Banana Prawn

Latin names: Fenneropenaeus merguiensis, F. indicus

Common name: Prawn

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Banana prawns live in tropical waters, and are short-lived and fast-growing. Long-term fishing records indicate that stocks are healthy.
  • This fishery interacts with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant although are not thought to be driving further population declines.
  • The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of the fishery on threatened species. Observation of the fishery is considered essential to the management of a sustainable fishery. It is highly likely the impact of the fishery on endangered wildlife is higher than currently recorded.
  • Banana prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. However 66% of the marine park is closed to fishing and the impact of trawling over previously trawled habitat is not thought to be of high risk to the environment.
  • QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that should improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.

More information

  • QLD East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (311t in 2016)

This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for banana prawns in QLD-managed fisheries. A reform of QLD fisheries is currently underway in order to modernise the management framework, demonstrate sustainability, improve the profitability of the industry and meet community expectations. AMCS will review the sustainability of the fishery following the fishery reform process.

The name ‘banana prawn’ refers to two species – white and red-legged banana prawns; both species live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing.The vast majority of product sold in the Australian market comes from the Commonwealth-managed Northern Prawn Fishery, catching white banana prawns. Long-term fishing records indicate that stocks are healthy in areas fished by QLD.

Banana prawns are caught in a trawl fishery that targets multiple species of prawns and scallops. The fishery operates within and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. These devices are mandatory in this fishery and it is believed they have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch, including of turtles, sea snakes, sawfish and seahorses, remains an issue.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in QLD, meaning there is no information on the impact of this fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value.

Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions, as well as other fishery impacts, such as the type and volume of discarded catch. Unfortunately the QLD Government has closed the observer program for all QLD managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening six years, there has been no independent on-vessel monitoring of the impact of the fishery, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in the fishery in logbooks. As there is no record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of this fishery cannot be measured or managed.

Trawling occurs over sandy and muddy within the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay Marine Parks, where habitats are relatively well understood, as well as to the south of the marine park. Current zoning means that 66% of the Great Barrier Reef and 44% of the Moreton Bay marine park is closed to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat. Assessments of the impact of fishing on marine habitats show that trawling presents a relatively low risk of long-term or significant damage to habitats within the marine park. In addition, all boats operating in the fishery have location monitoring devices, which means that authorities can ensure fishing is only taking place in areas open to fishing.

There is a strong potential for this rating to improve in the future, provided that the broad reforms currently underway deliver the strong and effective management needed to support well managed and sustainable fisheries in QLD.