Trawl fishery target species

From 3 January 2017 until further notice, all 6 scallop replenishment areas (SRAs) located off Yeppoon, Bustard Head and Hervey Bay are closed to all scallop fishing. A winter closure also applies each year – fishers cannot take or be in possession of scallops in the Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery between 1 May and 31 October each year. These measures have been put in place to prevent further decline to the stock. Find out more.

Trawl fishers target major commercial species, but operators in the east coast trawl fishery are allowed to keep and sell a number of byproduct species.

Major commercial species

Prawns

  • Tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus, P. semisulcatus or P. monodon). About 90% of Queensland's tiger prawns are harvested from the waters inside the Great Barrier Reef, offshore from their estuarine nurseries. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery.
  • Endeavour prawn (Metapenaeus endeavouri and M. ensis). Most of the endeavour prawn harvest comes from the Cape York Peninsula waters from Cairns north, where the adults tend to inhabit inshore reef lagoons. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery and the river and inshore beam fishery.
  • Red spot king prawn (Penaeus longistylus) - also known as the northern king prawn. These prawns prefer hard-bottomed areas near reefs, in waters 35-55m deep. They are found from Mackay north. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery.
  • Banana prawn (Penaeus merguiensis). The banana prawn tends to be an inshore species, favouring the turbid waters that flow from estuaries. In some areas the size of the catch increases significantly after heavy rainfall. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery and the river and inshore beam fishery.
  • Eastern king prawn (Penaeus plebejus). The catch of eastern king prawns varies throughout the year - the highest being taken January-April and the lowest August-November. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery.
  • Bay prawn (Metapenaeus bennettae and M. macleayi). Moreton Bay is the source of about 90% of the bay prawn harvest. Most are greasyback prawns (M. bennettae), but there are also school prawns (M. macleayi) and young prawns of various other species. Most are caught in spring and summer. They are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery and the river and inshore beam fishery.

Scallops

Scallops (Amusium balloti and A. pleuronectes) are found at depths of 20-100m from Bowen south to northern New South Wales. They are abundant around Yeppoon and Bundaberg on the central coast. Saucer scallops are taken by trawlers using otter trawl nets with large mesh but also commonly appear as prawn trawlers' incidental catch. Scallops are caught in the east coast otter trawl fishery.

Whiting

Stout whiting (Sillago robusta) are caught by trawlers in the fin fish (stout whiting) trawl fishery between Sandy Cape and the Queensland - New South Wales border. This is a separate fishery to the otter trawl fishery that targets prawns and scallops. Stout whiting inhabit the sandy sea floor, preferring deeper offshore waters. They are a different species to that targeted by recreational fishers, which are mostly winter whiting (Sillago maculata) or sand whiting (Sillago ciliata). The official fishing season for stout whiting is between 1 April and 31 December. Otter trawlers targeting prawns and scallops cannot keep any stout whiting that are caught.

Moreton Bay bugs

Moreton Bay bugs (Thenus australiensis and T.parindicus) are another target species in the east coast and Moreton Bay trawl fisheries. However, most bugs are taken as an incidental part of the prawn and scallop catch.

Squid

Squid caught in Queensland waters include:

  • pencil squid (Photololigo spp.)
  • tiger squid or northern calamari (Sepioteuthis spp.)
  • arrow squid (Ommastrephes bartramii, Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis).

Incidental catch

Operators in the east coast trawl fishery are allowed to keep and sell a number of byproduct species - that is, species taken incidentally while targeting others, such as prawns. Byproduct species (or 'permitted species') are an economically important part of the overall catch in the east coast trawl fishery, particularly in Moreton Bay.

Permitted species are:

  • blue swimmer crabs
  • barking crayfish
  • cuttlefish
  • mantis shrimp
  • octopuses
  • pinkies
  • pipefish
  • red spot crabs
  • Balmain bugs.

Some of these species are subject to minimum legal sizes, take and possession limits and other restrictions, to ensure they do not become a target species over time.

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