Date Published: June 2021
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Mulloway is a widely distributed species in Australian waters. Stock status is sustainable in WA and SA, depleted in NSW and undefined in QLD.
Stock Status Overview
|South Australia||South Australia||Sustainable||
Catch, CPUE, age structure
Mulloway has a wide distribution in Australia, from the Gascoyne region on the west coast of Western Australia, around the southern coasts of the continent, and up to the Wide Bay–Burnett region on the east coast of Queensland [Kailola et al. 1993].
Biological stock structure for Mulloway in Australia is uncertain. It has been suggested that a single panmictic population occurs in Australia [Archangi 2008]. However, regional differences in genetics, and otolith morphology and chemistry suggest sub-structuring between populations in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia [Barnes et al. 2015, Ferguson et al. 2011].
Here, assessment of stock status for Mulloway is presented at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
The Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) has historically been the most productive of South Australia’s fisheries for Mulloway, and contributed 93 per cent of the State’s total commercial catch of the species in 2018–19. Small catches are also taken by the Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF). The most recent assessment for Mulloway in the LCF was completed in 2020, and used a weight-of-evidence approach that considered fishery data and fishery age structures to the end of June 2019 [Earl 2020].
The primary indicators for biomass and fishing mortality are total catch, targeted CPUE from commercial gillnet fishers and fishery age structures. Commercial landings of Mulloway in South Australia peaked at 145 t in 2000–01 and then progressively declined to 22 t in 2010–11. This downward trend was associated with a decline in targeting of Mulloway using gillnets in the LCF during the Millennium Drought (2000s) and likely reflected a decline in fishable biomass in the Coorong estuary [Earl 2020]. Since then, higher catches by the LCF have contributed most to moderately high state-wide landings, including short-term peaks of of 108 t and 127 t in 2012–13 and 2017–18, respectively. The total state-wide catch of 117 t in 2018–19 was the third highest on record. The recent high catches have been associated with historically high gillnet CPUE in the LCF and likely reflect high abundance of Mulloway in the Coorong estuary. The state-wide recreational catch of Mulloway was estimated at 60 t in 2013–14, which represented approximately 46 per cent of the State-wide harvest [Giri and Hall 2015].
Annual age structures for Mulloway from the Coorong estuary have been stable since 2001–02 (i.e. dominated by juveniles) and are consistent with those for Mulloway from other estuaries around Australia [Silberschneider et al. 2009; Stewart et al. 2020]. The 2019–20 age structure included 2–8 year old fish and was dominated by three (36 per cent) and four (30 per cent) year olds that originated from spawning during 2016–17 and 2015–16, respectively. The lack of older fish in the age structure likely relates to an ontogenetic migration of individuals from the Coorong estuary to the adjacent marine environment, and the removal of older fish by fishing. Nevertheless, the presence of multiple age classes in the age structure from the estuary in 2019–20 indicates that recruitment has occurred in recent years.
Since 2001–02, annual age information for Mulloway from the nearshore marine environment adjacent the Coorong estuary has been limited due to the small number of samples and small sample sizes available in most years. The age structure of fish from commercial and recreational catches in 2019–20 was based on a moderate sample size (n=72), and showed similar patterns to several periods during the previous two decades. These Mulloway had a wide range of estimated ages (5–24 years), were dominated by 6–9 year olds and comprised mostly (> 97 per cent) of individuals above the age at maturity (5–6 years). Fish older than 11 years were rare despite the potential for this species to reach 41 years of age in SA. The lack of older fish in the age structure likely relates to the removal of older fish by fishing and may also reflect an extended period of poor recruitment during the Millennium Drought (2000s).
The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the 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, Mulloway in South Australia is classified as a sustainable stock.
Mulloway biology [Farmer 2008, Ferguson et al. 2013, Silberschneider and Gray 2008]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Mulloway||42 years, 2000 mm TL||2–6 years, 510–1070 mm TL|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Marine park closures|
|Marine park closures|
|Marine park closures|
|Marine park closures|
|Recreational||60 t (in 2013–14)|
Western Australia – Recreational (Catch totals) Shore based catches are unknown, thus landings are likely to be underestimated.
Western Australia – Indigenous (Management methods) Subject to the defence that applies under 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.
Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing
New South Wales – Commercial (Management methods) Fishers using haul nets in the New South Wales commercial Ocean Hauling Fishery are permitted a bycatch allowance of 500 kg of Mulloway per day.
New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. 
New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing
- Archangi, B 2008, Levels and patterns of genetic diversity in wild and cultured populations of mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) using mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites, PhD thesis, School of Natural Resource Sciences, Queensland University of Technology.
- Barnes, TC, Junge, C, Myers, SA, Taylor, MD, Rogers, PJ, Ferguson, GJ, Lieschke, JA, Donnellan, SC and Gillanders, BM 2015, Population structure in a wide-ranging coastal teleost (Argyrosomus japonicus, Sciaenidae) reflects marine biogeography across southern Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 67: 1103–1113.
- Earl, J 2020, Assessment of the South Australian Lakes and Coorong Fishery in 2018/19. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2020/000208-01, SARDI Research Report Series No. 1059. 81pp.
- Farmer, BM 2008, Comparisons of the biological and genetic characteristics of the mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus (Sciaenidae) in different regions of Western Australia, PhD thesis, Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Murdoch University, Perth.
- Ferguson, GJ, Ward, TM and Gillanders, BM 2011, Otolith shape and elemental composition: complimentary tools for stock discrimination of mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) in southern Australia, Fisheries Research, 110: 75–83.
- Ferguson, GJ, Ward, TM, Ivey, A and Barnes, T 2013, Life history of Argyrosomus japonicus, a large sciaenid at the southern part of its global distribution: implications for fisheries management, Fisheries Research, 151: 148–157.
- Gaughan, D and Santoro, K 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.
- Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62, Victoria.
- Goodyear, CP 1993, Spawning stock biomass per recruit in fisheries management: foundation and current use, in SJ Smith, JJ Hunt and D Rivard (ed.s), Risk evaluation and biological reference points for fisheries management, Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 120, NRC Research Press, pp 67–81.
- Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and Indigenous fishing survey, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Fisheries Action Program Project FRDC, project 1999/158, New South Wales Fisheries final report series 48, NSW Fisheries, Cronulla.
- Hughes, JM 2020, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020 – NSW Stock status summary – Mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus).
- Kailola, P, Williams, MJ, Stewart, PC, Reichelt, RE, McNee, A and Grieve, C 1993, Australian fisheries resources, Bureau of Resource Sciences and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
- Mace, PM and Sissenwine, MP 1993, How much spawning per recruit is enough?, in SJ Smith, JJ Hunt and D Rivard (ed.s), Risk evaluation and biological reference points for fisheries management, Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 120, NRC Research Press, pp 101–118.
- 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 158, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.
- QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
- Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Tate, A, Taylor, SM, and Wise, BS 2017, 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.
- Silberschneider, V and Gray CA 2005, Arresting the decline of the commercial and recreational fisheries for Mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus), Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 2001/027, final report series 82, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla.
- Silberschneider, V and Gray, CA 2008, Synopsis of biological, fisheries and aquaculture-related information on mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus (Pisces: Sciaenidae), with particular reference to Australia, Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 24(1): 7–17.
- Silberschneider, V, Gray, CA and Stewart, J 2009, Age, growth, maturity and the overfishing of the iconic sciaenid, Argyrosomus japonicus, in south-eastern Australia, Fisheries Research, 95(2–3): 220–229.
- Stewart, J, Hughes, JM, Stanley, C and Fowler, AM 2020, The influence of rainfall on recruitment success and commercial catch for the large sciaenid, Argyrosomus japonicus, in eastern Australia. Marine Environmental Research, 157, 104924.
- Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
- 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.