Commercial prawn fishers in Western Australia catch more than 3,000 tonnes of prawns a year. In 2011 more than 40 per cent were western king (king) prawns and more than 40 per cent were brown tiger (tiger) prawns.
Other species targeted are banana prawns, found mainly from Exmouth northwards, endeavour prawns and coral prawns (a combined category of small species caught incidentally). At times, fishers also land other valuable species, such as crab, squid and scallops.
There are seven commercial prawn fisheries and the Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf fisheries have the highest catches.
The smaller fisheries occur off Onslow, Nickol Bay, Broome and along the Kimberley coast. There is another in the south-west, which includes the waters off Fremantle and in Comet/Geographe Bay.
Target catch ranges and landings for 2011 are shown for the main fisheries in the table below. Lower catches compared to targets for some smaller northern fisheries can be attributed to low ‘effort’ (amount of fishing), due to high costs of fishing, low demand on the export market and lower prawn prices.
Main commercial managed prawn fisheries 2011
||$1.7 million (combined)|
Most of the fishing takes place at night except in some north coast fisheries that focus on banana prawns. Banana prawns form schools (called ‘boils’) close to the surface, and are caught mostly during the day.
The catch is generally processed at sea and frozen (cooked or raw). In the past most large prawns were exported but recently, local and national markets have become more important.
Competition from imported products, mainly prawns grown through aquaculture, continues. Prawn aquaculture is not highly developed in Western Australia.