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
|New South Wales||Southern New South Wales||Undefined||
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).
Southern New South Wales
Black Bream are known to occur in estuaries and coastal lagoons in New South Wales south of ~32o latitude, but there is substantial hybridization with Yellowfin Bream [Roberts et al. 2009, 2010, 2011, Ochwada-Doyle et al. 2012]. Genetic analyses of 688 juvenile fish from five coastal lagoons in southern New South Wales by Roberts et al.  found that 50 per cent were Yellowfin Bream, 45 per cent were Yellowfin/Black Bream hybrids and only 5 per cent were Black Bream. Ochwada-Doyle et al.  observed no differences with hybrids in terms of their growth, population structure or maturity, but excessive introgression has negative implications for the persistence of Black Bream as a species in this region.
Difficulty in visually separating both species of bream and hybrids means that all have been historically amalgamated with Yellowfin Bream for reporting purposes, confounding inter-specific estimates of commercial and especially recreational catches [Murphy et al. 2020]. Nevertheless, since 2009, commercial fishers have recorded 'Black Bream' as a separate species (mostly south of 31o S), where approximately 80 per cent of their catches are landed using mesh nets and 17 per cent using haul seines. Estimated catches remained fairly stable at approximately 20 t each year from 2010 to 2015, and then decreased to 14 t in 2017 and 10 t in 2019, but with simultaneous reductions in fishing effort. While the lower effort has resulted in stable nominal catch rates, additional data are required to determine the exact compositions of Black Bream in catches.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Southern New South Wales management unit is classified as an undefined 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
|New South Wales|
|Method||New South Wales|
|Fishing gear and method restrictions|
|Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority|
|In possession limits|
|New South Wales|
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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