Latin names: Helicolenus barathri, H. percoides
Species considered: Bigeye Ocean Perch, Reef Ocean Perch
Wild Caught - Australia
- Commonwealth Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (Commonwealth Trawl Sector) (181t 2012-13)
The term 'ocean perch' refers to two species of fish – bigeye ocean perch and reef ocean perch. The two species are managed as a single unit, but have very different biological characteristics – for example, bigeye ocean perch live to at least 60 years old, whereas reef ocean perch live for around 17 years. The stock status of each species is unknown, although the biology of bigeye means it is vulnerable to high fishing pressure. There is also concern over the high rate of discarding, in particular of reef ocean perch – about 90% of the catch of this species was discarded in 2012. It is not clear what proportion of the discarded fish survive once thrown back.
Ocean perch are caught using otter trawls. Some of the area where fishing occurs has been well mapped in order to identify the distribution of sensitive bottom-dwelling species. Trawling sometimes takes place on areas of seafloor that support sponges, hard corals and bryozoans (small invertebrates that form colonies similar to coral reefs), but it is unclear how much trawling activity is resulting in damage to habitats and associated species.
Protected species caught in this fishery include Australian fur seals, seabirds (including albatross and shearwaters) and shortfin mako sharks. Inconsistencies between logbook reporting and independent observers have been a problem in the past, however industry bodies have been addressing these inconsistencies through training schemes. Seal Excluder Devices (SEDs), which act as escape hatches for seals that enter trawl nets, are mandatory, and the industry has been proactive in trying to reduce seabird interactions.