Bumper snapper season predicted

SCIENTISTS from Fisheries Victoria are predicting the 2011-12 snapper season in Port Phillip Bay will be a repeat of recent years with good catches expected. Snapper catches over the next three years, however, are expected to be more moderate.

Researcher Paul Hamer said scientists were able to forecast the likely performance of the
fishery based on the number of baby snapper that settled in Port Phillip Bay each year.

“Baby snapper settle in the Bay during the late summer and early autumn following the summer spawning season and this settlement determines the size of the catch in years to
come,” Hamer said.

“Snapper spawned in Port Phillip Bay are the mainstay of Victoria’s ‘western snapper stock’
extending from Wilsons Promontory to the mouth of the Murray River.”

Snapper are highly prized in Victoria and from late spring to early summer anglers launch boats all around Port Phillip Bay to target them as they migrate into the bay for their annual spawning season.

“The successful spawning and survival of young snapper in the bay varies greatly from year to year,” Hamer said.

“Ten to twenty fold variations are common and this variation influences future catches.

“We know these variations are related to factors influencing the snapper during their first few weeks of life.”

Ongoing research is determining how water temperature, nutrient supply, river flows and
currents influence the food supply, growth and survival of baby snapper in Port Phillip Bay.

Interviews with anglers revealed last year more than 80 per cent of snapper caught were
above 1kg and were at least 40cm long. One in four fish weighed more than 3kg and were at least 60cm.

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