- Eat Less
- Say No
Note: A minor portion of the WA goldband snapper catch is trawl-caught in a fishery based in WA’s Pilbara. Goldband snapper caught from this fishery is GoodFish ranked a red, ‘Say No’ rating due to ongoing dolphin deaths as bycatch and failure of fishery managers to implement robust independent scrutiny of the fishery’s bycatch.
- Goldband snapper is a tropical bottom-dwelling predatory fish species caught in a number of different fisheries in NT, WA and QLD.
- Three populations of goldband snapper are fished in WA, in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions. Most catch comes from line and trap fishing methods, though a minor proportion is caught in bottom trawl fishing off the Pilbara coast. See note below.
- Goldband snapper populations are slightly below healthy levels in the major WA Kimberley fishery and the smaller Gascoyne, and are subject to heavy fishing pressure in the former. The population caught in the Pilbara is not directly assessed by managers despite significant catches.
- Line and trap fishing methods pose a low risk to vulnerable bycatch species and habitats.
- The trawl fishery’s habitat impacts are relatively well understood, and their environmental risk is adequately managed.
- WA Northern Demersal Scalefish Fishery, Pilbara Demersal Scalefish Fishery, and the Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Fishery (885t in 2021)
Goldband snapper is a tropical species, found across northern Australia. The biological stock structure of the species is complex as there are a number of discrete stocks throughout the species’ geographical range. Goldband snapper are fished in QLD, NT and WA, and managed separately by these jurisdictions. In WA, three goldband snapper populations are managed separately in line, trap and a bottom trawl fishery that operate in the Kimberley, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions.
As goldband snapper are a long-lived species (they can live for around 30 years), fishing needs to be set at careful levels to ensure that overfishing is not occurring.
Scientific assessments show that goldband snapper in the major WA fishery (which operates in the Kimberley region) as well as in the Gascoyne region are slightly below healthy levels, and have been subject to heavy fishing pressure in recent years. The population caught in the Pilbara region is not assessed directly, but on the basis of several other species that represent a proxy for the health of the suite of species in the fishery as a whole. This is concerning, as goldband snapper catches in that fishery are significant at >200t/yr, a level that warrants direct scientific assessment. The associated uncertainty in the Pilbara fishery, and the presence of some concern for goldband snapper populations in the Kimberley and Gascoyne regions, underpins the GoodFish ‘Eat less’ ranking for WA line and trap-caught goldband snapper.
Line and trap fishing methods use are relatively targeted, and retain a broad range of species with little risk to endangered or vulnerable bycatch species and habitats.
The trawl fishery in which some goldband snapper are caught has robust habitat management arrangements, and impacts of the fishery on habitats are well-studied.
Impacts of line and trap fishing on vulnerable habitats are less well understood, though the fishing method poses a low risk and extensive science-based marine parks across the Kimberley line and trap fishery afford considerable protection.
Some goldband snapper are caught in a trawl fishery that operates in the Pilbara. This fishery has considerable issues with the bycatch of dolphins in fishing nets, and is not considered in this assessment. goldband snapper caught in the trawl fishery receive a Red, ‘Say No’ rating; however, the majority of goldband snapper are caught using trap and line methods.
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. The line and trap fishery have no independent observation of fishing activity, but because line fishing methods are fairly targeted and have little threatened or protected species bycatch, so pose a low risk.
However, for the trawl fishery, since 2016 managers allowed trawl fishing boats to deactivate the onboard cameras that would have allowed independent scrutiny of fishing activity, as long as fishers voluntarily reported dolphin bycatch incidents that were within historic ranges. This creates three negative impacts – disincentivising fishers from reporting bycatch occurrences that exceed this range, removing the critical source of independent validation of bycatch reporting, and making public scrutiny of the fishery’s impacts more difficult. This is a serious failure of management and will require immediate effective action to improve the GoodFish ranking of this fishery in future. Trawl-caught goldband snapper is ranked GoodFish Say No for this reason.
Line and trap-caught goldband snapper are a much more sustainable seafood option and should be chosen over traw-caught wherever possible.