Jackass Morwong

Latin name: Nemadactylus macropterus

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • Jackass morwong are caught using trawls in a Commonwealth-managed fishery.
  • Jackass morwong have been seriously overfished in recent years, with the fishing industry and managers failing to be adequately careful in managing the species in a rapidly changing marine environment.
  • 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.
  • The fishery catches some threatened species such as Australian fur seals, shortfin mako sharks and seabirds, although industry have been proactive in trying to reduce mortalities of vulnerable species.
  • The trawl fishery for jackass morwong catches other species, some of which are overfished (e.g. blue warehou).
  • The fishery also discards up to half of its catch. The ecological impacts of this discarding have not been fully quantified.

More information

  • Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (Commonwealth Trawl Sector) (98t in 2020-21)

Jackass morwong are caught in a trawl fishery managed by the Commonwealth Government. The species is managed as a single stock, although scientific research has identified that there is an eastern and western stock. Fisheries scientists have assessed that the major eastern stock has been seriously overfished in recent years.

Jackass morwong are caught using otter trawls. Some of the area where fishing occurs has been well mapped in order to identify the distribution of sensitive bottom-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.

Protected species caught in this fishery include Australian fur seals, seabirds (including albatross and shearwaters) and shortfin mako sharks. Inconsistencies between logbook reporting and independent observers have been a problem in the past, however the fishing industry has been addressing these inconsistencies through training schemes. Seal Excluder Devices (SEDs), which act as escape hatches for seals that enter trawl nets, are mandatory, and the industry has been proactive in trying to reduce seabird interactions.

Jackass morwong is caught alongside many other species, some of which are overfished, including blue warehou and gemfish. The fishery also catches unwanted fish that are then discarded. Up to half of the catch weight in the otter trawl fishery may be discarded, and many of these fish die during the process. The cumulative ecosystem impacts of discarding fish have not yet been quantified.