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Pink Snapper

Pink Snapper



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Published by draculavanhelsing
Pagrus auratus
Pagrus auratus

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


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 A large distribution…
Pink snapper are ound in waters o China,Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines,Taiwan and Australia, where their rangeextends through the coastal waters o Western Australia, South Australia andVictoria to northern New South Wales andsouthern Queensland.In WA, pink snapper are ound rom the warmwaters o Karratha in the north right throughto the cool waters o the Great AustralianBight. Pink snapper gather in large schoolscalled ‘aggregations’ to spawn. The bestknown o these seasonal aggregations in WAoccur in Shark Bay and in Cockburn Soundo the Perth metropolitan area.
Pink snapper are one o Western Australia’s best-known and most sought-ater fsh, prizedby commercial and recreational fshers alike and seaood lovers or their excellent taste.
Distribution o pink snapper in WA 
…but most preer to stay close to home
The population structure o WA’s oceanicsnapper is not well known. Tagging suggeststhey are capable o trekking long distancesas they search or ood or join spawningaggregations, but most tend to restrict theirmovement. Snapper that were tagged inthe ocean outside o Shark Bay’s innerguls were mostly recaptured within 20kilometres o their release point.In the inner guls o Shark Bay, taggingand genetic studies have shown thatthere are three genetically distinctpopulations o pink snapper, withlittle interbreeding between thesepopulations. A tagging and recapturestudy o pink snapper in FreycinetEstuary, Shark Bay ound that aterthree years at liberty, the fsh wererecaptured an average o only 14kilometres rom where they wereoriginally caught and tagged.Despite their name, pink snapper are actuallymembers o the sea bream amily (Sparidae)and are related to species such as black bream
 (Acanthopagrus butcheri)
and tarwhine orsilver bream
(Rhabdosargus sarba)
. As with manyother Australian species, pink snapper inheritedtheir common name rom the northern hemispherespecies they most closely resemble.
Not actually snapper 
   F  A  C  T  S  H  E  E  T  5
Pink snapper 
Pagrus auratus
The tendency o groups o pink snapper to reside in specifcareas and have limited home ranges with little intermixingo stock makes them vulnerable to high fshing levels andlocalised stock depletion. 
Serial spawners
Pink snapper take our to fve years onaverage to reach maturity. In the northo WA, this starts to occur when they areabout 40 centimetres long. However, newresearch shows that in the cooler watero the lower west coast, snapper may be50 to 70 centimetres in length by the timethey reach maturity. By the time they reach about six or sevenyears old, over 90 per cent o pink snapper will have spawnedat least once.The spawning season o snapper varies according to locationand is linked to the ull moon and the new moon. The morenortherly stocks, such as those in Shark Bay, spawn duringwinter ollowing a decrease in water temperature. Furthersouth, in the cooler water o Perth and in Cockburn Sound,snapper aggregate or spawning in late spring and earlysummer (October to December), ollowing an increase inwater temperature.During the 12 to 15 week breeding season, pink snapper ormspawning aggregations, which can be made up o thousandso fsh and are ound in the same locations each year – so theyare easily located and targeted by fshers. Such large numberso fsh aggregating in a location can give the impression thatstocks are healthy, however these fsh have been drawn rom awide area.During spawning, eggs and sperm are released into the waterand ertilisation occurs externally. Males that produce thebiggest quantity o sperm tend to ertilise more eggs, leadingto the evolution o particularly large gonads in these fsh.Female pink snapper release millions o eggs in a series o batches over several weeks as a way to increase their chanceo reproductive success. As they grow, larger emales producemany more eggs each year and become an increasinglyvaluable part o the breeding stock. Research has shownthat while a our-year-old emale will release 150,000 eggsin a single spawning, an older emale will release 300,000to 400,000 eggs, which add up to millions o eggs over theseason. However, most o the eggs and larvae will not surviveto become mature fsh.
Pigments called ‘astaxanthins’ probably give snapper their pink colour – similar to pink amingos. In Japan,where they are armed, the fsh are ed krill oil to ensurethe presence o these pigments. Snapper in large spawning aggregations sometimebecome so voracious they will bite a bare fshhook.It is thought they get so hungry because they useup energy to produce eggs and sperm and soon eat up ood sources at the aggregation site. The lead  sinker in this photograph is covered in bite marksrom aggregating Shark Bay snapper and showshow easy it is or fshers to catch large numbers o  pink snapper at these times. Perhaps these fshreally do deserve to be called snappers!
Pink snapper are ‘demersal’, or bottom-dwelling fsh, butalso spend some o their lives in the mid- to upper waterlevels. They are usually ound in depths down to 200 metresalong the continental shel and in large bays. Juveniles arecommon in sheltered bays, estuaries and inshore waters,which are important nursery areas or pink snapper.They eed on small fsh, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, jellyfsh, echinoderms (such as sea stars and sea urchins)and algae. Although they are near the top o the marineood web, they may become prey to bigger species suchas large estuary cod, dolphins and sharks.Pink snapper are slow-growing and long-lived – they canlive to the ripe old age o 30 years or more. This longlie increases each snapper’s chance o reproducingsuccessully since in some years natural variationsin water temperature or ood availability will reducespawning success. However their slow growth rate alsomakes them less able to recover rom overfshing andrapid environmental change.In the past, pink snapper have been caught weighingalmost 20 kilograms and measuring over a metre long.These days it is rare to see pink snapper weighing morethan 10 kilograms.
Boom or bust? 
Water temperature, salinity and the availability o ood play amajor role in spawning and the survival o pink snapper eggs,larvae and juveniles, as well as the growth rates o older fsh.Juvenile pink snapper, like many species o scalefsh, havea very high natural ‘mortality’ – in act, more than 90 percent die o natural causes in the frst ew weeks or months.Natural mortality declines as the fsh get older.‘Recruitment’ or pink snapper depends on avourableenvironmental conditions. In most years, it is probable thatthere will be low recruitment in that very ew young fsh willsurvive (‘bust’ years). In other years, when environmentalconditions are just right, the survival rate will be much higher(‘boom’ years).Pink snapper may have avourable conditions, resulting insuccessul recruitment, only once or twice a decade. Thiscan lead to the snapper population being dominated by asmall number o ‘year classes’ – that is, fsh that were bornin the same year. A fsh population that has this sort o ‘agestructure’ is highly vulnerable to sustained overfshing.Pink snapper supports commercial fsheries aroundAustralia and is a highly popular species or recreationalanglers. Management o fsheries seeks to control theoverall catch and protect fsh breeding populations andimportant habitats.Most o the WA pink snapper commercial catch is takenrom the oceanic stock o pink snapper o Shark Bay,where the amount that licensed fshers are allowed tocatch is managed through quotas and controls on gear.However, despite being WA’s biggest commercial pinksnapper fshery, Shark Bay produces relatively ew o thesefsh on a global scale - or example, the Shark Bay catch is just a raction o New Zealand’s annual pink snapper catch.The recreational fshery is managed using daily bag,possession, size and gear limits, as well as closedseasons to protect spawning aggregatons. Quota tags areused or some o the pink snapper stock within the innerguls o Shark Bay.
Pink snapper are a symbol o happiness and good ortune in Japan. High quality Japanese and WA wild- caught pink snapper are sought or weddings and other ceremonial occasions, and etch much better  prices than Japanese cultured snapper 
Driting with the currents A avourite o fshers
Spawning typically occurs in near-s
horebays where winds and currents keepthe eggs within these areas, ratherthan driting hundreds o kilometresas they would i spawned in theopen ocean.About a day and hal aterertilisation, the eggs hatch intotadpole-like larvae. The larvaecannot swim well so, like theeggs, they drit with the winds andcurrents. They stay near the oceanbottom in the daytime and migrate upthrough the water column at night.During the ollowing three weeks, the larvae transorm intorecognisable juvenile snapper. At this stage, they settle in largeschools in at muddy or sandy areas near the ocean bottom.When they are about one-and-a-hal years’ old and between15 and 18 centimetres long, the young snapper move into thereey margins o marine bays, estuaries and near-shore rees.

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