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.
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 marksrom 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 marineood 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 longlie increases each snapper’s chance o reproducingsuccessully 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.