Bumper snapper seasons predicted

VICTORIA’S anglers can look forward to a bright future for Port Phillip Bay snapper after scientific surveys in March recorded the fifth best spawning success since surveys began 22 years ago.

Fisheries Victoria Executive Director, Ross McGowan, said the exciting news was made even better when considered alongside last year’s survey results, which recorded the equal third best snapper spawning in two decades.

Mr McGowan said the combined effect of two consecutive years of very good spawning would mean a significant pulse of snapper into the fishery in coming years.

“It takes three to four years for snapper to reach 28cm, the legal minimum size in Victoria, and typically six to seven years to enter the adult fishery at 40cm.

“Our assessment of the western Victoria snapper stock, which extends from Wilsons Promontory to south-east South Australia and includes Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, is informed by these annual surveys of small fish during March.

“The number of juvenile snapper between three and ten centimetres that we find in March provides a measure of spawning success from the previous spring-summer period.

“Spawning success in Port Phillip Bay is highly variable due to the combination of egg production and environmental influences on the survival of those eggs, and the tiny snapper larvae found in the water column.”

“Some years, spawning fails completely while in others, the baby snapper are highly abundant.

“Over the past decade, we have found links between the productivity of the western stock fishery and previous successful snapper spawning seasons in 1997/98, 2000/01, 2003/04 and 2004/05. The offspring from these spawnings have dominated the adult fishery in recent years.

“Port Phillip Bay is the major spawning and nursery area for the western snapper stock so the high levels of spawning success like we have seen over the last couple of years affects the future productivity of the entire stock, well beyond the Bay.”

The monitoring and assessment of Victorian snapper stocks is supported by commercial fishing levies and recreational fishing licence fees.

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