Fishery biology and management of Protonibea diacanthus (Sciaenidae) aggregations in far Northern Cape York Peninsula waters

Phelan, M.J., Gribble, N.A., and Garrett, R.N. (2008) Fishery biology and management of Protonibea diacanthus (Sciaenidae) aggregations in far Northern Cape York Peninsula waters. Continental Shelf Research, 28 (16). pp. 2143-2151.

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Abstract

The sciaenid Protonibea diacanthus is a large, long-lived predatory fish of inshore northern Australian waters, which forms annual aggregations that are fished extensively by traditional (subsistence) and recreational fishers. There are now widespread concerns that the resource is being overexploited.

Indigenous fishers of the Cape York Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) relate that large adult fish (up to 1500 mm total length (TL)) made up the bulk of the catch from the sciaenid aggregations until about 1994. In contrast, sexually mature P. diacanthus comprised only a small component (12 fish out of 270=4.4%) examined in a 1999–2000 sampling programme that was biased towards the largest individuals available. At 790 mm TL, the minimum size at first maturity for female P. diacanthus in this study is much smaller than the 920 mm TL reported previously in Queensland waters. Developing ovaries were observed in specimens sampled from sciaenid aggregations which formed in NPA waters between May and September 2000. However, no fish with ripe or spent gonads were found in the study, so the current timing and location of the spawning season for P. diacanthus in the region remain unknown.

Food items observed in the analysis of the diet of P. diacanthus from the NPA included a variety of teleosts and invertebrates. The range of animal taxa represented in the prey items support the description of an ‘opportunistic predator’ attributed to the species. In our sampling, the stomach contents of fish caught during the time of the aggregation events did not differ from those observed at other times of the year.

A total of 114 P. diacanthus were tagged and released at aggregation sites during the study period, and 3 fish (2.6%) were subsequently recaptured. The low rate of tag returns from the wild stock tagging programme, both in this study (2.6%) and from recreational fisher tag/release programmes for the sciaenid elsewhere in Queensland (6.5%), were not explained by tag loss nor mortality, given the high retention rate of tags and the zero mortality seen in tank trials.

In response to the biological findings from this study, indigenous community councils of the NPA imposed a 2-year fishing moratorium for P. diacanthus. Surveys at aggregation sites in 2002 and 2003 established that much larger fish (mean size 103.5 cm TL) were again present on the grounds, albeit in very low numbers. These recent preliminary results highlight the critical need for continued monitoring and management of the P. diacanthus fishery in the NPA, if prospects for resource recovery are to be realised.

The NPA initiative has provided a rare opportunity to negotiate a co-management strategy, based on scientific data and traditional knowledge, for the recovery of a cultural and economically significant fished resource.

Item ID: 6138
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: marine sciences; indigenous fishers; fisheries management; Cape York Peninsula; Protonibea diacanthus
ISSN: 1873-6955
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2010 04:56
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830299 Fisheries- Wild Caught not elsewhere classified @ 80%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage @ 20%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 6
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