- Better Choice
- Stocks of dusky flathead in NSW and VIC are considered healthy.
- The nets used to catch dusky flathead generally have a low impact on habitats.
- Fishery impacts on threatened species appear minimal, although there has been no independent observer coverage in recent years.
- Fishers are generally present at the nets during fishing, which means endangered wildlife can be released alive.
- The fishery that catches dusky flathead in NSW also catches overfished mulloway, but a recovery plan is in place and the fisheries do not catch a high proportion of mulloway.
- An on-going assessment of the stock status of other species caught in the VIC fishery does not indicate any concerns.
- NSW Estuary General Fishery (111t in 2015)
- VIC Gippsland Lakes Fishery (16t in 2015-16)
Stocks of dusky flathead in NSW and VIC are considered healthy, as commercial catches are stable compared to long-term fishery catch records, indicating that overfishing is not occurring.
Fishing for dusky flathead generally takes place in estuaries and nearshore environments using various types of nets, all of which have a low impact on habitats. As fishers are present at the nets during fishing, endangered wildlife can be released alive. It is also likely that these fisheries have a low catch of threatened and protected species based on previous independent observer records of bycatch in NSW, although there has been no observer coverage to verify logbook reporting of threatened species interaction reporting since 2009. This fishery is small scale in VIC and operates in a limited area. While there is no observer coverage, it is highly unlikely that there are significant interactions with endangered wildlife.
The fishing methods used to catch dusky flathead have minimal impacts on marine habitats. In addition, the fisheries operate in areas that are afforded some protection by marine parks and spatial closures.
The NSW fishery also catches mulloway, a species that is overfished in NSW. A management plan is in place to reduce the take of mulloway, but it is unclear whether this is proving effective at allowing the species to rebuild. The fisheries that take the majority of dusky flathead do not catch a high proportion of mulloway caught in NSW, so are unlikely to be significantly affecting the health of the population. However, if improvements to mulloway stocks are not apparent during the next assessment, it is likely to result in a downgrading for dusky flathead to an amber ‘Think Twice’ rating.
An on-going assessment of the stock status of other species caught in the VIC fishery does not indicate any concerns
- Eat Less
- It is likely the majority of dusky flathead available for sale are from low impact fishing methods.
- A precautionary amber rating has been applied because it is difficult to confidently rate this fishery as green Better Choice due to unclear government reporting in QLD. With fisheries reforms currently underway in QLD, there is a strong likelihood that this rating will improve in the future.
- Stocks of dusky flathead appear healthy.
- Dusky flathead is mainly caught in beach seine and tunnel nets in coastal waters operating off the eastern coast of QLD.
- Interactions with turtles, dugongs and sharks are likely to occur in these fisheries, although there is a lack of information on threatened species mortalities. As fishing is small-scale and fishers are generally present at the nets during fishing, endangered wildlife can be released alive, so it is unlikely that threatened species mortalities are resulting in population depletions.
Note: A code of practice has been developed for one sector of the fishery that operates in Moreton Bay. The code of practice details how to avoid interactions with dugongs, turtles and sharks, and devices to allow turtles to escape from tunnel nets are mandatory. Moreton Bay tunnel net-caught dusky flathead score a green or ‘Better Choice’ rating, and the product can be identified by the 'Moreton Bay Fresh' brand label.
Queensland East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (55t in 2015-16)
This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for dusky flathead 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. The ‘Eat Less’ rating for QLD is a result of the way in which this sector of the QLD fishery is reported and managed, and there are considerable opportunities for this rating to improve following the fishery reform process.
All of the indicators that this fishery uses to monitor dusky flathead stocks suggest that they are healthy, and recent catches are similar to levels recorded in fishery catch records.
Dusky flathead is mainly caught in beach seine and tunnel nets in coastal waters of a QLD-managed fishery operating off the eastern coast. Interactions with turtles have been recorded in fishing operations, although it is not clear from fishery reports how many interactions or turtle deaths have occurred. Interactions with dugongs and protected species of shark are also likely in these coastal fisheries, but there is a lack of current information on bycatch across the entire geographical range of the fishery. The small scale of most of the fishing operations and that fishers are present at the nets during fishing means endangered wildlife can be released alive.
The fishing methods used to catch dusky flathead have minimal impacts on marine habitat; in addition, the fisheries operate in areas that are afforded some protection by marine parks.
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 monitoring of the impact of the fishery. It is likely that these beach seine and tunnel net fisheries in QLD pose minimal risk to endangered wildlife.