Deepwater Flathead

Latin name: Platycephalus conatus

Common name: Flathead

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Deepwater flathead stocks are healthy.
  • The fishery discards 40-60% of the catch by weight (unwanted marine animals that are caught and thrown back overboard), with little understanding of the ecological impacts or on the stock status of discarded species.
  • Some of the area of seabed covered by the fishery has been mapped, and trawling grounds overlap with high-risk habitats, including areas of sensitive corals and sponges.
  • Historical high impacts on fragile marine habitats have been addressed through the closure of some trawling areas.

More information

  • Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (Great Australian Bight Trawl Fishery sector) (636t in 2015-16)

Deepwater flathead are caught using trawls, with the majority of fishing effort concentrated on the upper continental shelf and slope off WA and SA.

Deepwater flathead stocks are currently healthy and not overfished. However, there are concerns about the high volume of discarded, unwanted fish. ‘Discards’ can account for 40-60% of the total catch weight, and are generally thrown overboard. Little is known about whether the discarded species survive the process, or the impact on their stock status..

Some of the area where fishing occurs has been well mapped in order to identify the distribution of sensitive seafloor-dwelling species. Trawling sometimes takes place on areas of seafloor that support sponges, hard corals and bryozoans (small invertebrates that form colonies similar to coral reefs), but it is unclear how much trawling activity is resulting in damage to habitats and associated species. Some areas of marine habitat are protected in marine parks and through other spatial closures. It is likely the fishery has had a high impact on the marine environment in the past, and spatial closures and reductions in the amount of fishing over the past two decades has reduced that impact.

While bycatch of endangered wildlife is relatively low in this fishery, interactions with seabirds is of concern. All trawl boats must have a seabird management plan in place to guide how each boat aims to reduce interactions with seabirds while actively fishing. Many of the solutions to seabird interactions have been fishing industry-led innovations. Initial evidence seems to indicate that some innovations could reduce the impact of fishing on endangered seabirds, however these have only recently been applied to fishing vessels and their effectiveness remains unquantified at present.

There is some independent monitoring of the fishery that catches deepwater flathead. While reporting of endangered wildlife deaths has improved in recent years, a comparison between observer recorded deaths and fishery logbook records is necessary to provide confidence in reporting.