Western King Prawn

Latin name: Melicertus latisulcatus

Common names: Prawn, prawns

  • Better Choice
  • Eat Less

Wild Caught


Note: Choose Western King Prawns caught in the SA Spencer Gulf prawn trawl fishery over those caught in the SA Gulf St Vincent prawn trawl fishery and the West Coast prawn trawl fishery.

Key Facts

  • Western king prawns are caught using bottom otter trawl fishing methods in WA, SA and QLD, They are caught in two major fisheries in SA, one in Spencer Gulf and the other in Gulf St Vincent. Another fishery SA’s West Coast region is relatively minor and not assessed here.
  • Western king prawn populations are healthy in the Spencer Gulf fishery but are showing evidence of significant declines in the smaller Gulf St Vincent fishery.
  • Western king prawns are caught using otter trawls that operate on the seabed. The area of seabed trawled is mainly made up of mud and sand. Areas less than 10m depth are closed and protect seagrass beds, and fishery managers limit the amount of seabed that can be trawled. This means the overall footprint of the fishery is low.
  • The trawl fisheries catch low numbers of protected pipefish, seahorses and sea dragons but scientific assessments indicate that fishing is not resulting in population declines of these species.
  • The Spencer Gulf western king prawn fishery employs an innovative but simple approach to reduce its impacts on other species and vulnerable habitats; by reducing its ‘footprint’ within the area to simply avoid places where vulnerable species and habitats are known to occur.
  • The Spencer Gulf western king prawn fishery receives a ‘Better Choice’ GoodFish ranking, the only Australian prawn trawl fishery to achieve this level of sustainability. Concerns over the declining health of the Gulf St Vincent fishery mean that an ‘Eat Less’ GoodFish ranking applies to western king prawns caught there.

Cooking & Recipes


Firm, sweet, meaty and packed full of flavour – there’s a reason that Aussies love prawns! If you want to peel whole prawns for a salad or seafood cocktail, a quick steam or boil (2-3 minutes) is all that they require. Whole prawns can also be split down the centre to grill on the barbecue. Peeled prawns are great pan-fried, stir-fried, or dropped into a soup, stew or curry. Just be sure to add them at the last minute to avoid overcooking them.

More information

  • SA Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, Gulf St. Vincent Prawn Fishery, West Coast Prawn Fishery (2,014t in 2020/21)

Western king prawns are found throughout the Indo-West Pacific, and are fished around Australia except in southeastern waters. Western king prawns are found from inshore coastal waters to about 80m depth.

Western king prawns are caught in various jurisdictions around Australia, with the largest catches coming from SA. In SA, these prawns are caught in Spencer Gulf, Gulf St. Vincent and a relatively minor fishery on SA’s west coast (not assessed here).

Western king prawn populations are considered healthy in the Spencer Gulf fishery, based on long term fishery records of catch and regular scientific surveys of prawn numbers. Recent evidence suggests a concerning decline in the health of populations in the Gulf St Vincent fishery, but not that serious overfishing has yet occurred. This has resulted in the current ‘Eat Less’ GoodFish ranking for Gulf St Vincent-caught western king prawns.

The trawl fisheries that catch western king prawns also catch low numbers of pipefish, seahorses and sea dragons, all of which are protected species. Independent bycatch studies have concluded that the impact of fishing activity on these species is low, and is not causing significant declines in their populations. Proactive approaches to the bycatch of giant cuttlefish in the trawls has reduced the number of cuttlefish caught, and an industry-led code of conduct is working to improve the survival rates of cuttlefish so they can be returned to the sea alive if caught.

The Spencer Gulf prawn trawl fishery has acknowledged the difficulty in employing the bycatch reduction devices (modifications to fishing gear) in their fishery, as these devices lead to nets being clogged by naturally occurring drifting seagrass detritus and sponges. Instead, they have developed an innovative but simple approach to identify and then consciously avoid the areas where vulnerable species or habitats are found, by using extensive spatial and temporal closures of fishing grounds. This has resulted in reducing the fishery’s footprint considerably while still maintaining effective prawn catches, and there is confidence that the fishery poses no serious risks to endangered and other bycatch species or seabed habitats. For these reasons the Spencer Gulf fishery is Australia’s first and only ‘Better Choice’ GoodFish ranked prawn trawl fishery.

While the SA western king prawn fisheries do not have independent observation and scrutiny of fishing activity in place, generally considered an essential component of sustainable trawl fishing, there are ongoing independent scientific surveys of fishing conducted throughout the fishing season that collect important information and are sufficiently close to commercial fishing activity that risks posed by the fishery are monitored to an acceptable standard.

Western king prawns are caught in  bottom otter trawl nets. Fishing grounds are mainly mud and sand, which are relatively resilient to trawling impacts, the areas fished are relatively well understood, and fishing is banned in waters less than 10m deep, which protects important seagrass habitat. Fishery managers also limit the areas that can be trawled, which protects large areas of the seafloor from trawling. The overall trawl footprint of the fishery is low. Marine parks offer a degree of protection for habitats in SA fisheries.