Moreton Bay Bug


Latin names: Thenus australiensis, T. parindicus


Common name: Bug

  • Eat Less

Wild Caught

Region:
Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • The term ‘Moreton Bay bugs’ refers to both the reef and mud bug, which are managed as though they were a single species. Although there is a lack of stock status information, there are no immediate concerns over the stock status of these species.
  • Bugs are caught using otter trawls that operate over the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors, and has a relatively low impact on the marine environment.
  • Bycatch reduction measures are mandatory in these fisheries, and have reduced accidental turtle catches.
  • The fishery interacts with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant although are not thought to be driving further declines in population numbers.

More information

  • Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery (45t in 2016)

The term ‘Moreton Bay bugs’ refers to two species, the reef and mud bug, both found throughout subtropical and tropical waters around Australia. Bugs are caught in a Commonwealth-managed trawl fishery that mainly targets prawns. The stock structure of either species of bug is poorly understood and no stock assessments have taken place. The stocks are partially protected by management measures such as non-retention of ‘berried’ or egg-bearing females and a restriction on the amount that can be caught.

Bugs are caught using otter trawls that operate mainly over mud and sand. Otter trawls operate over the seafloor when targeting tiger and endeavour prawns. This has the potential to cause significant habitat disturbance. Habitat types affected and are fairly resilient to disturbance and tend not to support sensitive marine communities, however, relatively little of the areas in which these fisheries operate is protected in spatial closures or marine parks.

Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. BRDs and TEDs are mandatory in all these fisheries and have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch remains an ongoing issue.

Catches of sea snakes remains high, although there is no indication that sea snake populations are declining as a result of fishing activity. Endangered sawfish, including the IUCN listed ‘Critically Endangered’ green and ‘Endangered’ dwarf sawfish are also caught every year, although it is complex to design modified fishing gear to reduce sawfish mortalities because the shape of their rostrums means they are especially prone to entanglement. The fishery has robust and transparent management arrangements in place, including observer programs, requirements to reports discards, assessments of the risk of the fishery to threatened species, plans in place to successfully reduce bycatch, and management actions in place to rectify issues in the fishery, should they occur. It is likely that these management arrangements will maintain the progress of these fisheries to reduce their impact on endangered wildlife in the future.

Commonwealth marine parks, set to be established in 2018, may provide a degree of protection for endangered species and marine habitat, though it is notable that sectors of industry sought, and may secure, significant reductions in the area of the fishery protected from trawling.

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
QLD

Key Facts

  • The term ‘Moreton Bay bugs’ refers to both the reef and mud bug, which are managed as though they were a single species. Although there is a lack of stock status information, there are no immediate concerns over the stock status of these species.
  • The fishery interacts with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant although are not thought to be driving further declines in population numbers.
  • The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of the fishery on threatened species. Observation of the fishery is considered essential to the management of a sustainable fishery. It is highly likely the impact of the fishery on endangered wildlife is higher than currently recorded.
  • Moreton Bay bugs are caught using otter trawls that operate over the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Zoning closes 66% of the marine park to trawl fishing and the impact of trawling over previously trawled habitat is not thought to be of high risk to the marine environment.
  • QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that have a strong potential to improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.

More information

  • QLD East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (537t in 2016)

This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing for Moreton Bay bugs 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. AMCS will review the sustainability of the fishery following the fishery reform process.

The term ‘Moreton Bay bugs’ refers to two species, the reef and mud bug, both found throughout subtropical and tropical waters around Australia. Bugs are caught in trawl fisheries that mainly target prawns. The stock structure of either species of bug is poorly understood and no stock assessments have taken place. The retention of ‘berried’ or egg-bearing females is allowed, which has been prohibited in other fisheries to protect the stock. While management measures do not appear robust enough to protect the stocks of bugs, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park closures are estimated to protect around half of the stock of both species, and there is no evidence of concerning declines in stocks from the available information.

In QLD, Moreton Bay bugs are caught in a trawl fishery that targets multiple species of prawns, scallops and fish. The majority of the catch is from within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. They are mandatory in this fishery and it is believed they have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch, including of turtles, sea snakes, sawfish and seahorses, remains an ongoing issue.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than that targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in QLD, meaning there is no information on the impact of the fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value.

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 on-vessel monitoring of the impact of the fishery, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in the fishery in logbooks. Since there is no reliable record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of this fishery cannot be measured or managed.

Trawling occurs over sandy and muddy sea floors within the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay Marine Parks, where habitats are relatively well understood, as well as to the south of the marine park. Zoning closes 66% of the Great Barrier Reef and 44% of the Moreton Bay marine park to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat. Assessments of the impact of fishing to marine habitats showed that trawling presents a relatively low risk of long-term or significant damage to habitats within the marine park. In addition, all boats operating in the fishery have location monitoring devices, which means authorities can ensure fishing is only taking place in areas open to fishing.

QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that have a strong potential to improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.