Banana Prawn


Latin names: Fenneropenaeus merguiensis, F. indicus


Common name: Prawn

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Wild Caught

Region:
WA, Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • Banana prawns live in tropical waters, and are short-lived and fast-growing. Long-term fishing records indicate that stocks are healthy.
  • Banana prawns are caught using otter trawls. Much of the fishing activity in Commonwealth waters targets prawn aggregations at the sea surface, so habitat impacts are minimal.
  • Habitat impacts are less well understood in the WA fishery; however, the area trawled is small, which reduces the risk of high damage to marine ecosystems.
  • Bycatch reduction measures are mandatory in these fisheries, and have reduced accidental turtle catches.
  • All fisheries interact 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 but are not thought to be driving further declines in population numbers.

More information

  • Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery (2,904 in 2016)
  • WA Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fishery and Kimberley Prawn Managed Fishery (259t in 2015)

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 the WA and Commonwealth fisheries.

In the Commonwealth managed fishery, spotter planes are used to find ‘boils’ or dense aggregations of banana prawns at the sea surface. Trawlers then target these aggregations, which means most of the trawling for banana prawns occurs above the seafloor and habitat damage is minimized. Much of the habitat trawled by the Commonwealth and WA fisheries is made up of mud and sand, which is relatively resilient to disturbance should fishing gear touch the bottom.

The habitat type where fishing takes place is relatively well understood in Commonwealth waters, tends not to support sensitive marine communities and is fairly resilient to disturbance. However, relatively little of the areas in which the fisheries operate is protected in spatial closures or marine parks. The information on WA habitat is of lower quality; area closures should confer a degree of protection and the risk to broader marine habitats is reduced by the relatively small scale of the fishery.

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. BRDs and TEDs are mandatory in all these fisheries and have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch remains an issue in all fisheries.

Catches of sea snakes remains high in the Commonwealth managed fishery, although there is no indication that sea snake populations are declining as a result of fishing activity. Endangered sawfish, including the IUCN listed ‘Critically Endangered’ green and ‘Endangered’ dwarf sawfish are caught in the fishery every year, although it is complex to design modified fishing gear to reduce sawfish mortalities; the shape of their rostrums means they are especially prone to entanglement. Due to the wide distribution of sawfish, including in non-fished areas, experts have assessed that prawn fishing alone is not driving further declines in these species. While the fishing industry has been proactive at reducing the impact of fishing on endangered wildlife, it is unclear whether bycatch is declining over time.

The smaller scale WA-managed fishery also reports interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes, however fishery reports suggest that as the fishery is small-scale, significant impacts on threatened species is unlikely.

The Commonwealth fishery has robust and transparent management arrangements in place, including observer programs, requirements to reports discards, assessments of the risk of the fishery to threatened species, successful plans in place to reduce bycatch, and management actions in place to rectify issues in the fishery should they occur. It is likely these management arrangements will maintain the progress of this  fishery to reduce the impact on endangered wildlife in future. Unlike other prawn fisheries operating in WA, there is no on-going observer coverage in the banana prawn fisheries, which is of concern.

Commonwealth marine parks, set to be established in 2018, may provide a degree of protection for endangered species and marine habitat. However it is notable that sectors of this industry sought, and may yet secure, significant reductions in the area of the fishery protected from trawling.

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Wild Caught

Region:
QLD

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.