Population biology of coral trout species in eastern Torres Strait: implications for fishery management

Williams, Ashley J., Currey, Leanne M., Begg, Gavin A., Murchie, Cameron D., and Ballagh, Aaron C. (2008) Population biology of coral trout species in eastern Torres Strait: implications for fishery management. Continental Shelf Research, 28 (16). pp. 2129-2142.

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Coral trout (Plectropomus spp.) are the main target species for commercial fishers in the eastern Torres Strait Reef Line Fishery (ETS RLF). The four species of coral trout known to occur in Torres Strait: Plectropomus leopardus, Plectropomus maculatus, Plectropomus areolatus and Plectropomus laevis are currently managed as a single species in Torres Strait, as there is no species-specific biological information available for the region which could be used to assess whether species differ in their response to fishing pressure. The aim of our study was to determine whether it is appropriate (biologically) to manage coral trout in the ETS RLF as a single species group or whether different management arrangements are required for some species. We used catch data and biological data from samples collected by commercial fishers to examine the distribution within Torres Strait and estimate a range of biological parameters for P. leopardus, P. maculatus and P. areolatus. Insufficient P. laevis samples were collected to reliably examine this species. Results indicated that the population biology, particularly the reproductive biology, of P. areolatus was substantially different to both P. leopardus and P. maculatus. Although it is difficult to predict the response to fishing, P. areolatus may be more vulnerable to fishing than P. leopardus and P. maculatus, due to the larger size at sex change observed for this species and the very low proportion of males protected by the current minimum size limit. Therefore, while the common management arrangements for P. leopardus and P. maculatus appear to be adequate for these species, separate management arrangements are needed for the sustainable harvest of P. areolatus populations in the ETS. Specifically, we recommend the introduction of a maximum size limit for P. areolatus, in addition to the current minimum size limit, which may allow a proportion of males some protection from fishing.

Item ID: 6141
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-6955
Keywords: fish biology; reef fisheries; population dynamics; coral trout; Torres Strait; fishery management; Plectropomus; Australia
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2010 05:28
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070403 Fisheries Management @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060803 Animal Developmental and Reproductive Biology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 50%
83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 25%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage @ 25%
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