hamer, PA, Kent, JA, Kemp, J and Fowler, AJ 2015, Spawning sources, movement patterns, and nursery area replenishment of spawning populations of King George whiting in south-eastern Australia — closing the life history loop, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Final Report, Deakin, Canberra.
  18. Rogers, T, Redondo-Rodriguez, A, Fowler, A, Doubell, M, Drew, M, Steer, M, Matthews, D, James, C, Gillanders, B 2020, Using a biophysical model to investigate connectivity between spawning grounds and nursery areas of King George whiting (Sillaginodes punctatus: Perciformes) in South Australia's gulfs. Fisheries Oceanography.
  19. Rogers, TA, Fowler, AJ, Steer, MA, Gillanders, BM 2019, Discriminating natal source populations of a temperate marine fish using larval otolith chemistry. Frontiers in Marine Science 6: 711.
  20. Rogers, TA, Fowler, AJ, Steer, MA, Gillanders, BM 2019, Resolving the early life history of King George whiting (Sillaginodes punctatus: Perciformes) using otolith microstructure and trace element chemistry. Marine and Freshwater Research 70: 1659-1674.
  21. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Tate, A, Taylor, SM, Wise, BS 2019, Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia, Perth.
  22. 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, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2003/047, Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff.
  23. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, McGarvey, R, Feenstra, J, Smart, J, Rogers, P, Earl, J, Beckmann, C, Drew, M, Matthews, D 2018b, Assessment of the South Australian Fishery in 2017. Fishery Assessment Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-2. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1002. 230 pp.
  24. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, McGarvey, R, Feenstra, J, Westlake, EL, Matthews, D, Drew, M, Rogers, PJ and Earl, J 2018a, 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. 250pp.
  25. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, Rogers, PJ, Bailleul, J, Earl, J, Matthews, D, 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. 201 pp.
  26. Sulin, EH 2012, Comparisons of the size and age compositions and growth of King George whiting (Sillaginodes punctata) in different regions of south-western Australia. M.Sc. thesis, Murdoch University, Western Australia.
  27. Victorian Fisheries Authority 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019. VFA Internal Report Series No. 7, May 2020.
  28. 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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