Sand Whiting (2020)
Date Published: June 2021
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Sand Whiting is a sustainable species along the east coast of Australia. It is most abundant in southern QLD and northern NSW.
Stock Status Overview
Stock assessment, commercial catch and CPUE, recreational catch, length and age
Sand Whiting occur along the east coast of Australia and are most abundant in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Tagging studies have shown movement of adult fish between estuaries, but information on biological stock boundaries remains incomplete. The unknown nature of biological stock composition means no formal assessment of the entire biological stock has been completed. Separate assessments of Sand Whiting have been conducted in Queensland and New South Wales [Hoyle et al. 2000, O'Neill et al. 2000, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2014, Hall 2020].
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Queensland and New South Wales.
Sand Whiting is a major target species for both commercial and recreational fishers in south-east Queensland [Leigh et al. 2019]. The most recent stock assessment [Leigh et al. 2019] of Sand Whiting for the Moreton and Fraser regions in Queensland estimated the exploitable biomass in 2017 to be 29 per cent of unfished biomass. This is approximately the biomass corresponding to maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Fishery-dependent monitoring of Sand Whiting, beginning in 2007, indicates consistent length and age structures, indicating a stable population with continued recruitment [QDAF unpublished]. In the 2019 calendar year, the commercial catch of Sand Whiting in Queensland was 123 tonnes (t) which was below the mean catch during the period 1990–2018 (272 t) [QFISH 2020]. South of Baffle Creek, where Sand Whiting are most commonly targeted by the commercial net fishery, the total catch in 2019 was 114 t. This was below the long-term average of 253 t (1990–2018) for the region and also below the historical Queensland Fish Board (QFB) data series (mean of 266 t, 1945–80). Recreational harvest in 2019 was also lower (78 t) than the previous estimates (2000: 377 t; 2010: 135 t; 2013: 99 t) [Teixeira et al. 2021]. Standardised catch rates in recent years have been steady, albeit at lower than historical levels [Leigh et al. 2019].The stock is not considered to be recruitment impaired.
Current harvest levels (commercial and recreational combined) should see the stock rebuild to target biomass levels (B60) by about 2027 [Leigh et al. 2019]. Nominal effort for Sand Whiting in the Queensland commercial net fishery in 2019 was at a historic low [QFISH 2020]. In areas where Sand Whiting are most common (south of Rockhampton) recreational effort (in days fished) had also fallen since 2001 (417 000 in 2000; 216 400 in 2010; 158 300 in 2013) [Webley et al. 2015]. There is no estimate of Indigenous harvest for fishers using traditional fishing methods. The introduction in 2009 of an in-possession limit (30 fish) for recreational fishers aimed to further reduce fishing mortality. The current minimum legal size for Sand Whiting in Queensland (230 mm total length [TL]) allows a proportion of mature fish to spawn at least once [Ochwada-Doyle 2014]. The current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause this stock to become recruitment impaired.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Sand Whiting in Queensland is classified as a sustainable stock.
Sand Whiting biology [Burchmore et al. 1988, McKay RJ 1992, Ochwada-Doyle 2014, Stocks et al. 2011]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
12 years, 510 mm TL
Males 170–240 mm FL Females 190–240 mm FL
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Recreational||78 t (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 totals) Estimate from Murphy et al. , based on a survey of Recreational Fishing Licence households.
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing).
Commercial catch of Sand Whiting - note confidential catch not shown
- Burchmore, JJ 1988, Biology of four species of Whiting (Pices: Sillaginidae) in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Marine and Freshwater Research, 39: 709–27.
- Butcher, PA, Broadhurst, MK and Brand, CP 2006, Mortality of sand whiting (Sillago ciliata) released by recreational anglers in an Australian estuary, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 63: 567–571.
- Hall, KC 2015, Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), In: J Stewart, A Hegarty, C Young, AM Fowler and J Craig (eds), Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, 263–267.
- Hall, KC 2018, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2018 – NSW Stock status summary – Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour.
- Hall, KC 2020, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020 – NSW Stock status summary – Sand Whiting (Sillago ciliata), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour.
- Hoyle, S, Brown, I, Dichmont, C, Sellin, M, Cosgrove, M and McLennan, M 2000, Integrated fish stock assessment and monitoring program, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 94/161, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
- Leigh, GM, Yang, WH, O'Neill, MF, McGilvray, JG and Wortmann, J 2019, Stock assessments of bream, whiting and flathead (Acanthopagrus australis, Sillago ciliata and Platycephalus fuscus) in South East Queensland, Technical Report, State of Queensland.
- McKay, RJ 1992, Sillaginid fishes of the world, vol. 14, FAO synopsis no. 125, Food and Agriculture Organisation.
- 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. Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
- O’Neill, MF 2000, Fishery assessment of the Burnett River, Maroochy River and Pumistone Passage, Project Report QO99012, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
- Ochwada-Doyle, FA, Stocks, J, Barnes, L and Gray, CA 2014, Reproduction, growth and mortality of the exploited sillaginid, Sillago ciliata Cuvier, 1829, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 30: 870–880, doi: 10.1111/jai.21478.
- QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
- Schnierer, S and Egan, H, 2016, Composition of the Aboriginal harvest of fisheries resources in coastal New South Wales, Australia. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 26:693-709.
- Stocks, J, Stewart, J and Gray, CA 2011, Using otolith increment widths to infer spatial, temporal and gender variation in the growth of sand whiting Sillago ciliata, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 18: 121–131.
- Teixeira, D, Janes, R, and Webley, J 2021, 2019–20 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey Key Results. Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.
- Then, AY, Hoenig, NJ, Hall, NG, Hewitt, DA 2014, Evaluating the predictive performance of empirical estimators of natural mortality rate using information on over 200 fish species. ICES Journal of Marine Science.
- Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland.