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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Prawn commercial fishing

​Commercial prawn fishers in Western Australia catch more than 2,000 tonnes of prawns a year. In 2014 more than 50 per cent were western king (king) prawns and almost 25 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.

In October 2015, the Shark Bay and Exmouth Gulf prawn fisheries achieved the Marine Stewardship Council's eco-tick widely recognised as the international gold standard in third-party sustainable fisheries certification.

Target catch ranges and landings for 2014 are shown for the main fisheries in the table below. In Exmouth Gulf, tiger and king prawn catches were well below their target ranges. A decline in annual catches in recent years is mainly attributed to environmental conditions.

Also in recent years, lower catches compared to targets for some smaller northern fisheries can be attributed to low effort due to high costs of fishing in relation to various other factors including low demand on the export market and lower prawn prices or low catch rates. In Broome, no fishing was done in 2014.  

Main commercial managed prawn fisheries 2014 

Fishery​ Target catch ​ Actual catch​ Commercial value ​
Shark Bay
1,350-2,150 tonnes
1,924 tonnes $25 million
Exmouth Gulf
721-1,410 tonnes
463 tonnes​ $6 million​ (including byproduct)
Kimberley​ 240-500 tonnes 287 tonnes​ $5 million
Nickol Bay 90-300 tonnes 211 tonnes
Onslow​ 60-180 tonnes 0.5 tonnes
Broome​ 55-260 tonnes   N/A

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. 

Last modified: 3/02/2016 3:31 PM

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