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Snapper is widely distributed in Australia and managed as twleve stocks. Seven are sustainable, one is recovering, three are depleted and one is undefined.
Stock Status Overview
|New South Wales||New South Wales||OTLF||Sustainable||Estimated biomass, catch, effort, size and age composition|
- Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (NSW)
Snapper has a wide distribution in Australia, from the Gascoyne region on the west coast of Western Australia, around the south of the continent, and up to northern Queensland around Hinchinbrook Island [Kailola et al. 1993]. Within this broad distribution, the biological stock structure is complex.
Recent genetic studies of Snapper using microsatellite markers have led to a refined understanding of stock structure for the east Australian coast that have indicated greater complexity than previously thought. Snapper from Queensland to central New South Wales show little genetic differentiation and are considered to represent a single genetic stock [Morgan et al. in press], consistent with earlier studies using allozymes [Sumpton et al. 2008]. This stock is referred to as the East Coast Stock, with the Queensland and New South Wales components managed and assessed at the jurisdictional level. However, migratory dynamics between Queensland and New South Wales are not well understood and some studies have suggested limited long-range movements, with many fish showing extended periods of local residency [Harasti et al. 2015, Sumpton et al. 2003]. The majority of commercial landings in New South Wales are thought to consist of fish that recruit from local estuaries [Gillanders 2002]. In addition to the limited mixing within the stock, key biological traits of Snapper (such as the size and age at maturity) vary with latitude [Stewart et al. 2010]. It is therefore appropriate to manage and report on stock status of the East Coast biological stock of Snapper at the jurisdictional level – as Queensland and New South Wales jurisdictional stocks.
It is now considered that Snapper from eastern Victoria are genetically differentiated from those to the north of Eden on the southern coast of New South Wales [Morgan et al. unpublished]. As such, Snapper from Wilsons Promontory to southern New South Wales are considered to be a separate biological stock that is now referred to as the Eastern Victorian stock. Although there is low genetic variation between the eastern and western sides of Wilsons Promontory [Meggs and Austin 2003, Morgan et al. unpublished], separation between these populations has been supported by tagging and otolith chemistry studies [Coutin et al. 2003, Hamer et al. 2011]. Snapper to the west of Wilsons Promontory, including the important fisheries of Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, constitute the Western Victorian biological stock. This extends westward from Wilsons Promontory to near the mouth of the Murray River in south eastern South Australia [Donnellan and McGlennon 1996, Fowler et al. 2017, Hamer et al. 2011, Sanders 1974].
The South Australian fishery was originally divided into six management units, due to uncertainty about movement among different regional populations [Fowler et al. 2013]. However, a recent study evaluated the stock structure and adult movement among regional populations within South Australia, and also with western Victoria [Fowler 2016, Fowler et al. 2017], based on inter-regional comparisons of otolith chemistry and increment widths, as well as population characteristics. The study differentiated three stocks. The Western Victorian stock which extends westward into south-eastern South Australia depends on recruitment into, and subsequent emigration from, Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. As such, this is a cross-jurisdictional stock, although the components from the two states are still managed independently. The two other stocks are wholly located within South Australia. The Spencer Gulf/West Coast stock depends on recruitment into Northern Spencer Gulf from where some fish emigrate to replenish the populations of Southern Spencer Gulf and the west coast of Eyre Peninsula. The third stock is the Gulf St. Vincent stock, which relies on recruitment into Northern Gulf St. Vincent, and subsequent emigration to Southern Gulf St. Vincent and Investigator Strait [Fowler et al. 2016].
In Western Australia, Snapper is currently divided into six management units. At the smaller geographic scale inside Shark Bay, genetically-related but biologically separate stocks have been identified in the Eastern Gulf, Denham Sound and Freycinet Estuary based on otolith chemistry and tagging [Bastow et al. 2002, Edmonds et al. 1999, Gardner et al. 2017, Johnson et al. 1986, Moran et al. 2003, Norriss et al. 2012]. At the wider scale, Snapper in oceanic waters off the Western Australian coast that comprise the three remaining management units, i.e. Shark Bay oceanic, West Coast and South Coast, show low levels of genetic differentiation (microsatellites) over hundreds of kilometers consistent with a semi-continuous genetic stock where gene flow is primarily limited by geographic distance [Gardner and Chaplin 2011, Gardner et al. 2017]. Otolith chemistry has indicated residency of adult Snapper in the Gascoyne, West and South Coast bioregions, but with recruitment likely coming from multiple nursery areas [Fairclough et al. 2013, Wakefield et al. 2011]. Tagging studies support these findings with the majority of adults tagged at the key spawning locations in the Gascoyne and West Coast bioregions recaptured within 100 km, as well as location philopatry of adults that aggregate to spawn in embayments on the west coast [Crisafulli et al. in press, Moran et al. 2003, Wakefield et al. 2011].
Here, assessment of stock status for Snapper is presented at the biological stock level—Shark Bay inshore Eastern Gulf, Shark Bay inshore Denham Sound, Shark Bay inshore Freycinet Estuary (Western Australia); Eastern Victoria (Victoria), Western Victoria (Victoria and South Australia), Gulf St Vincent, Spencer Gulf/West Coast (South Australia); the management unit level—South Coast, Shark Bay Oceanic and West Coast (Western Australia); and the jurisdictional level–Queensland and New South Wales.
New South Wales
The most recent integrated stock assessment for East Coast Snapper [Wortmann et al. 2018] that included data from 1880 to 2016 from the entire biological stock (Queensland and New South Wales) produced a range of relative biomass estimates that varied between 10 per cent and 45 per cent of unfished levels. However, the majority of harvest from the East Coast stock occurs in New South Wales waters, with more than 80 per cent of the commercial harvest being taken in New South Wales since the 1980s [Wortmann et al. 2018], mostly in the trap fishery. The New South Wales recreational harvest is also larger than the recreational harvest in Queensland, although there is no reliable time series of recreational catch in New South Wales (only 2 estimates in 2000–01 and 2013–14 respectively [West et al. 2015]).
This high relative harvest in New South Wales, in combination with the limited movement of East Coast Snapper [Harasti et al. 2015, Sumpton et al. 2003], indicates that the indices of relative abundance derived from the New South Wales trap fishery are more likely to represent the New South Wales stock than indices from the relatively small and less well understood line fishing sectors. Based on the most suitable model scenarios for New South Wales, the most recent assessment [Wortmann et al. 2018] estimated that biomass in 2016 was between 20 and 45 per cent of the virgin level. The stock in New South Wales is not considered to be recruitment impaired.
Commercial and recreational catch and fishing effort are at historically low levels in New South Wales. Commercial landings during 2016–17 were approximately 170 t, lower than the 10 year average of 245 t, and substantially lower than during the early 1980s when commercial landings approached 1 000 t per year. The number of days reported fish trapping when Snapper were landed has declined from 4 790 in 2009–10 to 3 226 in 2016–17, largely due to management driven reforms to the sector. The recreational harvest of Snapper in New South Wales declined from approximately 250 000 fish in 2000–01 to approximately 185 000 fish during 2013–14, and effort also declined markedly during this period [West et al. 2015). Trends in the size and age compositions in landed catches suggest population rebuilding from around 2008 onwards, with continual increases in the average sizes and ages of fish in commercial landings [Wortmann et al. 2018]. This indicates that the stock in New South Wales waters is increasing under existing levels of harvest. This level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the biological stock to become recruitment impaired.
On the basis of the evidence provided above, Snapper in New South Wales is classified as a sustainable stock.
Snapper biology [Fowler et al. 2016, Jackson et al. 2010, Stewart et al. 2010, Wakefield et al. 2015, Wakefield et al. 2016]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
|Snapper||30–40 years, 1300 mm TL||2–7 years, 220–560 mm TL|
|New South Wales|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Hook and Line|
|Method||New South Wales|
|Bag and possession limits|
|Marine park closures|
|Marine park closures|
|Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority|
|Bag and possession limits|
|Marine park closures|
|New South Wales|
|31 in EGF, 7 in NSWRLF, 35 in OTF, 177 in OTLF|
- Estuary General Fishery (NSW)
- New South Wales Lobster Fishery (NSW)
- Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
- Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (NSW)
|New South Wales|
|Commercial||170.78t in OTLF|
|Recreational||148 t (2013–14)|
- Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (NSW)
Western Australia - Recreational (Catch) Ryan et al. 2017.
Western Australia – Recreational (Management Methods) In Western Australia, total recreational catch limits (that is, maximum catch limits) have been applied to stocks of Snapper in inner Shark Bay and the west coast, to aid recovery of stocks.
Queensland – Indigenous (Management Methods) Under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are entitled to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.
New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Interim Access Arrangement—allows an Indigenous fisher in New South Wales to take in excess of a recreational bag limit in certain circumstances; for example, if they are doing so to provide fish to other community members who cannot harvest for themselves; (b) The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority; and (c) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.
New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) West et al. 2015.
Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise fishing for specific Indigenous cultural ceremonies or events (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). There were no Indigenous permits granted in 2017 and hence no Indigenous catch recorded.
South Australia – Recreational (Catch) Giri and Hall 2015.
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- Edmonds, JS, Steckis, RA, Moran, MJ, Caputi, N and Morita, M 1999, Stock delineation of Pink Snapper Pagrus auratus and Tailor Pomatomus saltatrix from Western Australia by analysis of stable isotope and strontium/calcium ratios in otolith carbonate, Journal of Fish Biology, 55: 243–259.
- Fairclough, D, Johnson C and Lai, E 2009, West Coast Demersal Scalefish Fishery, in WJ Fletcher and K Santoro (eds) 2009, State of the fisheries report 2008/09, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
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- Fisher, E 2013, Tools for assessing data-limited fisheries and communicating stock status information, PhD thesis, Murdoch University, Perth.
- Fowler, AJ 2016, The influence of fish movement on regional fishery production and stock structure for South Australia’s Snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) fishery. Final Report to FRDC (Project No. 2012/020). 181 pp.
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- Johnson, MS, Creagh, S and Moran, M 1986, Genetic subdivision of stocks of Snapper, Chrysophrys unicolor, in Shark Bay, Western Australia, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 37: 337–345.
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- Meggs, LB and Austin CM 2003, Low allozyme variation in Snapper, Pagrus auratus, in Victoria, Australia, Fisheries Management and Ecology, 10: 155–162.
- Moran, M, Burton, C and Jenke, J 2003, Long-term movement patterns of continental shelf and inner gulf Snapper (Pagrus auratus, Sparidae) from tagging in the Shark Bay region of Western Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 54: 913–922.
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