Australian Herring (2020)

Arripis georgianus

  • Rodney Duffy (Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)
  • Julian Hughes (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Michael Drew (SARDI Aquatic Sciences, South Australia)

Date Published: June 2021

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Australian Herring is a sustainable species with a single southern Australian biological stock. It is found from Shark Bay in WA, to Forster in NSW.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
New South Wales Southern Australia Sustainable Catch, age and length composition
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Stock Structure

Australian Herring occurs around southern Australia from Shark Bay (Western Australia) to Forster (New South Wales), although is uncommon east of Bass Strait. It constitutes a single biological stock across this range [Ayvazian et al. 2004, Smith and Brown 2014]. Spawning occurs in late May/early June in the south-west of Western Australia, with eggs and larvae being dispersed southwards and eastwards by the Leeuwin Current [Smith et al. 2013]. Fish grow and mature in each jurisdiction before migrating back to the spawning area where they remain as adults. There are no records of spawning by this species along the east coast.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Southern Australia.

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Stock Status

Southern Australia

The most recent stock assessment is based on indicators derived from catch, age composition and length composition [Molony and Wise 2018]. Fishery catch rates (CPUE) are regarded as unreliable indicators of abundance for this stock [Molony and Wise 2018, Smith et al. 2013].

In Western Australia, total herring catches declined from about 1 500 tonnes (t) in 1990 to around 150 t since 2015. This was due largely to effort reductions implemented via management change. The recreational catch is not precisely known. Recreational catch trends are not readily attributable to changes in effort and are considered to primarily reflect changes in fish availability. The current recreational catch is believed to be similar in magnitude to the commercial catch. In 2015, the commercial South Coast Herring G net fishery was closed, and the recreational daily bag limit was reduced from 30 to 12. These changes, combined with reduced commercial targeting since 1990, have allowed the stock biomass to increase. 

Catch-MSY analyses based on total national catches estimated that catches exceeded MSY in the 1980s and 1990s [Molony and Wise 2018]. Simulations showed increasing biomass since the mid-2000s, with more than 50 per cent of trajectories exceeding 30 per cent unfished biomass since 2016. The biomass is predicted to continue to increase under current catch levels, although there is high uncertainty associated with low information catch-MSY analysis results. Estimates of spawning potential ratio (SPR) derived from length and age composition data indicate a current stock level between 30 per cent and 40 per cent, although also with wide confidence intervals. Age composition trends since 1980 suggest that some truncation of the age distribution occurred in the past [Molony and Wise 2018, Smith et al. 2013], although that hypothesis is being reexamined and strong recruitment is evident in more recent samples, which is consistent with increased recent productivity and stock recovery. 

The current assessment for Western Australia indicates that the spawning biomass is above the limit reference level (20 per cent of the unfished level). The stock is not considered to be recruitment impaired. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in Western Australia is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

The New South Wales commercial catch in 2012–19 averaged approximately 2 t per annum, and Australian Herring is not a major component of recreational landings [West et al. 2015, Murphy et al. 2020]. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in New South Wales is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

In Victoria, Australian Herring are mostly harvested by netting methods, with most of the harvest historically being from Port Phillip Bay using purse seine. Total commercial harvests of Australian Herring in Victoria peaked at approximately 32 t in 2002 [VFA, unpublished data]. More recently, annual catches have been much lower at less than 200 kg, with none of this catch taken from the historical main fishery of Port Phillip Bay. This is a direct result of changes to management arrangements for the Port Phillip Bay commercial fishery, particularly the phasing out of commercial netting, and does not indicate changes in stock availability. Since 2016, 34 of the 43 licences have been bought out by the Victorian government. Commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay will cease by 2022 and has already ceased in Corio Bay. Catches of Australian Herring are expected to be low and incidental in the future. Recreational take of Australian Herring is unknown in Victoria, but thought to be low, as it is not a popular target species. The current level of fishing mortality of Australian Herring in Victoria is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

In South Australia, the levels of fishing effort and catch of Australian Herring have declined substantially over the past three decades, particularly following the implementation of netting closures in 2005 [Steer et al. 2020]. The total State-wide commercial catch of Australian Herring was 96.6 t in 2018–19. Catch rates within the hauling net sector of the commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery have been highly variable with no clear trend [Steer et al. 2020]. The species is a popular target in the state’s recreational fishing sector which harvested an estimated 157.2 t in 2014–15 [Giri and Hall 2015]. The Traditional take of Australian Herring in South Australia has not been quantified.On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Southern Australia biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Australian Herring biology [Smith and Brown 2014]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Australian Herring 12 years, 410 mm TL  180–200 mm TL, 2 years
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Australian Herring

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Fishing methods
New South Wales
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Gear restrictions
Spatial zoning
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Customary fishing management arrangements
Gear restrictions
Marine park closures
Spatial closures
New South Wales
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Western Australia - Recreational catch estimated in 2017/18, for boat-based fishing only [Ryan et al. 2019]. Current shore-based catch is unknown.

New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. [2020] 

New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods)  https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing

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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Australia Herring - note confidential catch not shown.
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  1. Ayvazian, SG, Bastow TP, Edmonds, JS, How, J and Nowara, G 2004, Stock structure of Australian herring (Arripis georgiana) in southwestern Australia. Fisheries Research 67:39–53
  2. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62.
  3. Murphy, JJ, Ochwada-Doyle, FA, Hughes JM, West, LD and Stark, KE 2020, The Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program. Survey of recreational fishing in 2017–18, Fisheries final report series No. 158, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.
  4. 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. 
  5. Smith, K and Brown, J 2014, Biological synopsis of Australian herring (Arripis georgianus). Fisheries Research Report No. 251. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 40pp.
  6. Smith, K, Brown, J, Lewis, P, Dowling, C, Howard, A, Lenanton, R and Molony, B 2013, Status of nearshore finfish stocks in south-western Western Australia. Part 1: Australian herring. Final NRM Report - Project No. 09003. Fisheries Research Report No. 246. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 200 pp.
  7. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, Rogers, PJ, Bailleul, F, Earl, J, Matthews, D, Drew, M, and Tsolos, A 2020, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2018. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1049. 214pp.
  8. West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013–14, Fisheries final report series 149, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.
  9. Wise, BS and Molony, BW (eds) 2018, Australian Herring and West Australian Salmon Scientific Workshop Report, October 2017. Fisheries Research Report No. 289 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 158pp.

Downloadable reports

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