Title:

Understanding the factors contributing to decreased school prawn productivity in Camden Haven Estuary and associated lakes, to target ameliorative actions

Project Number:

2015-011

Organisation:

NSW Department Of Primary Industries

Principal Investigator:

Matt D. Taylor

Project Status:

Current

FRDC Expenditure:

$107,078.00

Program(s):

Adoption, Environment, Industry

Need

This project directly addresses Priority 20 in Program 1 (Environment), which was identified as a research priority by the NSW Fisheries Research Advisory Board for 2015. This priority arose through ongoing concerns about declines in School prawn productivity that fishers have conveyed to NSW commercial fisheries managers and peak industry bodies, particularly fishers in the north coast region of NSW. This issue is not confined to one estuary, and declining productivity of School prawns in some areas is an issue which percolates through all stakeholders in the NSW fishing industry, including individual fishing businesses and fishing cooperatives at the local scale, as well as the Professional Fishermens Association and other peak bodies, and recreational fishers whose primary bait supply is underpinned by School prawn harvest. Consequently, this project has been designed to address two key needs identified by industry: 1) An improved understanding of the specific issues within Camden Haven estuary, to allow management to strategically target ameliorative actions within the catchment and estuary itself; and 2) A broader understanding of how catchment-based activities could be affecting School (and other) prawn stocks along the New South Wales coast, through adverse effects on water quality. Restoration of the School prawn fishery in Camden Haven and other estuaries is essential to the continued livelihoods of estuary fishers, and provision of quality seafood product for both consumption and bait markets. However, the factors which have contributed to the declines in catch must be understood if ameliorative/restorative actions are to be implemented in a strategic fashion. These factors may include a combination of both recruitment and water quality issues. Furthermore, ~25% of seagrass was lost from the system between 2005 and 2011, which may also have contributed.

Objectives

1. Examine school prawn recruitment to different areas within the Camden Haven estuary, to determine if recruitment limitation in certain areas is likely

2. Evaluate whether post-recruitment processes in Camden Haven estuary may be adversely affecting school prawn growth and survival

3. Synthesise research findings to provide recommendations to catchment, habitat and fishery managers regarding restoration of school prawn productivity