Tiger Prawn

Latin names: Penaeus semisulcatus, P. esculentus

Common name: Prawn

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Tiger prawns are caught using bottom otter trawl fishing methods across northern Australia, with most WA catch coming from fisheries in Shark bay and Exmouth Gulf.
  • Tiger prawns live in tropical waters, and are short-lived and fast-growing. WA populations appear healthy.
  • Tiger prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate on the seabed. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy habitats in WA tiger prawn fisheries, and some protection for vulnerable habitats is provided by marine parks and closed areas.
  • Bycatch reduction measures are mandatory in these fisheries, and have reduced accidental turtle catches. All fisheries interact with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, sea snakes and pipefish. There is some concern on the impact of these fisheries on sea snake populations.

More information

  • WA Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (821t in 2021)

Tiger prawns are found from inshore shallow estuarine and intertidal areas to the continental shelf depths of ~200m from the Gascoyne in WA, throughout northern Australia to the northern coast of NSW. They live in turbid waters most of their lives, inhabiting sheltered mangrove creeks as juveniles before moving to coastal sandy and muddy habitats as adults.

The name ‘tiger prawn’ refers to two species – grooved and brown tiger prawns. These two species live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. Brown tiger prawns are predominantly caught in WA.

The two main Tiger Prawn fisheries in Western Australia are in Shark Bay, and the Exmouth Gulf. Both fisheries use Bottom Otter Trawl fishing methods to target both Tiger and Western King prawns.

Brown tiger prawn populations are thought to be healthy in WA, having recovered from historic impacts from a marine heatwave in 2011, largely due to proactive and responsive management.

Prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate on the seabed, mainly over mud and sand. This has the potential to cause significant habitat disturbance. Habitat types are relatively well understood in all fishing areas, tend not to support sensitive marine communities and are fairly resilient to disturbance.

In WA, a large and welcome proportion of the Shark Bay fishery is protected from the impacts of trawling in marine parks, with marine parks providing little such protection in the Exmouth Gulf fishery. Additional areas are closed to fishing for the purposes of preventing overfishing of juvenile prawns and damage to nursery habitats.

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 these fisheries and have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch remains an ongoing issue.

There are some concerns that bycatch management plans, including the requirement for independent studies of fishery impacts on bycatch species to be conducted every 3 years, are not being conducted in a timely manner. The annual scale (quantities) of bycatch and discarding, and the fate of many discarded species remain poorly understood.

The WA tiger prawn fisheries catch two species of sea snake that are of particular conservation concern, and while the level of threat posed by prawn trawling is not clear, better management and monitoring of sea snake bycatch will be required in future in order to prevent a downgrade of these fisheries’ GoodFish ranking.

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Two species of tiger prawns - brown and grooved - are caught in bottom otter trawls in Queensland.
  • Tiger prawns live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. While the tiger prawn catch is weakly managed in Queensland, the species is likely resilient to overfishing and there is no evidence the stock is unhealthy. Environmental fluctuations, linked to seasonal rainfall, are likely to have greater impact on their stock levels than fishing pressure.
  • The accidental catch of threatened and endangered species like endemic sharks and rays is a major issue in Australian prawn fisheries. Bycatch mitigation measures including turtle excluder devices are used in Queensland but the state abandoned an independent observer program in 2012 so bycatch reporting may not be reliable.
  • Tiger prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 66% of the marine park is closed to fishing and the impact of trawling over trawled habitat is not thought to be of high risk to the environment.
  • The Queensland fishery is managed under a newly implemented harvest strategy. The strategy is improving the balance of ecological, social and economic factors at play in the fishery by implementing management techniques which look after the stock better.

More information

  • East Coast Trawl Fishery (1,309t in 2020, 1158t in 2019)

Brown and grooved tiger prawns are fast growing species generally resilient to fishing pressure. There are no indications that there are significant risks to either species as a result of fishing in QLD.

Tiger prawns are mainly caught in the northern and central regions of the fishery. These lie entirely within the Great Barrier Reef marine park, which likely provides a degree of protection for bycatch, byproduct and discard species.

Queensland trawl fishers are required to report any threatened and endangered species they catch but serious concerns have been raised in this fishery about unreliable reporting. Despite no major changes to management and a consistent level of fishing effort in recent years, 2019 saw a 63% reduction in bycatch reports of species like sawfish, sea turtles and sea snakes. This bycatch reporting is unverifiable because there has been no independent observer program since 2012.

This fishery has a high level of discards and it is concerning they are not required to be reported. The most recently available data estimated 25,271t of discards in 2014, compared to 6702t of retained catch in the same year.

The fishery will be required to resume an independent observer program by 2024, likely to be based on e-monitoring. While it is welcome, the program should be implemented sooner.

Tiger prawns are found in inshore shallow estuaries and intertidal areas to the continental shelves to depths of upto 200m.They are found from the Gascoyne area in WA throughout northern Australia to the northern coast of New South Wales.