Bluethroat Wrasse (2020)

Notolabrus tetricus

  • Nils Krueck (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Anthony Fowler (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Julian Hughes (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)

Date Published: June 2021

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Bluethroat Wrasse are found on rocky reefs around south-eastern Australia. Catches in VIC, TAS and SA are considered to be sustainable. Catches in NSW are considered to be negligible.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Victoria Victoria Sustainable Catch, effort, catch rates
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Stock Structure

Bluethroat Wrasse are found on rocky reefs around south-eastern Australia, including southern New South Wales, through Victorian and Tasmanian waters, to South Australia [Edgar 1997]. There is currently no information available regarding the biological stock structure of Bluethroat Wrasse in Australian waters. The species has a planktonic larval duration ranging from 44 to 66 days [Welsford 2003]. Once settled, Bluethroat Wrasse show a high degree of site fidelity [Edgar et al. 2004], suggesting that despite the potential for extensive dispersal of larvae by ocean currents exploited populations in each jurisdiction could represent different stocks. Thus, conservatively, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

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Stock Status


Bluethroat Wrasse are the predominant species harvested by the Victorian Ocean Wrasse (OW) Fishery, primarily to supply the live fish market. Bluethroat Wrasse were historically harvested commercially in Victorian waters under the general Victorian Ocean Fishery (OF) access licence, but in April 2017, a transferable Ocean Wrasse licence was created with 22 licences issued. Each licence can be operated throughout the State. 

Harvests of Bluethroat Wrasse increased rapidly to around 90 t per year when a market for wrasse was established in the early 1990s. However, market preference for live fish saw many OF fishers cease to target them. By 2010 the state-wide harvest had declined to current levels of 20–30 t per year. The harvest in 2017–18 and 2018–19 has been around 29 t and the average annual catch of Bluethroat Wrasse for the past 5 years was 26 t (86 per cent of total wrasse landings) compared with 1 t recorded for Purple Wrasse and 3 t for other wrasse species [VFA 2019]. Over the last two years 9 per cent of the wrasse harvest has been by pots [Conron et al. 2020]. 

Most (i.e. approximately 80–90 per cent) Bluethroat Wrasse is now harvested in Victorian waters by the OW fishery using hook and line, although commercial rock lobster fishers who also hold an OW licence can harvest legal sized wrasse they catch in pots. Licence holders with entitlements in other Victorian fisheries, and rock lobster fishers without an OW licence, may only take up to eight wrasse (all species) per day. Recreational harvest of Bluethroat Wrasse is unknown but thought to be low relative to the current and historic commercial harvest. There is some indication of growing interest in recreational targeting of wrasse in Victoria.

Standardised CPUE in all three assessment zones for 2018–19 was below the 1979–2015 average, but it has mostly fluctuated around the average in the central and western zones since the early 2000s [Conron et al. 2020]. For the eastern zone, nominal and standardised CPUE have been consistently between average and minimum values since 2010 [Conron at al. 2020]. Overall, the pattern of variation and trends in CPUE would appear to indicate relative stability, rather than clear increases or decreases, of biomass. One caveat is that the relationship between CPUE and stock-wide biomass is unclear, as CPUE for this fishery may be prone to hyper-stability due to the highly resident behaviour of wrasse on reef areas and fishers regularly shifting their effort among different reef areas to maintain acceptable catch rates, which could potentially lead to serial depletion [Conron et al. 2020].

The major reduction in effort and catch since the late 1990s, and the recent stability of catches and catch rates indicate that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Further, the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Bluethroat Wrasse in Victoria is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Bluethroat Wrasse biology [May and Maxwell 1986, Barrett 1995, Smith et al., 2003]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Bluethroat Wrasse

11 years, 400 mm TL 

8 years, 300 mm TL

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Bluethroat Wrasse

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Fishing methods
Hook and Line
Traps and Pots
Management methods
Method Victoria
Fishing gear and method restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Customary fishing permits
Bag limits
Size limit
Spatial closures
Commercial 29.47t
Indigenous Unknown (No catch under permit)
Recreational 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.


Tasmania – Commercial (catch) Catches reported for the Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery are for the period 1 July to 30 June the following year. The most recent assessment available is for 2018/19.


Tasmania – Commercial (catch) A trip limit of 30 kg for landed dead Wrasse is in place unless fishers hold a Wrasse licence.


Tasmania – Recreational (management methods) A recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine. A minimum size limit of 300 mm is in place for all Wrasse species in Tasmanian waters. A bag limit of five fish and a possession limit of ten fish (all Wrasse species) are also in place.


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. For details, see the policy document "Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities” (https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Documents/Policy%20for%20Aboriginal%20tags%20and%20alloting%20an%20UIC.pdf).

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Bluethroat Wrasse - note confidential catch not shown

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  1. Barrett, NS 1995, Aspects of the biology and ecology of six temperate reef fishes (families: Labridae and Monacanthidae). PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.
  2. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp
  3. Edgar, G 1997, Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books, Melbourne.
  4. Edgar, GJ, Barrett, NS and Morton, AJ 2004 Patterns of fish movement on eastern Tasmanian rocky reefs, Environmental Biology of Fishes, 70: 273–284.
  5. Krueck, N, Hartmann, K and Lyle J 2020, Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery Assessment 2018/19. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania.
  6. Lyle, J M, Stark ,KE, Ewing, GP and Tracey, SR 2019. 2017-18 Survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
  7. Lyle, JM, Stark, KE and Tracey, SR 2014, 2012–13 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart.
  8. May, JL and Maxwell, JGH 1986, Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, Tasmania. 492 p.
  9. Murphy, JJ, Ochwada-Doyle, FA, West, LD, Stark, KE and Hughes JM, 2020, The Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program. Survey of recreational fishing in 2017–18, Fisheries final report series 158, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.
  10. Smith, DC, Montgomery, I, Sivzkumaran, KP, Krusic Golub K, Smith K and Hodge R 2003, The fisheries biology of Bluethroat Wrasse (Notolabrus tetricus) in Victorian Waters. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 97/128, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Department of Primary Industries, Victoria.
  11. Steer, MA, Fowler, AJ, Rogers, PJ, Bailleul, F, Earl, J, Matthews, D, Drew, M, Tsolos, A 2020, Assessment of the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2018. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2017/000427-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1049. 201 pp.
  12. Stuart-Smith, R. D., N. S. Barrett, C. M. Crawford, S. D. Frusher, D. G. Stevenson, and G. J. Edgar. 2008. Spatial patterns in impacts of fishing on temperate rocky reefs: Are fish abundance and mean size related to proximity to fisher access points? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 365:116–125.
  13. Victorian Fisheries Authority Commercial Fish Production Information Bulletin 2019. Victorian Fisheries Authority, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia.
  14. Walsh, A. T., Barrett, N., and Hill, N. 2017. Efficacy of baited remote underwater video systems and bait type in the cool-temperature zone for monitoring ‘no-take’ marine reserves. Marine and Freshwater Research 68: 568–580.
  15. Welsford, DC 2003, Early life-history settlement dynamics and growth of the temperate wrasse, Notolabrus furicola (Richardson 1840), on the east coast of Tasmania. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  16. 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.

Downloadable reports

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