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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Finfish fisheries

The Western Australian Museum has recorded more than 3,000 finfish species in Western Australia’s (WA) marine waters, distributed along more than 12,800 kms of mainland coastline from the tropical waters of northern Australia to the temperate waters off the southern coast. Some of these species are endemic to WA and are not found anywhere else in the world.

Given the challenge of monitoring and assessing these large and diverse aquatic resources, we undertake research on finfish (including scalefish and sharks) in four marine bioregions, including the North Coast (Pilbara/Kimberley), Gascoyne Coast, West Coast and South Coast. These bioregions are defined by common oceanographic characteristics in their marine environments and reflect the large variation of temperatures and climates across latitudes. Coastal waters off WA are strongly influenced by the Leeuwin Current, which transports warm tropical water southward along the edge of the continental shelf.

To further refine approaches to the monitoring and assessment of finfish resources, species have been allocated to one of five ecological suites within each bioregion, based on broad habitat and depth criteria, ‘estuarine’, ‘nearshore’, ‘inshore demersal’, ‘offshore demersal’, and ‘pelagic’ (Lenanton et al. 2011). This is illustrated in the figure below. As the ecological suites are broadly consistent with areas where major fisheries operate within a bioregion, fish species are categorised into ecological groups that are vulnerable to similar fisheries.


illustration diagram showing groups of fishes and different depths and distances from shore 

Different groups of fishes found at different depths and distances from shore

Within each suite of a particular bioregion, monitoring and assessments are focused on key indica​tor species​ (Newman et al. 2018). These are identified based on their vulnerability to fishing and other considerations, including whether they are target species in major fisheries and their economic, social and cultural values to the WA community. Some of the best-known indicator species in the West Coast Bioregion include West Australian dhufish and pink snapper in the inshore demersal group, and Australian herring in the nearshore suite. These species are harvested by the commercial sector, including fishers from a range of licensed activities, and the recreational fishing sector, including charter fishers and private fishers from a range of licensed and unlicensed activities. 

Details of major research projects are included in our Annual Report and Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia. The results of many projects are also covered in our research report series and scientific publications​

Last modified: 7/03/2023 2:50 PM

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