Black Bream (2020)
Date Published: June 2021
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Black Bream is a primarily estuarine species found around Australia's southern coastline. Assessments are presented here for nine management units, distributed along the coasts of NSW, VIC, TAS, SA and WA. Of these units, four are classified as sustainable, one as depleting, one as depleted, and three as undefined.
Stock Status Overview
|Western Australia||Western Australia South Coast Estuaries||Sustainable||Catch, estimated biomass, harvest rate|
|Western Australia||Western Australia West Coast Estuaries||Sustainable||Catch|
Black Bream have a wide distribution in the estuaries of southern Australia from central New South Wales to the central Western Australian coast, including Tasmania [Kailola et al. 1993]. Black Bream are estuarine-dependent, completing much of their life cycle within a single estuary [Chaplin et al. 1997, Conron et al. 2016, Earl et al. 2016]. Genetic studies of Black Bream in Victoria and Western Australia have indicated that, while there has been gene flow between adjacent estuaries, there is evidence of isolation by distance between populations [Chaplin et al. 1997, Farrington et al. 2000, Burridge et al. 2004, Burridge and Versace 2007]. Results of tagging studies conducted in the Swan River [Norriss et al. 2002], Gippsland Lakes [Butcher and Ling 1962, Hindell et al. 2008] and the Coorong estuary [Hall 1984] found limited or no evidence of coastal migration or emigration between estuaries. This indicates that estuarine Black Bream populations should be managed as distinct biological stocks. However, for most fisheries management agencies this is not practical.
Black Bream and the closely related Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis, also exhibit considerable levels of hybridisation where their distributions overlaps in south-eastern Australia [Farrington et al. 2000, Roberts et al. 2009, 2010, 2011, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2012], further complicating status determination.
Furthermore, Black Bream growth, size- and age-at-maturity and recruitment are strongly influenced by environmental conditions, particularly fresh water influx into estuaries [Norriss et al. 2002, Cottingham 2008]. It is therefore likely that over local scales at least, annual recruitment strength depends on environmental conditions, with substantial inter-annual variation in recruitment affecting individual stock demographics and biomasses. These environmental drivers complicate management across multiple catchments.
Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Western Australia West Coast Estuaries, Western Australia South Coast Estuaries (Western Australia); Southern New South Wales (New South Wales); Victoria Western Estuaries, The Gippsland Lakes, Victoria Eastern Estuaries (Victoria); Tasmania Scalefish Fishery (Tasmania); Lakes and Coorong Fishery and South Australia Marine Scalefish Fishery (South Australia).
Western Australia South Coast Estuaries
The Black Bream stock status assessment is currently presented at the management unit level (Western Australia South Coast Estuaries). The current assessment of Black Bream in this management unit is primarily based on estimates of biomass and fishing mortality from a data-limited Catch-Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) assessment model, compared periodically to reference levels relating to estimates of MSY. The estimated biomass expected to achieve MSY (BMSY) is considered as the threshold reference level for the stock, and 50 per cent of BMSY is set as the limit reference level. The target level is considered as any stock levels above BMSY.
Annual commercial catch of Black Bream taken in the South Coast Bioregion since 1976 has been increasing, with occasional large fluctuations between years, particularly noticeable in the early 1990s. The estimated fishing mortality experienced by the stock in 2019 was 0.18 year-1, with very broad 95 per cent confidence levels (CLs) ranging from 0.09 to 0.57 year-1. Acknowledging the uncertainty inherent in Catch-MSY analyses, this point estimate of F is similar to FMSY (0.16 year-1). While not providing immediate cause for concern, the fishing mortality experienced by this stock should be monitored carefully to avoid the potential for depletion to a level at which the risk of recruitment impairment increases.
The point estimate for relative stock biomass in 2019 was at 0.52 of the unfished level (95 per cent CLs = 0.24–0.8). As the current value of this performance indicator is above the threshold, the stock is considered not to be depleted to a level at which recruitment could be impaired.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Western Australia South Coast Estuaries management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Western Australia West Coast Estuaries
The Black Bream stock status assessment is currently presented at the management unit level, the West Coast Bioregion. The current assessment of Black Bream in the West Coast Bioregion is primarily based on estimates of biomass and fishing mortality from a data-limited Catch-Maximum Sustainable Yield (Catch-MSY) assessment model, compared periodically to reference levels relating to estimates of MSY. The estimated biomass expected to achieve MSY (BMSY) is considered as the threshold reference level for the stock, and 50 per cent of BMSY is set as the limit reference level. The target level is considered as any stock levels above BMSY.
The point estimate for relative stock biomass in 2019 was low at 0.32 of the unfished level (95 per cent CLs = 0.08–0.57, but has recovered from below the limit. As the current value of this performance indicator is below the threshold but above the limit, the stock may be depleted to a level at which there is an increased risk of recruitment impairment, so careful monitoring will be required.
The estimated fishing mortality experienced by the stock in 2019 was 0.11 year[-1], with very broad 95 per cent CLs ranging from 0.07 to 0.73 year[-1]. As the current value of this performance indicator is the same (within uncertainty limits) as the level of FMSY (0.1 year[-1]), the stock is expected to be maintained around BMSY. However, because F is around FMSY, the stock needs to be monitored closely to check that fishing mortality does not increase which might otherwise lead to a stock issue. In summary, while careful monitoring is required, the above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted, recruitment is unlikely to be impaired, and 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 Western Australia West Coast Estuaries management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.
Black Bream biology [Kuiter 1993, Sarre and Potter 2000, Walker and Neira 2001, Cheshire et al. 2013]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Black Bream||37 years, 600 mm TL||180–340 TL mm|
Distribution of reported commercial catch of Black Bream
|Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels|
|Licence (boat-based sector)|
|Recreational||4 t (2017/18)|
New South Wales – Recreational (catch) Murphy et al. .
New South Wales – 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.
Tasmania – Recreational (management methods) In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine. The species is subject to a minimum size limit of 250 mm. A bag limit of five individuals and a possession limit of ten individuals is in place for recreational fishers fishing in marine waters.
Tasmania – Indigenous (management methods) In Tasmania, Indigenous persons engaged in traditional fishing activities in marine waters are exempt from holding recreational fishing licences, but must comply with all other fisheries rules as if they were licensed. If using pots, rings, set lines or gillnets, Indigenous fishers must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document "Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities” details application procedures for issuing a UIC.
Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) In Western Australia a recreational fishing licence is only required for fishing from a boat. Black Bream are subjected to a minimum size limit of 250 mm TL and a bag limit of six(of which only two fish may be over 400 mm TL if fishing in the Swan and Canning rivers).
Commercial catch of Black Bream - note confidential catch not shown
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