Tiger Prawn


Latin names: Penaeus semisulcatus, P. esculentus


Common name: Prawn

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Wild Caught

Region:
WA, Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • Tiger prawns live in tropical waters, and are short-lived and fast-growing. Long-term fishing records and estimates of the number of breeding animals indicate that stocks are healthy.
  • There is concern over catch declines in WA's Exmouth Gulf region. Area closures are now in place to protect stocks.
  • Tiger prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloors in the Commonwealth and WA fisheries, and has a relatively low impact on the marine environment.
  • 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. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant but are not thought to be driving further declines in populations.

More information

  • Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery & Torres Strait Prawn Fishery (3,700t in 2015-16)
  • WA Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, Exmouth Gulf Prawn Managed Fishery (1,307t in 2015)

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.

In the Commonwealth fisheries, although there is some uncertainty around the stock structure of tiger prawns, there are no indications of significant risks to either species as a result of fishing. In WA, stock health is monitored by assessment of the biomass of tiger prawns as well as the number of young prawns coming in to the fishery. All indications are that tiger prawn stocks are healthy in WA.

Prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate mainly over mud and sand. Otter trawls operate just above the seafloor when targeting tiger prawns, which 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. Relatively little of the areas in which the Commonwealth fisheries operate is protected in spatial closures or marine parks. In WA, 62% of Shark Bay is protected from the impacts of trawling in marine parks, with marine parks providing some protection in Exmouth Gulf.

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.

The main Commonwealth fishery has been proactive in attempting to reduce its impacts on threatened species. Although catch of sea snakes remains high, there are no indications that fishing activity is resulting in population declines of any of the species caught. Endangered sawfish, including the IUCN listed ‘Critically Endangered’ green and ‘Endangered’ dwarf sawfish are 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. Due to the wide distribution of sawfish, including in non-fished areas, experts have assessed that prawn fishing alone is not driving further declines in these species.

The WA-managed fisheries also report interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes although fishery reports suggest that significant impacts on threatened species is unlikely. Fishery plans include the introduction of an independent observer program, although it is unclear whether this has been implemented or progressed.

The Commonwealth fisheries have 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 reduce bycatch that have proved to successfully deliver that objective and management actions to rectify issues in the fishery when they occur. It is likely these management arrangements will maintain the progress of these fisheries to reduce the impact on endangered wildlife in the future.

Marine parks and spatial closures provide some protection for endangered wildlife and marine habitats. Both are in place in areas where the WA fisheries operate. Commonwealth marine parks are set to be established in 2018, though it is notable that sectors of industry sought, and may secure, significant reductions in the area of the fishery protected from trawling.

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Wild Caught

Region:
QLD

Key Facts

  • Tiger prawns live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. 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.
  • 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.
  • QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that have the strong potential to improve this ranking in future, if the reforms deliver the strong and effective management needed to support well managed and sustainable fisheries in QLD.

More information

  • QLD East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (1,446t in 2016)

This assessment is based on the current impact of fishing on tiger prawns 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.

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.

In QLD, tiger prawns are caught in a trawl fishery that targets multiple species of prawns, scallops and fish. The fishery operates within and around 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 dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, sawfish and seahorses, remains an ongoing issue.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in QLD, which means that there is no information on the impact of this 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 this 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. As there is no 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 substrate 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 habitat within the marine park. In addition, all boats operating in the fishery have location monitoring devices, which means that authorities can ensure fishing is only taking place in areas subject to fishing.

There is a strong potential for this rating to improve in the future, provided that the broad reforms currently underway in QLD deliver the strong and effective management needed to support well managed and sustainable fisheries.