We carry out research on finfish to assess and monitor WA’s diverse resources in the four main biogeographical regions - North Coast (Pilbara/Kimberley), Gascoyne, West Coast and South Coast. We have divided Western Australia into these areas to assist our management of such a large state. These regions reflect the variation of temperatures in our coastal waters, caused by the Leeuwin Current.
Finfish include all species of fishes and sharks.
The Western Australian Museum has recorded more than 3,000 finfish species in WA’s marine waters, spread along more than 12,800 kms of coastline. Because of the large number and range of these species, it is difficult for researchers to monitor and assess in detail what is happening with each of them.
Consequently we have identified the fish species which occur within each bioregion and allocated them into one of five groups (or ‘suites’) – ‘estuarine’, ‘nearshore’, ‘inshore demersal’, ‘offshore demersal’, and ‘pelagic’. This is illustrated in the figure below.
Different groups of fishes found at different depths and distances from shore
Within each group for a particular bioregion indicator species are chosen for monitoring and assessment. This is based on their vulnerability to fishing plus other considerations including whether they are target species in the major fisheries and their value to the community economically, recreationally and culturally.
Some of the best-known indicator species include Western Australian dhufish, temperate (pink) snapper and baldchin groper in the demersal group (those that live close to the sea floor). While other indicator species monitored and assessed include tropical shallow-water and deepwater snappers, sharks, nearshore species such as Australian herring and, in selected estuaries, cobbler.
These species are harvested by commercial fishers (supplying local and overseas markets), the recreational fishing sector (involving around 600,000 fishers) and the managed recreational charter fishing sector.
Scientists working on finfish fisheries also collaborate with universities and other research groups (Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO) many of which involve postgraduate research students.
Details of major research projects are included in our Annual Report. The results of many projects are also covered in the scientific reports we publish.