Bay Prawn

Latin names: Metapenaeus bennettae, M. insolitus

Common names: Greasyback Prawn, Greentail Prawn

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Bay prawns are caught using trawl fishing gear in Moreton Bay and inshore and coastal waters further north of Brisbane.
  • Although information on the stock status of bay prawns is minimal, there are no indications of declines in the population. This species grows and reproduces quickly and is resilient to fishing pressure.
  • Bay prawns are caught in muddy and sandy areas that are resilient to disturbance from fishing.The majority of fishing takes place in Moreton Bay Marine Park, where 44% of the Bay is protected from the impacts of trawling and the marine habitat is well understood.
  • The 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 declines in population numbers.
  • The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of this 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.
  • 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 River and Inshore Beam Trawl Fishery & East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery – Moreton Bay sector (282t in 2016)

This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for bay 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 this fishery following the fishery reform process.

The name ‘bay prawn’ is used for a number of different prawn species; also known as greasyback or greentail prawns, as well as the juveniles of other prawn species. Bay prawns are caught using trawl fishing gear in coastal waters. The majority of the catch comes from Moreton Bay, with additional prawns caught in nearshore waters to the north of Brisbane.

Overfishing is not likely to be occurring according to a basic stock assessment of the dominant species (greasyback prawns), together with fisheries records showing current catches at similar levels of the past decade. Bay prawns are also fast growing and quick to reproduce, which means that this species is relatively resilient to fishing pressure.

Bay prawns are caught using beam trawling in river and inshore coastal areas. Bay prawns are found in muddy and sandy areas that are relatively resilient to fishing pressure as fishing areas have naturally high levels of disturbance from river flows. Comprehensive habitat mapping is available for Moreton Bay, and as a result of marine park management and monitoring, the affected habitats are well understood.

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 dolphins, 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, which means that 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 this fishery, which is unacceptable for a fishery operating in ecologically sensitive regions and likely to be interacting with endangered wildlife. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in Queensland’s trawl fisheries in logbooks. As there is no reliable record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of the fishery cannot be measured or managed.

The majority of the fishery operates within the Moreton Bay Marine Park, where trawling is prohibited in 44% of the Bay. These closed areas are likely to convey some protection for threatened species in the Bay. A report that detailed the risk the fishery poses to the marine environment was not publicly available for consideration at the time of this assessment.

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