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

Short-term climate variability and the commercial barramundi (Lates calcarifer) fishery of north-east Queensland, Australia

Jacqueline Balston
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence, PO Box 937, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

B School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

C Email: jacqueline.balston@jbalston.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(9) 912-923 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF08283
Submitted: 9 October 2008  Accepted: 2 March 2009   Published: 22 September 2009

Abstract

The sustainable productivity of estuarine fisheries worldwide is threatened by over-fishing, habitat destruction and water impoundment. In some cases, the natural variability of freshwater inputs has been shown to affect catch when low flows reduce nutrient input and inundated nursery habitats. Historically, the annual commercial catch of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) in Queensland has been highly variable for reasons not fully understood. In conjunction with a life-cycle model, statistical analyses of climate variables and barramundi catch data from the Princess Charlotte Bay area identified several significant relationships. Warm sea surface temperatures, high rainfall, increased freshwater flow and low evaporation (all measures of an extensive and productive nursery habitat) were significantly correlated with barramundi catch 2 years later and suggest that young barramundi survival is enhanced under these conditions. Catchability was significantly increased with high freshwater flow and rainfall events in the year of catch. A forward stepwise ridge regression model that included a measure of rainfall and evaporation 2 years before catch explained 62% of the variance in catch adjusted for effort. It is recommended that the impact of climate variability be considered in the management of wild barramundi stocks and possibly other species not yet examined.

Additional keywords: ENSO, MJO, SOI, sustainable management.


Acknowledgements

This study forms part of a doctoral research project funded by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water and the Queensland Centre for Climate Change Excellence. In-kind support was provided by the James Cook University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Thanks to my supervisors Drs Steve Turton, Neil Gribble and Roger Stone and journal referees who all provided valuable advice in the development of this paper.


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