Latin names: Fenneropenaeus merguiensis, F. indicus
Species considered: White Banana & Red-legged Banana Prawn
Common Names: Prawn
Wild Caught - Australia
- Commonwealth Northern Prawn Fishery (4,901t 2012)
- WA Nickol Bay Prawn Managed Fishery, Kimberley Prawn Managed Fishery (447t 2012)
- QLD East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (669t 2011)
The name ‘banana prawn’ refers to two species - white and red-legged banana prawns. Both species live in tropical waters and are short-lived and fast-growing. Population levels appear closely linked to rainfall patterns, and in wetter years the populations increase. Long-term fishing records and estimates of the number of breeding animals indicate that stocks are healthy. They are caught alongside tiger prawns in fisheries managed by the Commonwealth, WA and QLD governments.
Banana prawns are caught using otter trawls. In the Commonwealth managed fishery, planes are used to find 'boils' or dense aggregations of banana prawns at the surface of the sea. Trawlers then target these aggregations, which means most of the trawling for banana prawns occurs above the seafloor and habitat damage is minimized. Much of the habitat trawled by the Commonwealth and WA fisheries is made up of mud and sand, which is relatively resilient to disturbance should fishing gear touch the bottom.
In QLD, banana prawns are caught in a fishery that targets multiple species of prawns, scallops and fish. Trawling occurs in deep-water areas and there is concern about insufficient knowledge about the habitat type and impacts on some of the trawled areas.
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 issue in all fisheries.
The Commonwealth fishery has been proactive in attempting to reduce its impacts on threatened species. Whilst catch of seasnakes remains high, there are no indications 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 smaller scale WA-managed fisheries also report interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes; fishery reports suggest that as the fisheries are small-scale, significant impacts on threatened species is unlikely. In QLD, protected seahorses, sea snakes and pipefish are caught, but fishery reports also suggest species populations are not at high risk from fishing activity.