Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Steam trawl catches from south-eastern Australia from 1918 to 1957: trends in catch rates and species composition

Marine and Freshwater Research 52(4) 399 - 410
Published: 2001


Haul-by-haul steam trawler catch and effort data for 1918–23, 1937–43 and 1952–57, which cover a large portion of the history of steam trawling in the Australian South East Fishery, were examined in detail for the first time. There were 64371 haul records in total. The catch-rate for all retained catch combined shows a strong decline overall, with a brief recovery during World War II, probably due to increased retention of previously discarded species. The fishing fleet moved to more distant fishing grounds and deeper waters as the catch-rate declined. The catch-rates of the main commercial species followed a similar pattern in a number of regions within the fishery. The catch-rate of the primary target species – tiger flathead (Neoplatycephalus richardsoni) – dropped considerably from the early, very high, catch-rates. Chinaman leatherjacket (Nelusetta ayraudi) and latchet (Pterygotrigla polyommata) – species that were apparently abundant in the early years of the fishery, virtually disappeared from catches in later years. The appearance of greater catches of jackass morwong (Nemadactylus macropterus), redfish (Centroberyx affinis) and shark/skate during the war and afterwards was probably due to increased retention of catches of these species. The disappearance of certain species from the catch may be due to high fishing pressure alone, or to a combination of fishing pressure, changes in the shelf habitat possibly caused by the trawl gear, and environmental fluctuations.

Keywords: fisheries management, south east trawl fishery, CPUE, historical, steam trawler, stock assessment.

© CSIRO 2001

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