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Published by draculavanhelsing
West Australian dhufish (Glaucosoma hebraicum)
West Australian dhufish (Glaucosoma hebraicum)

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: draculavanhelsing on Aug 05, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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There are good reasons why the West Australian dhufsh is a WA fshing icon: it grows to agreat size and tastes superb. Most importantly, this fsh is ound nowhere else in the world.
In the past, dhush have also been called jewsh or ‘jewies’. West Australian dhushbelong to the Glaucosomatidae amily and arerelated to a number o sh commonly calledpearl perch.
Dhufsh, not jefsh
Dhush preer to live around rocky outcropsand ledges. They can usually be oundin water 20 to 50 metres deep, howeversometimes they have surprised shers byturning up in water just three metres deep.Tagging studies have shown that they aregenerally sedentary – that is, they usuallydo not travel ar rom home.An important characteristic o dhush isthey are ‘demersal’, which means theylive near the seabed. As with otherdemersal sh, dhush are inclinedto suer ‘barotrauma’ i caught indepths o 20 metres or more. Thisis an important issue or managingdhush stocks as shers mustreturn undersize and unwanteddhush to the water.
Range o dhufsh
Exusive to wA aters
Dhush are ‘endemic’ to Western Australia,which means they do not live anywhere else.Dhush have been ound o the RechercheArchipelago near Esperance and as ar northas Shark Bay. However they are most commonalong WA’s lower west coast between Kalbarriand Augusta.
west Austraiandhufsh
Glaucosoma hebraicum
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Adult male dhush are oten bigger than emale dhush.Another easy way to tell the dierence between male andemale dhush is the elongated lament on the dorsalns o males.
Summer spaning
During spawning, eggs and sperm are released into thewater and ertilisation occurs externally. At these times,dhush gather in groups called ‘aggregations’. Thisgenerally occurs between November and April with the peakperiod being between December and March, when watertemperatures are highest.While there is much about dhush behaviour that is yet to beully understood, it appears that this species displays complexsocial behaviour during spawning with larger individualsdominating and achieving greater spawning success.You have probably heard o SCUBA divers getting ‘thebends’ because they ascended to the surace too quicklyater a deep dive. Some demersal sh experience similarproblems when they are caught in deep water and pulledrapidly to the surace on a shing line. This condition,which results rom gases expanding in the sh’s body, iscalled barotrauma.The most obvious signs o barotrauma in a sh are abloated stomach, bulging eyes and the stomach pushedout through the mouth or gills. A sh with these symptomsis unlikely to survive i put back and may simply foat on thesea surace. However, its chances o recovering may beimproved i a sher uses a release weight.This is a barbless hook with a weight attached that isinserted through the sh’s lip. The sh is then loweredinto the water and when it reaches the depth rom which itcame it can be released by a gentle tug on the line. Onceback in deep water, gases in the sh switly recompress,saving it rom urther injury.
Dhufsh appear particularly prone to injury throughbarotrauma. A recent study using cages to returndhufsh to the ocean estimated that in shallow water (less than 14 metres deep) 21 per cent died,while 86 per cent o those released in deep water (more than 45 metres) died.These fgures can be improved by better fshhandling and release techniques, but they are still very high by comparison with other species suchas pink snapper (our per cent died at 14 metres or less and 66 per cent died at more than 45 metres).
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An adult male dhufsh. Note thelong flament on its dorsal fn.
Gender dierene
Predators and prey 
‘Dhuies’ have big eyes and cavernous mouths, with whichthey prey on other sh, crustaceans and molluscs such assquid and octopus. As larvae and juveniles they may be preyto a wide range o other sea creatures. However, once adult,they have ew natural predators.Adult dhush have a distinctive vertical dark line called achevron running through their eye that ades once they dieand which is also ainter on emales. Juvenile dhuies have sixblack stripes along their body.
A three-month-old juvenile dhufsh measuring just overthree centimetres. Photo: Julia Shand, University o WA
 At the larval stage, dhufsh have huge eyes incomparison to their brain size. This makes themvery well adapted to seeing at low levels o light.
boom years
‘Recruitment’ is a term used by researchers to describe thenatural addition o sh to a population, either by reproductionor migration. While it sometimes reers simply to young sh joining a population, in some contexts, it may instead reer tosh o legal size entering a shery.Researchers believe that dhush larvae are dispersed bycurrents and this may explain a high level o variation indhush recruitment. Water temperature and the availabilityo ood are also thought to aect spawning and survival o dhush eggs, larvae and juveniles. Much o this inormation isstill subject to ongoing research.In some years with very avourable conditions, dhushrecruitment is very successul (‘boom’ years) while in others,recruitment is lower. Researchers think that in the past 20years, there have only been a ew boom years.The variation in dhush recruitment between years is animportant consideration when managing dhush stocks. Whena lot o dhush, resulting rom a boom year, reach legal size,it can give the impression that sh stocks are ne. However i these sh – which include much o the breeding stock –are shed down, the population may struggle to recover i recruitment ollowing this ‘year class’ o sh is low.Heavy shing o dhush combined with low recruitment, islikely to put the uture o a population o dhush in jeopardy.Working out the age o sampled dhush helps researchersunderstand the ‘age structure’ o a dhush population, in otherwords, how many sh there are o dierent ages. This in turntells them whether shing is reliant on a particularly successulyear class o sh – that is, sh spawned during a certain year– or whether recruitment has also been good in other years.The ear bones o sh, called otoliths, contain a detailedrecord o their age. Each year as a sh grows, tiny white andclear bands o calcied material are laid down in the bone.Researchers extract the otoliths and cut thin sections romthem using a high-precision saw. Under magnication, thebands are counted similar to counting rings in a tree stump.This is done to thousands o sh otoliths in Department o Fisheries research laboratories each year.Researchers can also nd out about the environmentalconditions in which a sh lived by chemically analysingotoliths. Stable isotopes o oxygen and carbon enterotoliths rom the water in which the sh lived. This ‘isotopesignature’ varies between locations.
Ho od is this dhufsh? 
A 33-day-old larval dhufsh measuring less than one centimetre long.Photo: Julia Shand, University o WA
The importane o ig dhuies
Dhush can live or more than 40 years, reach more than ametre in length and weigh more than 25 kilos. As with manybottom-dwelling sh they are relatively slow-growers.They also grow most quickly when they are young. Theirgrowth slows down considerably ater about 12 years, andthey reach close to their maximum size at about 20 years.Like all animals, individual dhush may be larger or smallerthan their peers at the same age.Previous research showed that dhush start to reach sexualmaturity at three to our years old, or when they were 30to 35 centimetres long. Recent research indicates thateven though dhush are reproductive at this time, emalesproduce ew eggs and do not spawn every month o thespawning season. It appears that dhush only reach their ullreproductive potential as they become older.Older emale dhush spawn more eggs, more oten andor a longer period – and thereore produce more eggs perspawning season – than younger emales. This means bigemale dhush are very important or the overall health o adhush population.
Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June020406080
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Small (up to 50cm long)Medium (50 to 70cm long)Large (70cm or longer)
During each month o the spawning season, ewer smallemale dhufsh spawn than medium and large-sized emales.

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