Banded Morwong (2020)

Cheilodactylus spectabilis

  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Nils Krueck (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Brett Stacy (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)

Date Published: June 2021

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Banded Morwong is a large temperate reef species sold in the domestic live fish trade. It is found in VIC where its stock status is classified as undefined and in TAS where it is sustainable.  

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Tasmania Tasmania Banded Morwong Fishery Sustainable Stock assessment, CPUE
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Stock Structure

Banded Morwong is large temperate reef fish species that is targeted by gillnets for the domestic live fish trade. The species is distributed around south eastern Australia, including southern New South Wales, and eastern Victoria and Tasmania, as well as occurring off north eastern New Zealand. It is relatively common in depths of less than 50 m. There is currently no information available regarding the biological stock structure. However, once settled after a relatively long oceanic larval phase, they show a high degree of site fidelity [Murphy and Lyle 1999, Ziegler et al. 2006, Buxton et al. 2010], suggesting that the exploited Victorian and Tasmanian populations are likely to represent distinct populations.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level—Victoria Banded Morwong Fishery and Tasmania Banded Morwong Fishery.

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Stock Status

Tasmania Banded Morwong Fishery

In Tasmania, Banded Morwong are commercially harvested by a small-scale coastal gillnet fishery. In the early 1990s a targeted fishery for Banded Morwong started to supply domestic live fish markets. Effort directed at the species increased dramatically as a result, with catches peaking at 145 tonnes (t) in 1993–94. Catches fell sharply in the late 1990s, with 34.6 t landed in 1999–2000. Banded Morwong are a relatively minor component of the recreational fishery in Tasmania. The most recent survey in 2017–18 estimated the recreational landings of Banded Morwong at 2 tonnes (1 522 fish), making up slightly more than 5% of the total catch (commercial + recreational) during that season [Lyle et al. 2019]. 

 A quota management system with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was introduced in late 2008 to the east coast fishery. In the past few years the TAC has undergone a staged reduction, effectively declining from 38.8 t in 2012–13 to 31.0 t in 2018–19. Additionally,, a temporal closure is in place for 1st March to 30th April each year, encompassing the species’ peak spawning period. The species is subject to keyhole size limits, which are currently set at a minimum legal size of 360 mm and a maximum legal size of 460 mm.

A fishery-independent sampling program implemented early in the development of the fishery has revealed truncation in the length and age composition of the Banded Morwong stocks. In recent years, although age compositions appear to have stabilised, old fish (> 20 years) are now rarely observed. Relative proportions of fish < 8 years old have increased. Increases in mean length at age of individuals aged between 2–10 years, and declines in length at maturity, have also been observed.

In 2019 the model used to assess Banded Morwong in Tasmania was updated with recent biological information [Stacy et al. 2019]. Spawning stock biomass (SSB) was estimated to be at 44 per cent of initial SSB. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

The model also indicates that the current harvest strategy is sufficient to maintain SSB above the limit reference point of 30% of initial SSB. Consequently 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 management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Banded Morwong biology [Ewing et al. 2007, Ziegler et al. 2007]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Banded Morwong 96 years, 578 mm FL 2.5 years, 320 mm FL 
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Banded Morwong

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Fishing methods
Victoria Tasmania
Management methods
Method Victoria Tasmania
Effort limits
Limited entry
Seasonal closures
Size limit
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Customary fishing permits
Bag limits
Possession limit
Seasonal closures
Size limit
Spatial closures
Victoria Tasmania
Commercial 35.97t
Indigenous Unknown (No catch under permit) No Catch
Recreational Unknown 0.5 t (2012–13)

Commercial catch of Banded Morwong - note confidential catch not shown


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.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Banded Morwong - note confidential catch not shown

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  1. Buxton, CD, Semmens, JM, Forbes, E, Lyle, JM, Barrett, NS and Phelan, MJ 2010, Spatial management of reef fisheries and ecosystems: Understanding the importance of movement, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Hobart.
  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. Ewing, GP, Lyle, JM, Murphy, R, Kalish, JM and Ziegler, PE 2007, Validation of age and growth in a long-lived temperate reef fish using otolith structure, oxytetracycline and bomb radiocarbon methods, Marine and Freshwater Research, 58: 944–955.
  4. Lyle, J.M., Stark, K.E., Ewing, G.P., and Tracey, S.R., 2019. 2017-18 survey of recreational fishing in Tasmania. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
  5. Murphy, RJ and Lyle, JM 1999, Impact of gillnet fishing on inshore temperate reef fishes, with particular reference to Banded Morwong, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hobart.
  6. Stacy, B., Krueck, N., Hartmann, K., Lyle, J. 2019, Tasmanian Banded Morwong Fishery Assessment 2018/19
  7. Ziegler, PE, Haddon, M and Lyle, JM 2006, Sustainability of small-scale, data-poor commercial fisheries: developing assessments, performance indicators and monitoring strategies for temperate reef species, Marine Research Laboratories, Hobart.
  8. Ziegler, PE, Lyle, JM, Haddon, M and Ewing, G 2007, Rapid changes in life-history characteristics of a long-lived temperate reef fish, Marine and Freshwater Research, 58: 1096–1107.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.