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Saddletail Snapper

Saddletail Snapper

Latin names: Lutjanus malabaricus

Common Names: Red Snapper, Tropical Snapper

Wild Caught - Australia

Saddletail Snapper location

Region Caught:

  • QLD Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery (63t 2016)
  • NT Demersal Fishery, Timor Reef Fishery, Coastal Line Fishery (1,750t 2015)
  • WA Northern Demersal Scalefish Fishery (99t 2015)

Saddletail snapper is a tropical species found across northern Australia but fished and managed by different jurisdictions. The vast majority of the catch comes from the NT trawl fishery, and in some years high catch comes from a trawl fishery managed by QLD that is not included in this assessment due to lack of consistent fishing effort every year.

While there are no immediate sustainability concerns for saddletail snapper stocks in the NT, the amount of fishing has increased in recent years, and there is considerable uncertainty over whether the amount of fishing is set at a sustainable level. In QLD and WA there is insufficient information on the abundance of this species that would enable fisheries scientists to undertake full stock assessments.

The amount of trawling occurring in the NT has expanded significantly since 2011, when trawling increasingly replaced trap and line fishing as the prefered method. In addition, a trial has been underway in the Timor Sea for three years with no reported outcomes at the time of this assessment in early 2018. Concerns over the high fishing effort have been noted by fisheries managers, and it is expected that management actions will come into force in 2018 that should address these issues.  

Saddletail snapper caught in the QLD and WA fisheries are fished using line and trap methods. The fisheries also catches a number of other species of coral reef fish but most of these fish stocks are uncertain because of a lack of reliable biological data and information on the effects of fishing.

The impacts of line fishing on the marine environment are minimal. In QLD fishing takes place around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which provides extensive habitat protection. The habitat trawled in the NT is poorly understood; currently the trawled area represents less than 5% of the total area available. Improved habitat mapping is urgently needed and is being considered as part of current management actions.

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 the fishery. It is likely the line fisheries in QLD pose minimal risk to marine mammals, although there are some concerns over the bycatch of sharks.

Independent observer coverage of trawl fisheries in NT indicates interactions with sawfish, dolphins and hammerhead sharks, although it is unlikely the catch level is contributing to further declines in the populations of these species.

It is expected that the broad fisheries reforms currently underway in QLD will address a number of issues in the management of QLD fisheries in the future, and actions underway in the NT should address outstanding issues in the trawl fisheries. However, if identified issues remain outstanding at the next assessment for Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, it is likely that this species will be downgraded to a red 'Say No' listing.

NOTE: Some saddletail snapper are caught in a trawl fishery that operates in the Pilbara.This fishery has considerable issues with dolphin bycatch in fishing nets, and is not considered in this assessment. Saddletail snappers caught in the Pilbara trawl fishery would receive a Red, ‘Say No’ rating; however the majority of saddletail snappers in Australia are caught using trap and line methods.


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Saddletail Snapper classification

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