Crimson Snapper

Latin name: Lutjanus erythropterus

Common names: Red Snapper, Tropical Snapper

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Crimson snapper is a tropical species caught in the NT.
  • The amount of crimson snapper taken in NT may be set too high, which may be putting the stock at risk of overfishing. As of early 2018, fishery managers are addressing this risk.
  • Independent observer coverage of trawl fisheries in NT indicates interactions with sawfish, dolphins and hammerhead sharks, although it is unlikely the catch level is contributing to further declines in the populations of these species.
  • In NT, the expansion of the trawl sector of the fishery since 2011 is of concern due to potential impacts on marine habitat and protected species. Habitat type is largely unknown; however the area trawled is small.
  • Fishery management improvements in NT should address issues of concern.

More information

  • NT Demersal Fishery, Timor Reef Fishery and Coastal Line Fishery (698t in 2014-15)

Crimson snapper is a tropical species found across northern Australia but fished and managed by different jurisdictions. The vast majority of the catch comes from the NT trawl fishery. In some years a high part of the catch comes from a QLD-managed trawl fishery, although not included in this assessment due to lack of consistent fishing effort every year.

There are concerns over the level of fishing effort in the NT, and its impacts on crimson snapper stocks. The amount of crimson snapper currently fished may be too high for the stock to support, which could lead to the stock becoming overfished. In QLD there is insufficient information on the abundance of this species to enable fisheries scientists to undertake full stock assessments. As crimson snapper is a long-lived species (around 40 years), fishing needs to be set at careful levels to ensure overfishing is not occurring.

The amount of trawling occurring in the NT has expanded significantly since 2011, when trawling increasingly replaced trap and line fishing as the prefered method. In addition, a trial has been underway in the Timor Sea for three years with no reporting on the outcomes as yet, in early 2018. Concerns over the high fishing effort on crimson snappers have been noted by fisheries managers, and it is expected that management actions will come into force in 2018 that are likely to address these issues.

Crimson snapper caught in the QLD fishery are fished using line methods along the east coast. The fishery also catches a number of other species of coral reef fish but most of these fish stocks are uncertain because of a lack of reliable biological data and information on the effects of fishing.

The impacts of line fishing on the marine environment are minimal. In QLD fishing takes place around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which provides extensive habitat protection. The habitat trawled in the NT is poorly understood; currently the trawled area represents less than 5% of the total area available. Improved habitat mapping is urgently needed and is being considered as part of current management actions.

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 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. It is likely the line fisheries in QLD pose minimal risk to marine mammals, although there are some concerns over the bycatch of sharks.

Independent observer coverage of trawl fisheries in NT indicates interactions with sawfish, dolphins and hammerhead sharks, although it is unlikely the catch level is contributing to further declines in the populations of these species.

It is expected that the broad fisheries reforms currently underway in QLD will address a number of issues in the management of QLD fisheries in the future, and actions underway in the NT should address outstanding issues in the trawl fisheries. However, if identified issues remain outstanding at the next assessment for Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, it is likely that this species will be downgraded to a red ‘Say No’ listing.

  • Say No

Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Crimson snapper are caught using trawl, trap and line fishing methods. The majority is caught in the trawl fishery, which is reported here. Trap and line fishing methods are low impact and have minimal interactions with endangered wildlife.
  • 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 20-50 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.
  • Crimson snapper are caught using otter trawls. This fishery likely impacts vulnerable habitats, as sponges and corals are found in trawl nets.

Note: Crimson snapper 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 stocks, so a precautionary Amber, Eat Less rating would apply. However, it can be challenging to find information on the fishery and fishing method at point of sale.

More information

  • WA Northern Coast Demersal Scalefish Fishery – Trawl sector (157t in 2015)

The WA fishery that catches crimson snapper has a trap and a trawl sector. Although fishery reports separate the two sectors, information on the fishing method is generally not available to the public when buying seafood. Trap fishing methods are generally low impact and do not have significant interactions with endangered wildlife. However, the trawl component of the fishery catches the majority of crimson snapper and the bycatch issues summarized below relate only to the trawl fishery.

There is limited information over the status of the crimson snapper stock caught in the WA trawl fishery. There are no immediate causes for concern given the small scale of the fishery, but stock assessment information requires updating.

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 on-going dolphin mortalities, indicating that the design of the escape hatches is not suitable 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.

Crimson snapper 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.