Project number: 2002-101
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $466,513.00
Principal Investigator: Cathy M. Dichmont
Organisation: CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Hobart
Project start/end date: 26 Nov 2002 - 30 Apr 2004


An international review of the NPF tiger prawn assessment agreed with the conclusions of the 2001 assessment that tiger prawn levels are critically low, especially for brown tiger prawns. It highlighted the critical need for an independent monitoring program given the confounding and complexities of the catch rate data used as the sole index of abundance in the NPF assessments.

The survey data used to determine the initial design for this project (see Background) is more than a decade old and does not cover the full study area. Therefore the initial surveys will be largely exploratory in nature and very much a trial to see if the proposed design is effective. Also, the survey design includes integrated components such as the assessment of long-term changes in fishing power and the contraction of the fishery over time that have not been undertaken in prawn survey designs (both nationally and internationally) before. These aspects highlight that this project has a large research component, which has as a major output, not just the survey results itself, but recommendations for a final design, analyses and scale of future survey requirements.

Half the project is therefore seen as research. For this reason, CSIRO is supporting the project to the scale of about $100,000. A similar amount is being applied for from FRDC’s MOU funds using the matching $100,000 from industry i.e a total of about $200,000. The remainder of the project, some $270,000 will be underwriten by the industry as agreed in NORMAC, March 2002 with a possible $100,000 initial seed contribution by AFMA. The industry and NORMAC have also in principal supported the long-term need for regular industry-funded monitoring surveys based on the output of this project.

There is a need to provide an updated design for the NPF that would work in the long-term to provide indices of abundance to key species and enhance a difficult-to-use commercial catch rate series. Furthermore, this design needs to address target, byproduct, bycatch and possibly some effects-of-trawling issues to make the best use of the surveys, as they will be a large expense to the industry.


1. To determine the final design and analyses for two surveys in the Gulf of Carpentaria
2. To undertake a survey in September to determine whether there has been a spatial contraction of the tiger prawn resource
3. To undertake a survey in January/February that will provide a recruitment index of the main commercial prawn species in the Gulf of Carpentaria
4. To determine the appropriate scale and frequency of future surveys
5. To spatially map the distribution of the main prawn species in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Final report

ISBN: 1-876-996-43-9
Author: Catherine Dichmont

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