- Eat Less
- Say No
- Snapper are a rocky reef fish caught commercially and recreationally throughout southern Australia.
- There are multiple snapper populations caught in commercial line, trap and gillnet fisheries from Shark Bay to the south coast. Some populations are in unhealthy condition.
- Snapper are caught in multispecies fisheries that retain a diverse range of reef fish. Some of these species in the WA west coast fishery are also in unhealthy condition.
- While line fishing is unlikely to significantly impact marine wildlife, there are concerns over bycatch of Australian sea lions in nets in WA. Marine park protections are significant in some areas of the WA snapper fisheries, but are almost absent on WA’s south coast.
Note: Gillnet fishing methods caught snapper pose a high risk to Australian sea lions, caught as bycatch, and are ranked Say No. Line and trap-caught snapper are a more sustainable choice where available. WA south coast line-caught snapper have a GoodFish Eat Less (amber) ranking. WA gillnet caught, west coast and gascoyne coast caught snapper have a GoodFish Say No (red) ranking.
- WA West Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource, Gascoyne Demersal Scalefish Resource, South Coast Demersal Scalefish Resource (162t in 2020/21)
Snapper can be found in temperate Australian waters from coastal bays to oceanic waters upto 250m deep. Snapper is a key target of commercial and recreational fisheries around Australia, caught in all states except in Tasmania and Northern Territory waters. Snapper are long lived fish (up to 40 years) and take up to 7 years to reach maturity. Snapper are caught in several fisheries in WA using line, trap and demersal gillnet fishing methods, with the former accounting for most of the catch.
There are multiple populations of snapper in WA, some of which are healthy and some which are in overfished or recovering condition. There has been significant investment in assessing the health of multiple different populations.
Snapper are caught in a number of fisheries in WA, where different stocks are targeted. The information used to inform scientific stock assessments of most populations is robust, though the most recent assessment of the south coast snapper population is dangerously outdated, particularly since it is now known that the south coast fishery targets more than one population.
In the WA west coast and gascoyne, snapper populations are recovering from unhealthy levels. While there has been significant recovery in the Gascoyne population, the west coast population has not been showing sufficient recovery and further management measures have recently been put in place to improve recovery of the stock. It is notable that on the west coast, the commercial fishing sector was able to restrain their impact to levels required under recovery plans, but recreational fishing pressure had not been effectively reduced by managers. Despite the unhealthy status of the snapper population now being driven by excessive recreational fishing, the commercial fishing sector has contributed further fishing pressure reductions, which is proactive and welcome.
On WA’s south coast, there are not serious concerns for the health of the snapper population but the most recent data used to manage the fishery is now 14 years old, and no longer provides useful information about the contemporary condition of the fishery. This creates significant danger for future fishery sustainability and requires improved management.
Snapper are caught in multispecies fisheries where a diverse range of reef fish are also caught and retained. On WA’s west coast, some of these species’ populations are in unhealthy condition.
Snapper are predominantly caught using lines and demersal gillnet methods. While line fishing poses minimal risks to endangered animals, gillnet fishing can be a high risk to marine wildlife, including Australian sea lions and great white sharks. Gillnet exclusion zones around sea lion breeding colonies have been implemented and are only partially effective, with the fishery continuing to pose an unacceptably high risk to Australian sea lions. There is no observer program in operation in the WA fishery, and issues with the reliability of reporting in gillnet fishery logbooks have arisen in the past.
Fishing methods used to catch snapper in WA pose a low risk to vulnerable marine habitats.
Marine parks provide additional protection for targeted and bycatch species in Shark Bay and in parts of the west coast fisheries. Marine parks are currently largely absent from the south coast fishery but are being planned there, where they could potentially provide valuable additional protection in the forward scope of this assessment.