Project number: 2008-208
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $125,058.00
Principal Investigator: Sue Poole
Organisation: Northern Territory Seafood Council (NTSC)
Project start/end date: 31 Jul 2008 - 30 Jan 2010


The biomass of tropical red snapper in northern Australian waters has been estimated at 24,000t. A conservative management trigger point has set annual harvest levels at 2,400t. Current catches are well below this level. The majority of red snapper is caught by trawl, but there is also a potential to target them in trap and dropline fisheries.

Tough fish from these fisheries are identified on occasion at the point of cooking. Currently it is not possible to identify this syndrome at the point of capture or wholesale. There is an urgent need to identify the cause of TFS to minimise impact of the syndrome on the value of the resource and enable appropriate handling methods to be implemented where applicable.

TFS is causing a huge loss of revenue from the reef fish fishery due to strong negative reaction from the end-supply chain sectors with this phenomenon reducing the overall value of this, and other species in the fishery. The magnitude of such losses was made apparent recently when one of Australia’s largest retailers cancelled a very large supply contract from a major fishery operator. Another major stakeholder in the fishery has had export orders rescinded.

Industry believes that if TFS in red snapper could be managed the current price of around $4.50/kg could be increased up to $8.00/kg, in line with other tropical snappers. This would lead to an estimated additional $3.0 M/year revenue from this species under current catch levels. If the value of this species increased, there is potential to significantly increase sustainable catch levels and subsequent return to the community.


1. To determine whether incomplete rigor mortis resolution and 'cold shock' play a role in development of tough fish syndrome (TFS) in tropical saddletail snapper.
2. To identify links between TFS and specific physiological factors in tropical saddletail snapper.
3. Communicate findings and recommendations to stakeholders and assist with implementation of any changes to fishing or handling practices required.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-7345-0412-8
Author: Sue Poole

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