Best Sand Flathead Recruitment in 24 Years

Port Phillip Bay has recorded the best sand flathead spawning event in 24 years according to recent surveys conducted by fisheries scientists from the Victorian Fisheries Authority.

A favourite amongst recfishers, sand flathead are relatively easy to catch and are an excellent, delicious fish for the table. While there are a number of flathead species in Victoria, sand flathead are one of the most targeted in Port Phillip Bay by recfishers.

Fisheries scientists conduct annual surveys in Port Phillip Bay to monitor spawning success for a variety of fish species as it has a major influence on our marine fisheries. While they primarily focus on snapper and King George whiting, the surveys also provide an indicator for sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis).

Port Phillip Bay is home to a significant population of sand flathead and it continues to be a popular recreational species both as a target and bycatch species. Over the past two decades, the subpopulation of sand flathead in Port Phillip Bay has experienced a major decline so the recent strong spawning event is good news for our Port Phillip Bay fishery.

Sand flathead recruitment was high in the 1990’s which resulted in a flourishing fishery through to the mid 2000’s. This was followed by continuous low recruitment from 1997 which saw a reduction in sand flathead numbers. In fact, sand flathead stocks in Port Phillip Bay declined by 80-90% between 2000 and 2010. The years of low recruitment coincided with a period of prolonged drought in Victoria. In 2013, a moderately successful spawning occurred which saw stocks recover to 30% of 1990’s levels.

With the success of the 2021 year-class, sand flathead numbers should continue to rebuild, which is great news for recfishers and the Port Phillip Bay fishery.

Photo supplied by the Victorian Fisheries Authority of 2021 Sand Flathead Recruitment

As part of the recent surveys, fisheries scientists found that snapper spawning was low this year. Since snapper spawning can vary year on year, fisheries managers are reportedly not concerned about the low recruitment in 2021. Further, with record snapper recruitment recorded in 2018 and the 2018 year-class starting to reach minimum legal length, it is expected these fish will strengthen the fishery in the coming years.

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