Bluespotted emperor

Latin name: Lethrinus punctulatus

Common name: Norwest snapper

  • Say No

Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Bluespotted emperor is unique to tropical Australia, and caught mainly in WA.
  • Bluespotted emperor are caught using trawl and trap/line fishing methods. The majority is caught in the trawl fishery, which is reported here.
  • There are no immediate concerns over the health of the bluespotted emperor population, but there is evidence that recent catches may have been too high in recent years in some areas.
  • There are significant and ongoing issues with common bottlenose dolphin mortalities in the WA trawl fishery that catches crimson snapper.
  • Annual dolphin mortality estimates indicate around 50-60 bottlenose dolphins are killed; as this level of mortality is higher than natural rates, it is likely the fishery is resulting in declines in the dolphin population.
  • There are inconsistencies between fishery logbook records and independent observer records.
  • Bluespotted emperor are caught using otter trawls. This fishery likely impacts vulnerable habitats, as sponges and corals are found in trawl nets.

Note: Bluespotted emperor are caught using lines and traps in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. These fishing methods do not have the same bycatch and habitat concerns as the red-rated Pilbara trawl sector. There is some uncertainty over the health of the population in the Kimberley region, so a precautionary Amber, Eat Less rating would apply.

More information

Bluespotted emperor are caught in one trawl and two trap and line fisheries off north-western Australia. Although these fisheries are separated in fishery management reports, specific information on the fisheries and their methods is generally not available to the public when buying seafood. Trap and line fishing methods are generally lower impact and do not have significant interactions with endangered wildlife. However, the northern trawl fishery that fishes off the Pilbara coastline catches the majority of bluespotted emperor, therefore this red, Say No rating relates only to this fishery.

Bluespotted emperor are unique to northwestern Australia, and are a major component of the catch in the trawl fishery. A 2016 stock assessment indicated there were no immediate concerns over the health of the bluespotted emperor population, but there are some indications that fishing pressure is too high in some areas where this fishery operates.

Interactions with common bottlenose dolphins are an ongoing issue of great concern in the WA-managed Pilbara trawl fishery. It is estimated that approximately 500 bottlenose dolphins were killed in the trawl fishery between 2003-2012, and current annual estimates are around 20-50 dolphin deaths per year. It is likely that this mortality rate is having a significant impact on bottlenose dolphin populations, as the fishery-related mortality is higher than the natural death rate of bottlenose dolphins, although there is a lack of information on population numbers in the area covered by the trawl fishery.

Escape hatches that allow dolphins to escape nets were made mandatory in the nets of the trawl fishery in 2006. However, fishery logbook reports detail ongoing dolphin mortalities, indicating that the design of the escape hatches is not adequate to protect bottlenose dolphins.

Independent researchers have also identified inconsistencies between the number of dolphin interactions reported by independent observers and in fishery logbook reports. It is unclear whether the rate of capture of dolphins in the fishery has decreased over time, due to insufficient public reporting by the managing authority.

Bluespotted emperor are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor, which has the potential to cause significant habitat disturbance. Trawling occurs in a restricted area of the north-western Australian shelf; area closures, including shallower waters nearer the shoreline, should offer some protection to similar habitats in the trawled area. Information about habitat affected by this fishery is limited, although vulnerable sponges and corals have been recorded in trawl catch, and trawling is known to occur over sensitive hard bottom habitats.