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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

​A slice of the ear bone (otolith) from the 11.5-year old herring

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Old lady herring helps science

A recreational fisher has helped vital herring stock monitoring by donating the skeleton of an eleven-and-a-half year old female Australian herring caught at Denmark’s Ocean Beach ‒ the oldest one from ocean waters that has been processed by our researchers.

The oldest Australian herring ever recorded caught was 12-years old, also a female, and caught in Wilson Inlet. Most herring caught are one to four years old and herring above eight years are rarely seen.

The eleven-and-a-half year old herring’s skeleton was aged in our laboratory, using its ‘ear bone’ (otolith) – as was the 12-year old herring.

The ear bones of fish contain a detailed record of their age. Each year, as a fish grows, tiny bands of calcified material are laid down in the bone, similar to growth rings in a tree.

The herring skeleton was donated to our Send us Your Skeletons citizen science program, which encourages recreational fishers to donate their fish ‘frames’ (filleted skeletons with the heads and guts intact) to help our scientists with vital monitoring of the State’s most-prized nearshore and demersal fish species, such as herring, pink snapper and dhufish.

By analysing data from the frames we can make science-based decisions to sustainably manage WA’s fisheries.

Herring stocks are in a recovery phase after management changes following research published in 2013 revealed that a combination of environmental factors and fishing pressure had depleted the stock in southern Australian waters.

It's important we monitor ‘bread and butter’ species such as herring, given their importance to shore and boat-based fishers alike.

As a ‘thank you’ for taking part, all fishers who send us their skeletons of selected, important fish species have the chance to win some great prizes.

You can drop off your fish frames at our offices and participating stores. The frames can be frozen, so you can collect a few before dropping them off.

Last modified: 14/11/2017 12:36 PM

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