Latin name: Pagrus auratus

Common name: Pink Snapper

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Wild Caught

QLD, New Zealand

Key Facts

  • Snapper is a key target in commercial and recreational fisheries around Australia and New Zealand.
  • The snapper stock shared by NSW and QLD fisheries is in an overfished condition
  • In New Zealand,the majority of stocks are under pressure and with clear indications of overfishing and depleted stocks in many areas.
  • Snapper are mainly caught using lines and fish traps in Australia, which have a limited impact on both endangered wildlife and marine habitats.
  • Trawling for snapper in NZ is of high risk to endangered wildlife, including Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.

More information

  • QLD Rocky Reef Fishery (12t in 2021, 12t in 2020)
  • Imported from New Zealand (2,299t imported in 2016)

Snapper is a key target of commercial and recreational fisheries in Australia and New Zealand. The recreational catch in some states in Australia is a significant portion of the overall catch of snapper, and can equal or exceed commercial landings.

A single stock of snapper exists along the eastern seaboard of Australia, with the stock fished by both QLD and NSW using different management arrangements. QLD fishery statistics indicate concerns over the status of this stock, including declining catch rates (a measure of how easy it is to catch fish), low presence of young snapper entering into the population and few mature fish. Snapper are likely to be ‘growth overfished’, which means the larger fish have been fished out and juvenile fish are now being caught. Catching fish at too small a size means they are not able to reproduce and support the stock over the long-term.

It remains unclear as to whether management actions introduced have supported any recovery of this long-lived fish species, which can live up to 40 years.

There are also multiple stocks of snapper targeted around New Zealand. Key stocks remain overfished. Some management measures have been put in place, such as restricting recreational fishing catch. Some stocks have demonstrated limited recovery, but not yet up to a level that could be considered sustainable.

Snapper in QLD are predominantly caught using hand lines in QLD. This fishing method has a low impact on endangered wildlife and marine habitats, and generally result in low quantities of other marine species. Independent observation is necessary to support log-book reporting by fishers.

Snapper are predominantly caught in trawl fisheries in NZ. Trawling areas overlap with the habitat of both Hector’s (Endangered on the IUCN Red List) and Maui’s (Critically Endangered) dolphins, and on-going trawling puts the future of both species at risk. In addition, trawling affects endangered seabirds, including Salvin’s albatross (Vulnerable), and is likely putting the population at risk.

Snapper is found around most of the coastline of Australia, and is fished in WA, SA, VIC, NSW and QLD. The stock structure of this species is complex but reasonably well understood; for example, scientific research indicates that the different jurisdictions fish different stocks, but there are also a number of individual stocks within each state. The stock structure of snapper is similar in NZ, with different stocks identified around the coastline. Again, some stocks are defined as ‘overfished’, and there is significant concern in other fishing zones.

There are a number of different stocks fished in SA and WA. In SA, there are concerns about stock status and declining catches in most regions, with the exception of northern Gulf St Vincent, where stocks are considered healthy. In WA, the health of stocks varies considerably. Stocks have been defined as overfished along the majority of the west coast of WA, with some inshore stocks still healthy.

Snapper is a long-lived species that matures relatively late in life, which means that overfished stocks take a long time to recover to healthy levels if fishing pressure is reduced. However, as a result of the popularity of this fish, attempts to implement management actions to protect the stock, such as reducing the number of fish that can be caught, has been met with significant challenges in some states from both recreational and commercial fishers.

There is some evidence to suggest stock recovery in some areas. For example, reductions in allowed catches of snapper have been imposed in WA, and there are tentative indications that some stocks are in recovery. In SA, management actions have recently been implemented, including area closures to protect spawning stocks. There has also been a shift from hand lines to longlines, which are more likely to catch sharks as bycatch.