Sand flathead

Sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) was once both a significant commercial fishery and the largest recreational fishery in Port Phillip Bay (PPB). Since 2000 the Bay stock has declined substantially. The main cause is poor recruitment, which is believed to be due to environmental factors.There is no evidence that fishing has been a significant factor in the stock decline.

However, due to the current legal size (27cm) and bag limit (20/day), fishing focuses on the reproductively mature females. Anything that can reduce that pressure will contribute to successful spawning and recruitment when environmental conditions are favourable.

The large majority of anglers do not catch their bag limit and even a bag limit as low as 5 may not have a significant reduction in fishing pressure. A combination of a bag limit reduction and a size limit increase is likely to be required to reduce fishing pressure.

Port Phillip Bay sand flathead Recruitment- Pre-recruit surveys:

Content to come

Possible management actions:

  1. Do nothing- hope that the stock recover while risking further decline
  2. Improve habitat and river flows into the Bay
  3. Review and adjust catch and size limits to put the stock in the best possible position to benefit from favourable spawning conditions
  4. Investigate the feasibility of large scale marine stocking to get around the environmental bottleneck and boost recruitment into the fishery

What now?

VRFish will be releasing a survey to gauge angler’s perceptions about sand flathead stocks in Port Phillip Bay. This survey will be made available in the coming months.

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