Crimson Snapper (2020)

Lutjanus erythropterus

  • Thor Saunders (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade)
  • Fabian Trinnie (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Stephen Newman (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)

Date Published: June 2021

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The Crimson Snapper is a demersal species for which several biological stocks have been identified across northern Australia, either through targeted genetic research or by assumed similarity to the stock structure of the related Saddletail Snapper. The North Coast Bioregion, Gulf of Carpentaria, and combined Timor and Arafura Seas stocks are classified as sustainable, while the East Coast QLD and Joseph Bonaparte Gulf stocks are undefined. 

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia North Coast Bioregion Sustainable Catch, indicator species status
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Stock Structure

Crimson Snapper (Lutjanus erythropterus) is a widespread Indo-Pacific species found throughout tropical Australian waters. Research on the biological stock structure of this species in Australian waters has only occurred in northern Australia; including the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria [Salini et al. 2006]. A single genetic stock was found across this region. In addition to this Northern Australia biological stock, it is considered that the species has a similar biological stock structure to Saddletail Snapper (Lutjanus malabaricus), with a Western Australia (North Coast Bioregion) biological stock and a biological stock off the east coast of Queensland [Salini et al. 2006]. Recently, Saunders et al. [2018] used otolith microchemistry and parasitology to identify separate biological stocks of Saddletail Snapper in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, Timor and Arafura seas and Gulf of Carpentaria. It is assumed that Crimson Snapper have the same biological stock structure.

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Stock Status

North Coast Bioregion

Crimson Snapper is caught primarily on the north-west coast of Western Australia as a component of the multispecies Pilbara Demersal Scalefish Fisheries (which includes the Pilbara Fish Trawl (Interim) Managed Fishery, the Pilbara Trap Managed Fishery and the Pilbara Line Fishery) in the Pilbara management region of the North Coast Bioregion; and as a component of the Northern Demersal Scalefish Managed Fishery (NDSMF) in the Kimberley management region of the North Coast Bioregion of Western Australia [Newman et al. 2020]. Crimson Snapper is assessed on the basis of the status of several indicator species (including, for example, Red Emperor and Goldband Snapper in the Kimberley region) that represent the entire inshore demersal suite of species occurring at depths of 30–250 m [Newman et al. 2018]. The major performance measures for these indicator species are estimates of spawning stock levels estimated using an integrated age-structured assessment. The target level of spawning biomass is 40 per cent of the unfished level, with a threshold reference level of 30 per cent and a limit reference level of 20 per cent of the estimate of initial spawning biomass [DPIRD 2017]. Indicator species assessments determined that the spawning biomass levels of each of the indicator species were either greater than the target level or between the target and the threshold level in the Pilbara Demersal Scalefish Fisheries in 2015 (the year the last integrated assessment was undertaken). The spawning biomass levels of the indicator species were at the threshold level in the NDSMF in 2017 [Newman et al. 2020]. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

The catch of Crimson Snapper in the Pilbara Demersal Scalefish Fisheries over the past 10 years (2010–19) have ranged from 147–236 t, with a mean annual catch of 182 t. The catch of Crimson Snapper in the NDSMF has been low and variable for the past 10 years (2010–19), ranging from 36–89 t, with a mean annual catch of 53 t. The above 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 North Coast Bioregion biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Crimson Snapper biology [DAF unpublished data, Fry and Milton 2009, Fry et al. 2009, McPherson et al. 1992, McPherson and Squire 1992, Newman et al. 2000]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Crimson Snapper Northern Australia: 42 years, 470 mm SL East Coast Queensland: 32 years, 790 mm FL Northern Australia: Males 270 mm SL, Females 350 mm SL East Coast Queensland: Females 485 mm (+/- 1.7) FL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Crimson Snapper

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Fishing methods
Western Australia
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Otter Trawl
Fish Trap
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Bag limits
Limited entry
Passenger restrictions
Spatial closures
Spatial zoning
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Spatial zoning
Total allowable effort
Vessel restrictions
Laws of general application apply
Licence (Recreational Fishing from Boat License)
Possession limit
Spatial closures
Western Australia
Commercial 293.04t
Charter 1 t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 2 t (2017/18)

Western AustraliaActive Vessels Data is confidential as there were fewer than three vessels in the Pilbara Fish Trawl Interim Managed Fishery (Western Australia) and Pilbara Trap Managed Fishery (Western Australia).

Western Australia – Recreational (Catch) Boat-based recreational catch is from 1 September 2017–31 August 2018. These data are derived from those reported in [Ryan et al. 2019].

Western Australia – Recreational (management methods) A Recreational Fishing from Boat License is required for the use of a powered boat to fish or to transport catch or fishing gear to or from a land-based fishing location.

Western Australia – Indigenous (management methods) Subject to application of Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by Indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

Northern Territory and Queensland – Recreational (catch) Saddletail Snapper and Crimson Snapper catch were combined during the Northern Territory 2010 recreational fishing survey [Matthews et al. 2019] and the Queensland 2013–14 recreational fishing survey [Webley et al. 2015].

Northern Territory – Charter (management methods) In the Northern Territory, charter operators are regulated through the same management methods as the recreational sector but are subject to additional limits on license and passenger numbers.

Northern Territory – Indigenous (management methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing 

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Crimson Snapper - note confidential catch not shown

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  1. DPIRD 2017, North Coast demersal scalefish resource harvest strategy 2017–2021. Version 1.0. Fisheries Management Paper No. 285. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Government of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. 35p.
  2. Fry, G and Milton, DA 2009, Age, growth and mortality estimates for populations of red snappers Lutjanus erythropterus and L. malabaricus from northern Australia and eastern Indonesia, Fisheries Science, 75: 1219–1229.
  3. Fry, G, Milton, DA, Van Der Velde, T, Stobutzki, I, Andamari, R, Badrudin and Sumiono, B 2009, Reproductive dynamics and nursery habitat preferences of two commercially important Indo-Pacific red snappers Lutjanus erythropterus and L. malabaricus, Fisheries Science, 75: 145–158.
  4. Haddon M, Punt A and Burch P 2018, simpleSA: A package containing functions to facilitate relatively simple stock assessments. R package version 0.1.18.
  5. Martell, S, and Froese, R. 2013, A simple method for estimating MSY from catch and resilience. Fish and Fisheries 14:504–514.
  6. Matthews, S. R., Penny, S. S and Steffe A. (2019). A Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Greater Darwin Area 2015. Northern Territory Government, Australia. Fishery Report No 121.
  7. McPherson, GR and Squire, L 1992, Age and growth of three dominant Lutjanus species of the Great Barrier Reef Inter-Reef Fishery, Asian Fisheries Science, 5, 25–36.
  8. McPherson, GR, Squire, L and O'Brien, J 1992, Reproduction of three dominant Lutjanus species of the Great Barrier Reef Inter-Reef Fishery, Asian Fisheries Science, 5, 15–24.
  9. Newman, SJ, Brown, JI, Fairclough, DV, Wise, BS, Bellchambers, LM, Molony, BW, Lenanton, RCJ, Jackson, G, Smith, KA, Gaughan, DJ, Fletcher, WJ, McAuley, RB and Wakefield, CB 2018, A risk assessment and prioritisation approach to the selection of indicator species for the assessment of multi-species, multi-gear, multi-sector fishery resources. Marine Policy, 88: 11–22.
  10. Newman, SJ, Cappo, M, Williams, DM 2000, Age, growth, mortality rates and corresponding yield estimates using otoliths of the tropical red snappers, Lutjanus erythropterus, L. malabaricus and L. sebae, from the central Great Barrier Reef. Fisheries Research 48:1–14.
  11. Newman, SJ, Wakefield, C, Skepper, C, Boddington, and Blay, N 2020, North Coast Demersal Resource Status Report 2019. pp. 159–168. In: Gaughan, D.J. and Santoro, K. (eds.) 2020. Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2018/19: The State of the Fisheries. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia, Perth, Australia. 291p.
  12. O'Neill, MF, Leigh, GM, Martin, JM, Newman, SJ, Chambers, M, Dichmont, CM, Buckworth, RC 2011, Sustaining productivity of tropical red snappers using new monitoring and reference points. FRDC final report 2009-037.
  13. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  14. Ramm, DC, 1994, Australia's Northern Trawl Fishery. Fishery Report No. 32 to the Fisheries Division, Department Of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Northern Territory Government.
  15. 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. 
  16. Salini, J, Ovenden, J, Street, R, Pendrey, R, Haryantis and Ngurah 2006, Genetic population structure of red snappers (Lutjanus malabaricus Bloch and Schneider, 1801 and Lutjanus erythropterus Bloch, 1790) in central and eastern Indonesia and northern Australia, Journal of Fish Biology, 68 (suppl. B): 217–234.
  17. Saunders, T 2020, Stock Status Summary - 2020 Crimson Snapper (Lutjanus erythropterus) Timor-Arafura seas Stock Reduction Analysis. Unpublished Fishery Status Report.
  18. Saunders, T and Roelofs, A 2020, Gulf of Carpentaria Crimson Snapper Stock Status Summary - 2020. Unpublished Fishery Report.
  19. Saunders, T, Barton, D, Crook, D, Hearnden, M and Newman, S 2018, Stock/Management unit division in the Northern Territory Offshore Snapper Fishery. Unpublished Fishery Report.
  20. Teixeira, D, Janes, R and Webley, J 2021, 2019/20 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey Key Results, Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.

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