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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)

Date Published: June 2021

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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
South Australia Gulf St. Vincent Sustainable Catch, CPUE, age structure, biomass
South Australia Spencer Gulf Sustainable Catch, CPUE, age structure, biomass
South Australia South Australia West Coast Sustainable Catch, CPUE, age structure, biomass
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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

Gulf St. Vincent

The most recent comprehensive stock assessment was completed in 2017, and considered data collected up until the end of 2016 [Steer et al. 2018a]. For that assessment the primary fishery performance indicators were: total catch, handline effort and handline CPUE; and population age compositions determined from commercial market sampling. All datasets pertaining to the fishery were integrated in a computer stock assessment model (WhitEst) that produced time-series of annual estimates of output parameters that included fishable biomass, recruitment, harvest fraction and egg production. Such comprehensive stock assessments are done on a triennial basis and stock status is determined using a weight-of-evidence approach.  However, since then, stock status has also been determined annually based only on commercial fishery statistics [Steer et al. 2018b, Steer et al. 2020].

 Annual commercial catches and effort for this stock were considerably higher during the 1990s compared to the 2000s, consistent with a long-term decline in the number of fishers participating in the fishery and targeting this species [Steer et al. 2018a]. In particular, there were considerable declines in commercial catch and effort between 2009 and 2013. Furthermore, whilst CPUE had shown a long-term increasing trend between 1984 and 2007, there was a period of consistent decline between 2007 and 2012 during which it fell by 25 per cent. In response, the estimates of biomass for the period of 2008 to 2012 from WhitEst showed a considerable decline of 12 per cent. This period of declining biomass was associated with declining recruitment. Based on these fishery performance indicators, the fishery was classified as transitional depleting [Fowler et al. 2014]. This led to an extensive review of management arrangements throughout 2016 that culminated in significant management changes that were implemented in December 2016. The legal minimum length was increased from 310 to 320 mm total length (TL); recreational bag and boat limits were reduced; and, a month-long spatial spawning closure was implemented in Investigator Strait and southern Spencer Gulf.

  Since 2013, the estimates of commercial catch and effort have stopped declining and handline CPUE has increased by 20 per cent [Steer et al. 2020]. The years of 2016, 2017 and 2018 produced the three highest estimates of handline CPUE for the long-term data since 1984. Estimated biomass from WhitEst stabilised between 2011 and 2016 to an average of 670 tonnes (t), considerably higher than the lowest value of 513 t, estimated for 1986.  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 provided above, the Gulf St. Vincent biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

 

South Australia West Coast

The most recent comprehensive stock assessment, which considered data collected up until the end of 2016, was completed in 2017 [Steer et al. 2018a]. Assessment methods were the same as those applied for the Gulf St. Vincent biological stock. However, since then, stock status has also been determined annually based only on commercial fishery statistics [Steer et al. 2018b, Steer et al. 2020].

Between 2013 and 2018, total catch from this stock declined by 32.5 per cent [Steer et al. 2020]. Handline effort also declined over the same period by a similar percentage. Nevertheless, despite these declines in catch and effort, CPUE has remained at a high level, attaining the highest ever maximum of 26 kg.fisherday-1 in 2018 [Steer et al. 2020]. The reductions in catch and effort through the late 2000s relate to the decline in the numbers of fishers rather than a reduction in the fishery catch rate.

The estimates of fishable biomass from WhitEst gradually increased between 1984 and 2016, particularly between 1984 and 1999 and 2008 and 2016 [Steer et al. 2018a]. The estimate of biomass for 2016 was approximately 2 500 t. The general increasing trend in biomass reflects long-term trends in increasing recruitment and declining exploitation rate. The latter was associated with the declining fishing effort that relates to declining numbers of commercial fishers. 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 provided above, the South Australia West Coast biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

Spencer Gulf

The most recent comprehensive stock assessment was completed in 2017, which considered data collected up until the end of 2016 [Steer et al. 2018a]. The assessment methods were the same as those applied for the Gulf St. Vincent biological stock. Since then, stock status has also been determined annually based only on commercial fishery statistics [Steer et al. 2018b, Steer et al. 2020].

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, estimates of total catch and effort for this stock were higher than the levels that were recorded through the 2000s [Steer et al. 2020]. CPUE has varied cyclically over time but has demonstrated a long-term increasing trend [Steer et al. 2020]. However, between 2007 and 2013, catch, effort and CPUE all declined contemporaneously, which resulted in declining estimates of biomass from WhitEst [Steer et al. 2018a]. These declining trends were associated with a significant decline in recruitment. Based on these fishery performance indicators, this stock was classified as transitional depleting [Fowler et al. 2014]. There was an extensive review of management arrangements throughout 2016 that culminated in significant management changes that were implemented in December 2016: the legal minimum length was increased from 310 to 320 mm TL; recreational bag and boat limits were reduced; and, a month-long spatial spawning closure was implemented in Investigator Strait and southern Spencer Gulf.

Between 2013 and 2017, there were notable increases in the fishery performance indicators that relate to commercial fishery statistics. Over this period, handline effort increased by 28 per cent, total catch by 41 per cent and handline CPUE by 21 per cent [Steer et al. 2018b]. Output from SnapEst indicated that from 2013 to 2016, there was a significant upward trend in recruitment that resulted in an 11 per cent increase in the fishable biomass to the highest estimate ever of approximately 1 500 t [Steer et al. 2018a]. Although in 2018 there were marginal declines in total catch, targeted effort and CPUE [Steer et al. 2020], nevertheless, CPUE remained at a near-record level. 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 provided above, the Spencer Gulf (South Australia) biological 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
South Australia
Commercial
Gillnet
Unspecified
Seine Nets
Handline
Indigenous
Spearfishing
Recreational
Spearfishing
Hook and Line
Charter
Rod and reel
Management methods
Method South Australia
Commercial
Gear restrictions
License
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Spatial restrictions
Indigenous
Bag and boat limits
Size limit
Recreational
Bag and boat limits
Size limit
Spatial closures
Catch
South Australia
Commercial 229.77t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 367 t (2013–14)

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. Conron, SA, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA, Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019. Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, November 2020.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Giri, K, and Hall, K, 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  11. Hamer, P and Giri, K 2016, Port Phillip Bay Commercial Fishery Assessment 2016, Fisheries Victoria Science Report Series No. 9.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. Victorian Fisheries Authority, 2017, Review of key Victorian fish stocks—2017, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1.

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