Project number: 2000-139
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $49,125.00
Principal Investigator: Neil Sumner
Organisation: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) WA
Project start/end date: 5 Sep 2000 - 4 Aug 2003


The size of the recreational catch for pink snapper together with information on the stock size from the egg production method (separate study funded by Fisheries WA) is required to estimate the proportion of the stock taken by recreational fishers over a one year period. This important information will be used to assess the sustainability of present levels of recreational fishing and to determine whether on not further management measured are required.

The Gascoyne Region Working Group has noted that a major obstacle to the resolution of fishery management and resource sharing issues in the region is the scarcity of data on recreational catches and activity. Additional monitoring beyond the previous creel survey, funded by Fisheries WA, which finished in March 1999 is required to estimate changes to the total catch, catch rates, size composition and mortality of these and other exploited marine species. This information, together with other studies funded by Fisheries WA to estimate the size of the pink snapper stocks, is required to develop strategies for the management of recreational fishing in Shark Bay.

An estimate of the recreational catch, fishing effort, catch rates and location caught for black snapper is required for the related FRDC project "The age growth and reproductive biology and stock assessment of black snapper, Lethrinus laticaudis in Shark Bay, WA" (FRDC 99/152).


1. To estimate the proportion of pink snapper stock harvested by recreational fishers using results from this creel survey and the egg production method survey.
2. To provide an estimate of the recreational catch of all species including fish (esp. pink snapper and black snapper), sharks, crustaceans and molluscs in the Shark Bay region.
3. To provide an estimate of the recreational fishing effort in the Shark Bay region.
4. To assess the re-direction of fishing effort after changes to the management regulations.
5. To provide the length frequency of pink snapper, black snapper and other prime species kept by recreational fishers.

Final report

ISBN: 1-877098-05-1
Author: Neil Sumner
Final Report • 2003-05-05 • 1,004.14 KB


A 12-month creel survey of recreational boat-based fishing in Shark Bay, Western Australia was conducted between May 2001 and April 2002 to estimate the catch of pink snapper.  During the survey 431 boat crews were interviewed at public boat ramps of which 414 had been fishing.

The information was required to assess the sustainability of pink snapper stocks at present levels of recreational fishing and to determine the most appropriate management measures required to keep recreational catches within management targets.

Pink snapper were predominantly caught from Freycinet Estuary and landed at Nanga (17.5 tonnes) or Tamala Station (4.7 tonnes). Pink snapper caught from Freycinet Reach were landed at Denham (7.5 tonnes). Catches from these stocks have decreased from 25.7 tonnes landed at Nanga and 12.2 tonnes landed at Denham estimated by a survey conducted in 1998-99 (Sumner et al., 2002).

The impact of revised management measures introduced in the western gulf to reduce the recreational catch of pink snapper was predicted using catch and effort data collected from surveys completed prior to their introduction. The revised management measures included a minimum size limit of 500 mm, bag limit of two, a limit of one fish over 700 mm per person and a partial closure to fishing for pink snapper in Freycinet Estuary (south of Goulet Bluff) between 15 August and 30 September during the spawning period. The predictions were found to be accurate when compared to catches estimated from a creel survey following the introduction of new regulations.

As predicted, despite the introduction of the new management measures, the estimated catch of pink snapper in Freycinet Estuary was four times the management target catch of five tonnes. In Freycinet Reach, the new management measures reduced the landed catch by one quarter with a corresponding increase in the number of undersize fish released. The effectiveness of the revised management measures varied between Freycinet Estuary and Freycinet Reach due to the different size composition of the recreational catch of pink snapper at these locations.

The limited effectiveness of the recently introduced management measures indicates that small and vulnerable stocks, such as the inner gulf pink snapper stocks in Shark Bay, cannot be effectively managed using standard techniques such as size and bag limits. Traditional recreational management methods based on size and bag limits did not reduce the catch in Freycinet Estuary to a sustainable level. Furthermore, due to the minimum size limit, large numbers of pink snapper are being caught and subsequently released particularly in the Freycinet Reach. Consequently, the mortality of fish caught and subsequently released is of concern (This is the focus of another project FRDC 2000/194 “Investigating survival of released undersized west coast reef fish”). These problems will provide challenges for the management of this and other similar recreational fisheries.

Keywords: Recreational Fishing, Pink Snapper, Shark Bay, Creel Survey

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Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA)